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Advani As PM?

By M Shamsur Rabb Khan

23 April, 2009

By projecting L K Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the next government, the BJP has done the biggest political blunder. With aggressive media campaign, the party is putting an all-out effort to elevate Advani to a cult figure, as if creating a new avatara by putting the leader over party but failed to grasp the fact that the bottle, like the wine, has become too old to fetch enough admirers. Mimicking the Congress of late 1970s and early 1980s when late Mrs. Indira Gandhi was projected as one-man show, the BJP has narrowed the whole focus of its campaign on one man, who is disliked by a great majority of this country, or at least is not approved to be India’s PM. In the first place, the very expectation of any charismatic outcome due to Advani’s elevation as PM-in-Waiting is a flawed election strategy.

Advani was never so desperate to become PM before: in 1999, the former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee was able to outwit him to notch up the top post with his personal image so firmly established, not only in the eyes of his own party men but also among Muslims as well. Albeit Muslims have been sceptic about the BJP due to its Hindutva tilt, association with VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS and its views on hordes of other issues, they liked Vajpayee and voted for him. Advani has nothing of that quality. His past records continue to haunt Muslim voters, and send conflicting signals to other sections of the society. Destruction and division, rather than construction and conciliation, have been the hallmark of his individual political career.

Advani’s contribution, as was questioned by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh recently, is nothing but cipher so far development or nation building is concerned except the great divide he had created through his rath yatra in 1991, which led to the destruction of Babri mosque, and the subsequent communal polarisation in the country. The trails of rath yatra were spread with death and destruction of hundreds of innocent Muslims throughout the north India. The name Advani, as he was riding on the wave of hate campaign, was enough to run down terror into the spine of every Muslim, as if a Medieval Age crusader was set to unleash a holy war. To tell the truth, he was hated to the point of vengeance, and though time has erased some of the bitter memories, the scar is still alive. The wrath of turning Ramjanabhoomi movement into a war cry against one community has inflicted Muslims’ psyche so deeply that it can only be healed if Advani could change his ideological objectives, which is the least likely possibility.

In the early 1990s, Advani emerged as a colossal champion of Hindutva, with a political ambition of securing a Hindu vote bank, or snatching Hindu votes from the Congress: the promise of building a grand temple was nothing but an alibi to gain power. Against the much publicized minority appeasement of the Congress, Advani devised a far too sensitive an issue of Ram Temple, and the idea paid off, though after a few years later, when a full-fledged NDA government led by the BJP was formed in 1999. Who will forget how belligerently he led the procession of Hindu zealots during Ayodhaya movement to terrorize Muslims on a promise he was not to fulfill? How can Muslims forget the mother of all communal divides that Advani created when they were about to forget the traumatic memories of partition, or frequency of communal riots?

In essence, Advani failed to deliver his first promise: in five years of NDA government, neither he nor his party could take any serious initiative to build the Ram temple at Ayodhaya, for which he had initiated the polarisation. In this election campaign, he does not talk about Ram Temple issue at all. As a Home Minister, he did nothing to stop the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat, while Vajpayee sent a sermonic advice to Modi to follow the Rajdharma that the Gujarat CM did with sacred zeal in protecting Hindu rioters and prosecuting innocent Muslims en mass. On the Kandhar plane hijack episode, instead of finding diplomatic solution, Advani guided the release of hardcore terrorists in lieu of passengers held as hostage, thus compromising the prestige of the nation. So, his image as iron man is as false as Pakistan loving India.

Though Advani, with active and incessant support of media, has tried to metamorphose his image as humorous campaigner, ardent movie watcher, stylish public orator, and zealous opinion maker, his in-built personality shaped out of RSS background will remain with him no matter how lavishly he praised Jinnah while in Pakistan, or how he backtracked while in India. On personal attack, Advani has been severe on non-BHP leaders especially how he makes fun of Dr. Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister. But it exposes Advani’s own weakness more than it hides Singh’s strengths. His desperate attempt to have man-to-man TV talk with Dr. Manmohan Singh is a sheer over confidence to outwit the Prime Minister before millions of viewers via his loquacious oratory, rather than competition.

On terrorism, Advani speaks as if he is to take vengeance against Indian Muslims rather than dealing with hidden enemy that could be a Muslim, a Hindu, or anyone. For example, his outbursts and utterances in favour of Malagaon accused, who are happened to be Hindus clearly revealed his intent and those of his party as well. While calling Hemant Karkare “deshdrohi”, Advani’s double standard on terrorism speaks volumes of his real intention when he demands or promises a tougher law than POTA. Note how hollow and contradictory is the BJP manifesto for elections 2009, in which the strength of Advani is highlighted thus: “The country needs a leader who can restore Government’s credibility and the people’s confidence in themselves. The polity needs a leader who values consensus over conflict, consultation over confrontation. Then alone can good governance replace the all-round failure of the Congress. That leader is LK Advani.”

Lastly, giving the onus of running the largest democracy in the world on an 81 year old man is a risky business since he is to lead more than 50 million young people towards a new, young and vibrant India where change is prerequisite. And Advani is not for change, we must understand.

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