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The slip’s showing

Advani's book has given enough fodder to his opponents and fails to inspire the majority even in the Sangh Parivar, writes Pankaj Vohra.
Hindustan Times | By Pankaj Vohra
UPDATED ON APR 06, 2008 11:35 PM IST

Has L.K. Advani, the BJP and NDA’s prime ministerial hopeful, peaked early considering that there has been a surfeit of media coverage after the release of his controversial book, My Country My Life? It is well-known that Advani has mastered the art of manipulating the media, a trait that has now been acquired by some members of his coterie whose only constituency is the media.

In fact, the rave reviews the book got, despite saying little on most matters and twisting incidents to help in his image-building exercise, demonstrate that the autobiographical work has not been read critically. The book is an exercise in self-promotion and only Advani’s version has been told, not the full picture. This is not to suggest that Advani has lied but some facts presented by him don’t constitute the truth. There is a difference between fact and truth. Truth does not comprise one or two facts but is a combination of several facts. Therefore, presenting one or two correct facts can also help in building up a faulty case.

In fact, while everyone was busy praising Advani for writing this book, it was UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi who scored a technical knockout when she said that the BJP leader’s feigned ignorance about the Kandahar hijacking episode proves that former PM A.B. Vajpayee did not trust his deputy much. This dig, which must have floored the BJP stalwart and his admirers, came after a couple of left hooks in the form of George Fernandes’ statement that the decision on Kandahar was taken by the Cabinet. Former US Ambassador Robert Blackwill has said that he has been wrongly mentioned in the book.

But what must have worried the RSS and the BJP most were the lines on Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Advani, who sounded so knowledgeable when he talked about M.A. Jinnah in Pakistan, wrote that the three were hanged for throwing a bomb at the National Assembly in Delhi. The three were hanged for their involvement in the Lahore conspiracy case and killing J.P. Saunders, deputy superintendent of police. Bhagat Singh and another revolutionary, Batukeshwar Dutt, hurled the bomb
at the Assembly. One wonders why Advani did not consult any historian to get his facts right.

There are many more questions that have not been addressed in the book. Anyone following the Sangh Parivar and the metamorphosis of the BJP since the Jana Sangh days would want to know more about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of party president and ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. Balraj Madhok, past president and co-founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, still maintains that there was a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the murder. The book also does not amplify on why Madhok had to be suspended and leave the party he founded along with S.P. Mookerjee. There is no mention of even the circumstances surrounding Mookerjee’s death.

Anyone following contemporary Indian political history would want to know why in its first 15 years the Jana Sangh had 10 presidents and in the next 23 years only two: Vajpayee and Advani. What was the role of Nanaji Deshmukh and Sunder Singh Bhandari in Sangh politics and why barring M.M. Joshi successive BJP presidents were either acolytes of Vajpayee or Advani. The BJP leader has not written anything on these issues.

The author makes no attempt to elaborate on how his name figured in the infamous hawala scandal and how it got deleted from the Babri Masjid demolition case, only to be included later. There is no word on the role, if any, of the late Krishan Lal Sharma and the circumstances which compelled Advani to propose Vajpayee’s name for prime ministership at the BJP conclave when he himself was responsible for the rise of the party in the early 90s. There is no mention of the fact that his Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra was his own decision and neither the RSS nor the BJP had initially backed it.

Something which also strikes any person who has followed the NDA regime is that the government was only there in name and many of its principal players were pursuing their individual agendas. Brajesh Mishra was calling the shots at one level, Jaswant Singh was following his own brand of diplomacy, George Fernandes was on his own trip and Advani was busy showcasing himself as Lauh Purush. Vajpayee was presiding over a government where the main players disagreed with each other on their approaches towards issues. Not a good advertisement for a combination that wants to regain power in the next polls.

In an attempt to portray himself as a humane and family-oriented politician and not the hardliner he has always been presented as, Advani has used every gimmick — from his “spontaneous” visits to the residences of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to giving interviews — to further his case. Like always, this time too he has used the media to his benefit.

For those who follow current affairs, there has been a surfeit of Advani. He has peaked early and the firecrackers will finish before Diwali (read elections) arrives. His book has given enough fodder to his opponents and fails to inspire the majority even in the Sangh Parivar. In a way, the book shows that there was no cohesion in the previous government and no element of collective leadership and responsibility. It also shows us what to expect if the BJP/NDA returns to power. Between us.

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