Not his own man

For first time in my life, ever, I felt sorry for L K Advani. The elder ’statesman’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who has done more for his party than any other leader, including Narendra Modi, does not even have a right to his own ambition? He had to listen to the summons of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership and water down his plans to run for Prime Minister again at the next general elections. And he cannot use his forthcoming rath yatra as a vehicle (no pun intended) to 7, Race Course Road!

Now how sad is that? Or perhaps not. For I noticed that, on the same day, Advani had four different answers to the same question put by different reporters at different times: if he was in the race for, well, Race Course Road. And I believe, when the time comes, the old fox will yet outfox the younger leadership in the RSS – after all, his lauding of Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secular leader that had grossly annoyed the RSS could not stop him from running the race again in 2009. And that’s because, when the time is wrong, Advani knows how to bend– or at least bow — before others more seemingly powerful in his party. The crucial hour, though, belies that power of those others and Advani is up and running again.

I have seen that happen so many times before that I now no longer believe that any one from the BJP could ever be in the contest for Prime Minister, until Advani is around or he voluntarily lets go. But I also have an abiding faith in Bharat Mata and I believe she always asserts herself to save herself from disaster at precisely the right moment whenever faced by potential catastrophe.

For example, by rights, it is Advani, and not Atal Behari Vajpayee, who should have been Prime Minister in 1996. But that would surely have been a recipe for disaster – given that even Vajpayee could not stop the 2002 massacres in Gujarat and Advani did nothing as Union Home Minister, I wonder how much longer those killings would have gone on had he, rather than Vajpayee (who at least had the will, even if not the internal power, to stop the riots), had been heading the government. But, then, out of nowhere, came the Jain havala scam (which most people have forgotten about today) and, unbelievably, Advani was among those named. Of course, he was then left with no choice but to step aside for Vajpayee. And have people quite forgotten that both Kandahar and the terrorist attack on parliament happened on Advani’s watch as union home minister?

Just as well, then, that the BJP lost the subsequent elections in 2004. For, the plan, I am told, was to win the elections under Vajpayee’s leadership (Advani knew well enough that allies would drop off under his own, as they have already done now that Vajpayee is no longer on the scene) and then to retire the ailing Vajpayee and smoothly step into his shoes without having faced the people at the hustings. When that stunning result came pouring in, my friends laughed and asked, “Why are you so surprised? Isn’t that your theory about Bharat Mata asserting itself again?” I guess, she was indeed saving herself from untold/unforeseen disasters even in 2009 when the Congress and its allies swept the elections again against all their expectations, even if she returned a far weaker government than before.

But whatever the truth of my theory or not, one thing is now clear: even Advani is not his own man. I have heard him repeat ad nauseum, so insultingly, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the weakest prime minister ever for he has to always defer to 10, Janpath. Which may well be true. But that’s like the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it – or, at the least, a man in a glass house throwing stones at another in a similar glass house?

At least, Dr Manmohan Singh got to be Prime Minister.

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