Modi Would Never Make Advani President, If We’re to Go By History

When I came to Delhi 30 years ago, Advani was a name to reckon with, writes AAP leader Ashutosh.

Updated
Opinion
6 min read
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with LK Advani. (Photo: AP)

He is a classical tragedy figure. The man who once shaped history has now succumbed to its tide. He was at one time the toast of town. His name tripped off tongues, there was an unending line of people wanting to meet him, the air alive with cheers. He was a hero, both on the political field and off. He could make or break fortunes. History itself seemed to take his wishes into consideration.

Today, he has been reduced to watching the game unfold from the sidelines. The same forces that determined the course of things in his time are at play now; the difference is that they no longer consult him. The party is the same and so, more or less, are the people involved. Only the figurehead has changed. Welcome to politics.

Lal Krishna Advani, talking to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Photo: PTI)
Lal Krishna Advani, talking to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Photo: PTI)

This is the story of Lal Krishna Advani in brief. When I came to Delhi 30 years ago, Advani was a name to reckon with. He was the rising star of Indian politics. His success seemed destined. The agitation for Ram Mandir was underway. People were looking for a hero and Atal Bihari Vajpayee didn’t fit the bill. The result was that everyone rallied around Advani. When he set out on his now-legendary rath yatra, soldiers of Hindutva fell in line behind him.

When he set out on his now-legendary rath yatra, soldiers of Hindutva fell in line behind Advani. (Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from ‘Ram Ke Naam’)
When he set out on his now-legendary rath yatra, soldiers of Hindutva fell in line behind Advani. (Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from ‘Ram Ke Naam’)

By the time of his arrest in Samastipur, he was the acknowledged leader of this force, their ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’. Narendra Modi, an unknown entity then, eagerly awaited the august attention of Advani. The situation has turned around now. If Modi had wished it, Advani would have been our next President.

Narendra Modi and LK Advani over the years. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Narendra Modi and LK Advani over the years. (Photo: The Quint)

Even those in the Opposition who are no fans of Advani seem to covertly feel that he is the most suitable candidate for this position. The BJP’s own Shatrughan Sinha recently announced his support for Advani’s candidacy. A few posters of support can be found on Delhi walls, but the BJP maintained a studied silence on the subject.

It is apparently not ready to support a veteran from its own ranks in the presidential race even though a committee formed expressly for the purpose of deciding a candidate seems to be filled with his erstwhile disciples. It was Advani who made Venkaiah Naidu the party president and later also lobbied unsuccessfully for him in 2009. Arun Jaitley was once Advani’s blue-eyed boy.

Rajnath Singh might have been the recipient of Advani’s scepticism, but even he never attempted to dishonour somebody of his stature.  But even this team did not propose Advani's name – and instead chose Ram Nath Kovind. It is said that anything is possible in politics but Advani as president seems beyond the realm of possibility.

Lal Krishna Advani campaigning for Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)
Lal Krishna Advani campaigning for Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)

There is no doubt that there are still a formidable number of people in the BJP who are sympathetic to Advani. A lot of people owe their political careers to Advani. These people were unlikely to object if the committee had suggested his name for the election. Even a few of the Opposition parties might have supported his candidature despite the contentious issue of the Babri Masjid demolition.

The Bitter Modi-Advani Rivarly

LK Advani in the meeting with Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. (Photo: File photo)
LK Advani in the meeting with Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. (Photo: File photo)

The rivalry between Modi and Advani seems strange when one considers that Advani came to Modi’s rescue at the latter’s weakest hour. After the Gujarat riots, an incensed Vajpayee had decided to remove Modi from the Chief Minister position. Advani and Jaitley had then argued his cause and saved his career.

If Modi had indeed been removed as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, his career would have come to a definite end. It would not be unreasonable to say that Modi owes his present post as the Prime Minister to Advani in some measure. It is also true, however, that Advani had opposed Modi’s candidature for PM quite vociferously.

Advani skipped the BJP’s National Executive Meet on 9 June 2013 in Goa where Modi’s name was proposed as campaign chief for 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Though he had offered the excuse of ill health for his absence, everyone knew what it meant. Modi as campaign chief indicated the party’s support for Modi as Prime Minister, which Advani couldn’t get behind. Though party members did their best to persuade Advani to come, including arranging a private jet for him, Advani didn’t budge. Sources say that this was the first time Advani skipped such a meeting.

On 13 September 2013, Narendra Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Goa Executive. (Photo Courtesy: BJP4INDIA)
On 13 September 2013, Narendra Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Goa Executive. (Photo Courtesy: BJP4INDIA)

This wasn’t all. Advani was conspicuously absent when the BJP announced Modi as its PM candidate after the Parliamentary Board on 13 September 2013. Party president Rajnath Singh had reportedly met Advani earlier that day to request his participation in the meeting but Advani merely handed him a letter.

The board waited late into the evening for Advani’s arrival. Advani, meanwhile, seemed to be in a state of agitation at home. Sources say that he approached the car many times with the clear intention of joining the board but seemed to decide not to in the end. Modi was announced as the PM candidate in his absence. After Modi came to power, the party and the government were both reorganised and Advani was relegated to the Margdarshak Mandal. The message was clear.

There was no space for Advani in Modi’s government or the party. If he wanted to remain in the ranks like Bhishma Pitamah in Hastinapur, that was his call. His days as the centre of all action were at an end. Advani was seemingly not ready to lay down weapons quite yet. In an interview with The Indian Express on 25 June 2015, Advani made scathing comments against Modi.

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

Only One Person Could Make Advani President

Only Modi could have made Advani India’s next president. Whether Indira Gandhi or Modi, it is quite clear that neither wanted a strong personality in the presidential office. Indira Gandhi appointed Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed as the President who then proceeded to sign off on her Emergency papers without the cabinet’s approval. Her next appointment was Giani Zail Singh who declared that he was ready to sweep the streets if his leader Indira Gandhi so wished.

Strong, Autocratic Prime Ministers Don’t Want Presidents But Rubber Stamps

Like Indira Gandhi before him, Modi too is supporting a presidential candidate who seems to be amenable to all his wishes. Politicians like KR Narayanan who have strong opinions are not everybody’s cup of tea. He, as well as APJ Abdul Kalam, were candidates of coalition governments. No party with a single majority would have chosen men like them.

It is well known that Rajendra Prasad as President was thorn in Jawaharlal Nehru’s side. Today, the BJP has the majority government at the centre, Modi is the leader, and Advani is no rubber stamp. All of our recorded political history made Advani’s candidacy extremely unlikely. He is fated to end his days as a tragic hero.

(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on QuintHindi.)

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