What a way to fall when you’re 86 years old! And yet, as most who had observed the run up to the fall knew, it was only imminent. What primarily led to LK Advani’s graceless exit was a combination of incurable self-delusion and an obstinate refusal to acknowledge his irrelevance especially after the washout in 2009. It appeared as if he had become akin to a compulsive gambler who HAS to win at any cost–no matter how many people he hurt in the quest. Except that in his case, the Prime Minister’s gaddi was the jackpot.
It’s not entirely inaccurate to say that the BJP went through its worst ever phase under the post-2009 LK Advani: private spats fought publicly, avoidable intraparty subterfuges, dumping regional leaders, creating unnecessary controversies to score a silly point. Of course this sort of thing happens in all parties. However, what was different in the BJP’s case was that such ugliness over time, came to define the party. There’s a reason the term Dilli-4 acquired such notoriety even within staunch BJP loyalists. Equally, a measure of how rudderless and weak it had become is available in the form of the nonchalant arrogance that the JD(U) treated it with in 2011 and 2012. And this is an ally with some 20 seats. If the Congress was viewed as the Satan of Corruption and malgovernance, the BJP was viewed as a National Joke.
And LK Advani cannot hope to evade his share of responsibility for reducing the party to this sordid mess. To repeat a common analysis, Advani should’ve shown grace befitting his once-lofty stature and ceded space to younger and more deserving leaders in the party. However, as we’ve seen, he chose instead to alienate almost everybody who held him in great esteem. The consequence was visible in the recent meet at Goa. However, that has seemed to only harden his irrational obstinacy. There’s perhaps no other explanation for his resignation from all party positions he occupied.
Or perhaps there is. A one word explanation: blackmail. No. Make that two words: Gandhian blackmail. The parallels are striking. Mohandas Gandhi retained his vise-like grip over the Congress leadership through blackmail: listen to me or I’ll fast until death! However, as history shows, Gandhi became irrelevant to the Congress party by 1944-45. But for Godse, Gandhi’s fate would’ve resembled that of Advani’s today: a career that attained soaring heights only to witness a pitiable twilight in his own lifetime, a fall that’s entirely self-scripted. Self-scripted because post 2009, he began to live in an illusory soap-bubble, which continually bloated up, fed by the air of what he thought was his indispensability to the BJP. Instead of introspecting on the real reasons for the party’s worst ever drubbing in 2009, Advani chose skulduggery–the example of Yeddyurappa, not to mention Narendra Modi, comes to mind instantly.
The bubble has finally burst. As Jaggi excellently sums it up, the BJP will move on within the blink of an eyelid. It baffles the mind that Advani hasn’t realised the simple fact that resting on past laurels has never paid. More so in politics where your sell-by-date, even before you realize it, can be today. Contemporaneity is what determines the relevance of any leader, and the bigger the leader you are, the swifter and harder your fall is. And it is undeniable that Narendra Modi has singlehandedly scripted a fresh narrative and has forced even the formidable Congress party to dance to his tunes, turning their own game against them. But in the 10 years that Modi took, working assiduously to shape this narrative, LK Advani was busy doing nothing useful to revive the BJP from the abyss it had fallen into. Indeed, he seemed to do the opposite: pushing it further down. Given all this, we wonder on what basis he still harbours the ambition of becoming the BJP’s PM candidate.
Whatever his failings, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a talent for identifying and nurturing capable and promising people–Pramod Mahajan, Arun Shourie, Khanduri, et al would’ve languished unnoticed but for Vajpayee. And we’ve seen what LK Advani has done in these 9 years to such capable and promising leaders.
It baffles the mind, and it’s saddening that Advani doesn’t realise how vile the spectacle reflects on him and the BJP of how the Congress has immediately lapped up the chance to bake political beans in the wake of his resignation. Or the fact of how the media is firing from his shoulder at Narendra Modi, one of the BJP’s own, calling his resignation a “crisis in the BJP.”
Respected Advani ji, your resignation not a crisis for the BJP. It is the end of a crisis. The crisis of leadership.
Postscript: I’m sorry it had to come to this Advani ji.