Last week in this column as the Bharatiya Janata Party was convening in Goa, as an ‘India watcher’ this column had pleaded in favour of LK Advani, probably the oldest active politician on the Indian national scene (with over 60 years of involvement in politics), displaying magnanimity befitting his stature and age.
Sadly, Mr Advani didn’t. For all the respect that the Indian tradition has for old age, old age failed ignominiously. During lively and sometimes acrimonious debates on the issue, the disappointment of several commentators in the Indian media was visible, even as others were trying to mitigate the posturings of Mr Advani who preferred to shun the public space. He sent a letter of resignation to the BJP chief Shri Rajnath Singh, and Shankar Iyer of The Hindustan Times had this to say: ‘His remark in his letter to Rajnath Singh that “most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas” will appear hypocritical when they see his action in the same light.’
Did Mr Advani think that the people of India are fools not to appreciate that, after all, he too was concerned with only his personal agenda – that of becoming Prime Minster of India? For that, alas, he was prepared not only to let down his party, the BJP, but worse, he could not care less for what would happen to not only the India image, but to Bharat Mata herself.
One analyst on Indian TV referred to Mr Advani’s pettiness; others spoke of his sulkiness. As Shankar Iyer observed: ‘So Advani has finally deployed his most powerful instrument — public embarrassment of his party — to get back at the BJP a day after Modi became the party’s campaign committee chief. He has ended his sulk of the last three days to damage the party’s standing just a year before the elections.’ If only it was only that.
But no, from the larger, India perspective, it was unacceptable moral blackmail on the part of a veteran from whom the country’s youth generation was expecting the articulation of confidence in a rejuvenated leadership, with a vision focusing on development and sound governance instead and jettisoning for good vote-bank politics.
Mr Advani resorted to gimmickry to attract attraction to himself, by not being present at Goa, then sending a letter of resignation, then being begged to withdraw it – which he did, and this was a predictable non-event as far as he himself is concerned. But through his gimmickry, he has achieved what the Congress Party had so far failed to do: splitting the BJP into factions. And created in the country an instability which bodes ill for its future. Which leads one to conclude that in spite of his track record and declarations, the country was the least of his concerns.
Having explosively triggered the divisions in his party by failing to send a needed strong signal of support to the groundswell in favour of a new leadership for the BJP, he is now trying to effect damage control by ‘talking’ to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others in a bid to prevent the bleeding. But Nitish Kumar is adamant.
The new audacity of Nitish Kumar and others came about because instead of showing width and depth of vision, strength and sagacity, Mr Advani chose to display the weakness of ego.
As a direct result of this failing of his, there are sad, sad days ahead for India.
The younger generations of India dreamt of their Mandela moment. They are more likely to have a Mugabe-like shadow.
Sorry to say, Mr Advani has miserably failed his motherland this time round.
* Published in print edition on 14 June 2013