By Sushil Kutty
Veteran BJP leader LK Advani wrote a blog. He wrote, among other things, that the BJP does not regard those who do not agree politically with it, ‘enemies’. Adversaries, but not enemies. Soon after, BJP President Amit Shah belied that claim. He said henceforth the BJP will have nothing whatsoever to do with Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP. Meaning ‘CBN’ is ‘enemy’, not just political adversary.
Chandrababu Naidu, by the way, is already on record that he will have nothing to do with the BJP. Tit for tat. Advani must not even have had Chandrababu in mind when he wrote his blog, the first in five years, to mark the BJP’s foundation day on April 6. Advani found his pen. That itself is news.
If there are political adversaries within a party, then Advani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are adversaries, though there those who regard they are foes more than friends. Advani is regarded by many as Modi’s ‘mentor’. But one of the first things, Modi did after becoming Prime Minister was to ease Advani into the shadows, consign him to the party’s ‘Margdarshan Mandal’, a forum which was never consulted.
For a full five years, Advani was not heard or seen to be active though when Parliament was in session he was quite often spotted on the front bench, in his trademark cap, hands engaged in that uniquely Advani-gesture that all have to come to recognize. LK Advani is now 91 and will not be seen in the Lok Sabha again. He might yet make it to the Rajya Sabha, though.
The BJP denied him a ticket for General Elections 2019. His constituency Gandhinagar in Gujarat, from where he won six straight times, goes to BJP President Amit Shah. And Advani will also not be campaigning for BJP candidates. It’s being said a generational shift has happened in the BJP and now it’s the turn of the Modi-Shah combine to rule the roost.
But Modi and Shah have been ruling the roost from ever since May 26, 2014. Senior BJP leaders including Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi stand sidelined and this is a point of contention between Modi-Shah and dissidents Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha, all of who were regarded to be in the Advani-camp. Shatrughan Sinha is now Congressman.
Soon after Advani’s blog became public, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted, tweeting his feelings on the blog. And it could not be anything but appreciation. “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,” tweeted Modi.
In his blog, Advani appeared to be reminding the current BJP leadership of forgotten BJP ethos. “Defence of democracy and democratic traditions has been the hallmark of the BJP,” he wrote. “BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions… Electoral reforms, with special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding…”
Coming as these comments do when election rhetoric is at its peak and Modi is being attacked for being authoritarian, Advani’s remarks appear to be at odds with Modi’s narrative, more in tune with the Opposition’s points of inflexion, especially on integrity and independence of democratic institutions, and electoral reforms. Advani seems to be reminding Modi something that Modi always tends to ignore. Has Modi got the message this time, and can Advani expect anything will be done to redo damage?
Hardly. The “festival of democracy” of which Advani refers to in his blog, will not allow any rethinking, especially when the BJP’s major election plank is “Indian nationalism”. Those opposed to the Modi regime are mostly considered “anti-national”, enemy of India and enemy of BJP. Advani wrote that the guiding principle of his life has been “Nation First, Party Next, Self last.” Narendra Modi endorsed the principle. But can he be taken on his word? Somehow, it is a little hard to visualize. (IPA Service)