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The blog was the swansong of a retired hurt party veteran and at best a wake-up call from the architect and Margdarshak of India’s mainstream right.
On the eve of the BJP’s Foundation Day last week, party veteran LK Advani hit the national headlines with his blog reminding the party of its ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last’ philosophy and asserting that the party has never regarded those who disagreed politically as “anti-national” in what was widely perceived as an indictment of the present leadership.
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Known for turning the tide in his favour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to tweet, “Advani ji perfectly sums up the true essence of BJP, most notably the guiding mantra of 'nation first, party next, self last.' Proud to be a BJP karyakarta and proud that greats like LK Advani ji have strengthened it.”
The opportunity was also availed by the opposition to hit out at Modi with Rahul Gandhi even using very strong words to describe the “maltreatment” meted out to the BJP veteran.
Advani’s blog after a long interval of five years was certainly not an impromptu message to his party cadres on its Foundation day. Analysts saw in it his angst at being denied the Gandhinagar seat he had nurtured since 1991. And of course, the charioteer of Hindutva politics has never been known to make spontaneous statements. Each and every word is calibrated and well thought out before they are articulated.
Days before his controversial statement on Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which changed his fortunes within BJP, as a journalist accompanying him to Pakistan on that historic trips, I vividly remember Advani telling reporters at New Delhi airport minutes before the departure, “I want to shed this image of Advani being someone horned devil”. The remarks came in the backdrop of stories in Indian and Pakistani media about the visit of the ‘Hindutva Poster Boy and Babri Accused’ to the country he migrated from before partition.
True to his words, Advani did not disappoint. I remember taking down notes from the message book kept at Jinnah’s mausoleum wherein Advani (accompanied by his then political advisor Sudheendra Kulkarni) reminded Pakistanis of their founder’s “secular vision” for the newly established Islamic state.
Subsequently, at a meeting of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, the votary of ‘Akhand Bharat’ vociferously asserted that both countries should acknowledge each other’s existence as a reality and must learn to live as peaceful neighbours. Posterity would judge whether the move was indicative of a change of heart or was it an attempt to emerge as an acceptable successor to Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the NDA’s comeback bid failed in 2004.
But then Advani knows when to speak and when not to. He chose to remain silent when Vajpayee reminded Modi of ‘Rajdharma’ in the wake of the post-Godhra Gujarat violence but then he stood up for the Gujarat chief minister at the party’s Goa conclave when Modi’s critics were baying for his scalp.
Contrary to all speculations, Advani remained silent all through the five years of the Modi government.
Notwithstanding the meeting he recently had with Murli Manohar Joshi, another veteran who too is no more in the recknoning, Advani is unlikely to press the rebel button. He is too disciplined a soldier of the party and has fallen in line always. He remains the quintessential Swayamsewak who abides by the Sangh dictum ‘Soochna ke Baad Sochna Nahin’ (No further thinking once the instructions have come from above).
In fact, as he signed off, he only reiterated his commitment to cultural nationalism, the party’s core ideology.
“In short, the triad of Satya (truth), Rashtra Nishtha (dedication to the nation) and Loktantra (democracy, both within and outside the party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my party. The sum total of all these values constitutes Sanskritik Rashtravad (cultural nationalism) and Su-Raj (good governance), to which my Party has always remained wedded. The heroic struggle against the Emergency rule was precisely to uphold the above values”, he said.
The BJP veteran also referred to many other critical issues including electoral reforms and independence of media but in the context of the prevailing political discourse, they hardly provided fodder for news hounds.
In fact, one can read a lot “between the lines” as he referred to “special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding, which is so essential for a corruption-free polity”. He also called for honest introspection by all stakeholders in Indian democracy including “authorities conducting the election process”.
However, the discussion around the blog remained confined to phrases such as “anti-national” and “individual last”.
At worst, the blog was the swansong of a retired hurt party veteran and at best a wake-up call from the architect and Margdarshak of India’s mainstream right. Admirers and critics of the nonagenarian leader would keenly look forward to his next blog.
KG Suresh is a senior journalist and former Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication.
First Published: Apr 8, 2019 12:30 PM IST