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Ode to Advani
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
 
IT is increasingly apparent that Mr L.K. Advani's swansong is being painstakingly composed at the RSS Headquarters.

For a man who launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his supposed proclivity to run to 10, Janpath to take orders, the glaring irony of it all must indeed be hurting at the personal level.

Mr Advani's political career, however, is replete with such ironies and contradictions. From the demolition of Babri Masjid, when he is reported to have wept after his frenzied followers brought down the disputed structure in culmination of the mass hysteria generated by his Rath Yatra, to his denial of knowledge of Kandahar episode, Mr Advani has always tried to strike a balance between his hawkish image and the mantle of a statesman that he tried in vain to don.

When history judges Mr Advani, surely his muted and almost reluctant expression of dismay at the happenings in Gujarat and Kandhamal will be recalled.

It would also be recalled that the man who always accused the Congress of "appeasing" Muslims as part of vote bank politics accused the same party of "betraying" Muslims during the 2009 election campaign.

His act of joining the Communists against the Indo-US nuclear deal demonstrated how political expediency took precedence over the role of constructive opposition in his scheme of things. His subsequent declaration that the BJP would implement the deal if voted to power only strengthened this perception.

No account of Mr Advani's political career would be complete without a reference to his description of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as secular. The damage control that was attempted on his return from Pakistan where he made the famous remark failed and he was shown the door by the RSS.

Mr Advani's fondness for titles is another facet that stands out. He was called "Loh Purush" or the Iron Man when he held the reigns of the Home Ministry. One would have quite understood if Shivraj Patil had been described as "Kapda Purush" or Cloth Man but no explanation was forthcoming on the origin of Mr Advani's title which a section of the media lapped up.

In his second innings he gleefully accepted the title of the "Prime Minister in Waiting" that his fawning acolytes bestowed on him. The drubbing at the hustings that followed was, therefore, definitely a rejection of his leadership and the militant face of Hindutva epitomised by Varun Gandhi that blossomed under his care.

This is something that he found difficult to come to terms with. It was the organizational apparatus that was faulted for not taking the "message" of the party to the masses. What message was it?

Advani did not explain why he gave the party ticket to Varun Gandhi if the message sent out by him was not his own message.

Despite the many contradictions that Mr Advani lived and sometimes promoted, I would remember him as a leader with certain charisma, who kindled the fire of Hindutva, giving it wider acceptability, for making BJP a force to reckon with in Indian politics. And also for his aborted tryst with greatness!

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The writer is Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA
 
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