Advani: Petulant Patriarch
by Sandhya Jain on 11 Nov 2009 17 Comments

A media acolyte of the BJP’s fading supremo has rebuked the RSS Sarsanghachalak for departing from a tradition of public reticence by most predecessors and publicly demanding a generational change in the political party. In an article astonishing for its peremptory prescriptions to the RSS pramukh to stick to social service activities and abstain from ‘meddling in power politics,’ the lady taunts him to otherwise ‘simply take over the reins of the party himself.’


Hitherto, most media coverage of the RSS has been hostile towards its Hindutva ideology, and BJP leaders have been appreciated only in terms of their deviation from Hindutva. Yet, to the best my knowledge, no ‘secular’ journalist has so identified herself with the lustreless leadership of LK Advani as Commi Kapoor did yesterday (Indian Express, 10 November 2009). By reprimanding the Sarsanghachalak for backseat driving, and herself batting for the continuance of the 83-not-out Advani, she drove journalistic ethics and neutrality into a bog.


Coomi’s article bears the signature tune of Advani and his principal ideologue, a man with a Rasputin-like stranglehold over the anaemic party and an apparent mission to ensure its demise in his own lifetime. The prescription that the Sarsanghachalak should be seen and not heard – like the proverbial little children – derives solely from that fount of wisdom! The previous RSS chief gave him much too much leeway, to the extent of overlooking his publicly rubbishing the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.


It is not the intention or the culture of the writer to ridicule a professional colleague. This column merely highlights the extent to which Advani and his clique have so personalized the political culture of the BJP that all public comment upon the party has literally been reduced to being for or against the Leader of the Opposition.


The current crisis in the party stems from Advani’s now obvious determination to cling on to his post till his last breath, negating an August commitment to the RSS that he would step down in the month of October after installing a new generation of leaders in New Delhi. Soon after obtaining this reprieve, however, he used the good offices of the same Coomi Kapoor to convey that he would go only after the term of party president Rajnath Singh ended, so that he could have a hand in the selection of the new BJP president also.


In turn, pressures mounted for an early exit and rumours of a birthday resignation gained ground, much to his dismay. In retaliation, the coterie manipulated a crude threat to the party government in Karnataka, which was miraculously (sic) resolved to coincide with his birthday on 8 November.


But RSS had seen through the game and improvised a new strategy - to isolate Advani within the party and leave him high and dry like a beached whale. In pursuit of this objective, the Sarsanghachalak used a 6 November 2009 interview with AAJTAK news channel to declare unequivocally that the next BJP president would not be selected from the ranks of the four principal Advani acolytes, namely, Arun Jaitly, Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar and M Venkaiah Naidu.


Many birds were killed with this single stone:


-         BJP cadres and leaders nationwide got the message that Advani will have no say in the selection of the next party president


-         BJP cadres and leaders got the message that Advani will have no say in the selection of the next Leader of the Opposition (which may be why he is now refusing to quit)


-         The claims by these four persons, who leaked to the media in August 2009 that Shri Mohan Bhagwat had divided the leadership posts among them – Venkaiah Naidu (BJP president), Sushma Swaraj (LOP, Lok Sabha) Arun Jaitly (LOP, Rajya Sabha), Ananth Kumar (Deputy LoP, Lok Sabha) – were thus publicly repudiated by the Sarsanghachalak, a stern snub by any reckoning


-         Both Advani’s birthday celebrations and the carefully calibrated Karnataka crisis resolution turned tasteless in their collective mouths.


There can be no doubt that Advani struck back by asking media cronies to lash out at the Sarsanghachalak. But it remains to be seen how many media barons will permit their organisations to be used to settle the personal scores of a fading political diva, and in the process alienate the rising and still invisible suns in the BJP.


It detracts from a newspaper’s credibility if a lead writer claims that the BJP rose from two seats in 1984 (after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) and captured power at the Centre in less than two decades because of AB Vajpayee - LK Advani. Any association of the BJP’s rise with personalities other than Sri Rama Lalla is intellectual dishonesty. It also pours water over the selfless exertions of millions of RSS workers and citizens who threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Janmabhoomi movement – which was cynically used by the Advani type of leaders to come to power.


This last statement is no allegation, or even assumption. An Advani crony who describes himself as an RSS ideologue wrote a column in a daily newspaper some years ago, openly affirming that the Ram Mandir movement was only a stratagem to garner public support and votes for the BJP, and that there was never any intention to build the temple. No wonder coterie insider Sushma Swaraj called Rama Janmabhoomi an ‘encashed cheque’ – that is truly all that it meant to her crowd.


The RSS under Shri Mohan Bhagwat is continuing the vision of Dr. KB Hedgewar, who was inspired by the ideals and goals of Hindu nationalism. This, like Hindu dharma itself, cannot be a static notion, but has ideally to be an evolving concept of what the nation needs at a particular time in history.


RSS always knew it needed a foothold in politics in order to realise its vision for the nation; that is why it created the Jana Sangh, which later re-emerged as the Bharatiya Janata Party. So even if the top leadership of the mother organisation maintained a formal distance from politics, there was never a cast-iron rule that it would not have a political vision or a political articulation.


Today, more than ever before, Hindu society needs a political articulation of Hindu political goals. The persisting political failures of the BJP, particularly small but tenacious men like Advani who have failed to protect Hindus from the predations of Mosque and Church, have compelled Shri Bhagwat to stand alone in the public square, braving the missiles from all quarters.


The fight may get dirtier, but that is no reason to abandon it.


The writer is Editor,

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