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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2731

Advani awaits coronation

By Atul - Syndicate Features

His supporters in the Bharatiya Janata Party are entitled to assume that L.K. Advani’s installation as the next prime minister of India is imminent; in a matter of few months, if not weeks. Their exuberant optimism springs from the fact that the old ‘hurdles’ have been removed from Advani’s path with his ‘anointment’ blessed by both the all-important Sangh Parivar and the bed-ridden ‘Bhishmpitamah’ of the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

‘Sources’ within the BJP itself have been telling some journalists that Advani had to be officially projected as the prime ministerial candidate to bottle up the genie in the party called Narendra Modi. Others have speculated that it will minimise further bloodshed amongst the ‘second rung’ of party leadership, each one of whom presumes that he or she alone deserves to be nominated as the BJP’s prime minister-in-waiting.

It has also been said that settling the ‘leadership’ (prime minister-in-waiting) issue in the party will boost the chances of the BJP in Gujarat, which is actually witnessing a ‘referendum’ on the state chief minister, Narendra Modi, rather than an assembly poll. This kind of support for Modi was perhaps necessary because of his single-minded devotion to the destruction of the BJP apparatus in his home state. But before he takes on the PM’s mantle, the BJP’s Iron Man (Advani) will have to stop the destruction of the party infrastructure in not only Gujarat but also Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the BJP chief ministers have been fighting the internal fire with diminishing success.

But such issues may not be uppermost in his mind. Advani has been suffering from prime ministerial delusions for a long time; more visibly from the time the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power at the Centre. He accepted—grudgingly or willingly—Vajpayee as the prime minister in that dispensation. But when he could not contain his exalted ambitions any longer he had himself declared (in 2002) the deputy prime minister. The nomenclature may not have any constitutional backing but it massaged his ego for the time being.

For Advani the loss—‘unexpected’, according to the pundits—of the BJP at the hustings in 2004 was a personal blow for it ruled out his immediate elevation to the highest executive post in the country. Instead of accepting that reality a dejected Advani started to spin more illusions around himself. A popular theme in his public speeches ever since has been that the fall of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is ‘imminent’. Lately, he must have felt more optimistic with the comrades, eager to save the country from the clutches of ‘imperialists’ and what not, issuing weekly threats to pull the rug from under the UPA government that they support from outside. But it is still possible that the precise ‘imminent’ moment Advani has been waiting for may not come till 2009.

Right now, Advani supporters in the BJP must be feeling rewarded as some of the NDA allies like Sharad Yadav of JD(S) have rushed to declare that they have no objections to Advani’s ‘coronation’. It is hard to place full trust in such assertions because many BJP allies in the NDA, unsuccessfully balancing their ‘secular’ credentials and affiliation with a minority-bashing party, have also been toying with the idea of joining the so-called third front.

Advani’s much trumpeted tryst with ‘secularism’ had nearly ended his political career when on a visit to the land of his birth, Sindh (Pakistan) he had pronounced the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, as a pucca ‘secular’—as distinct from the ‘pseudo seculars’ who never subscribed to Jinnah’s two-nation theory that divided India in 1947. The Sangh Parivar is said to have forgiven Advani for his ‘Jinnah is secular’ speech in Pakistan. It says a lot about the BJP view of politics when it says that Advani’s gratuitous praise of Jinnah is a sign of his statesmanship!

Potential rivals within the BJP have been prevailed upon by the Sangh Parivar to become resigned to the fact that Advani will lead the party at the next general election. That must be wonderful news for Advani because only some months ago the wizened old men who control the conscience of the Sangh Parivar were asking both Advani and Vajpayee to take ‘Sanyas’ (retirement) from politics.

The removal of ambiguity over his future role in the party, however, has clouded certain vital issues relating to Advani’s candidacy. Though his spin doctors have been at it for long, equating Advani with Vajpayee as the ‘moderate’ voice of the party still looks far too contrived to carry any conviction. Despite his flip-flops, Vajpayee, for instance, was never associated with the advocacy of hard core ‘Hindutva’ that Advani obviously favours. Indeed, he can be called the progenitor of this particularly offensive creed. Remember Advani’s famous—or infamous—Rath Yatra and the blood trail that followed it.

Advani was at hand to cheer his followers at Ayodhya who have been widely accused of playing the role of catalysts in the demolition of the historic Babri mosque. Certain political considerations may have compelled him to subsequently describe that demolition as an act that filled him with ‘sorrow’ but he could not have been really ‘sorry’ for the demolition of something that he calls ‘a structure’; alright, ‘a disputed structure’.

Despite being the home minister in the UPA government (with an elevated status of ‘deputy prime minister’) Advani’s views on terrorism are closer to the vintage hardcore ‘Hindutva’ propaganda that tars an entire community as fifth columnists and militants. His diatribe against an imagined ‘soft’ policy on government’s terrorism is designed to establish his credentials as a Hindu ‘Hridya Samrat’ where ironically, he has to compete with his protégé Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat.

What he—and, it must be said, the entire BJP—wants is untrammelled powers to the executive (police) to round up members from a particular community on suspicion of harbouring terrorists, followed by unrestricted periods of detention and, finally after a summary trial, the most severe punishment. This recipe appeals to the Sangh Parivar and their followers in the country but far from curbing terrorism it can only see it grow further. ‘Prime Minister’ Advani will certainly disagree.

- Syndicate Features -

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