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Advani Chasing Elusive Chair.

India, Oct. 2 -- Senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani evokes feelings of pity and sympathy. To the one who spent six decades of active life in politics the most important chair of power has eluded time and again - remember once it was so near and yet it stayed so far. Election 2009 was thought to be the best and the last chance for Advani to ascent the throne. But it was not to be. After the most surprising and spectacular failure as NDA's PM candidate, almost everyone had written him off, most importantly his own party which removed him from the role of the Leader of the Opposition. In the absence of the tall leader Vajpayee, Advani was made the chairman of the parliamentary party. It was much like an after-thought of the party or a consolation prize.

Remember it is yatras (rath, bus) that brought Advani anywhere closer to the chair, even if some of those yatras caused religious polarization, communal tension and terrorist attacks in India since then. Now suddenly Advani has begun to see the mirage of the chair. What encourages him is the consistent suicidal tendency of the Congress party and its government at the Centre. Added to it, what has given him a fresh lease of life is the never ending squabbles among the generation next leaders in the BJP for the top post and Narendra Modi's continuing pariah status due to his alleged involvement in the Gujarat genocide.

So Advani has decided to take out another yatra, this time in the name of "corruption and good governance". Not that corruption wasn't there when he was part of the first Janata party government, later National Front government (outside support) and still later the NDA version. In fact NDA (1998-2004) was knee-deep in corruption as revealed by the Tehelka sting, UTI scam worth 4800 crores, Ketan Parekh securities scam worth 1250 crores, Dinesh Dalmia stock market scam worth 596 crores, petrol pump allotment scam among others. For all these corruption scandals, Advani was answerable to the nation next only to the Prime Minister Vajpayee for he was the number two (at one time the deputy PM) and the Home Minister in the government.

Perhaps at the ripe age of 84 (a senior citizen -to call him old man is not proper etiquette) his memory of the past misdeeds is fading but not the memory of the chair that has been eluding him. Time, as we know, is a great healer. But at the same time Advani must remember that Indian public has lost the taste for yatras. Yatras and all that is babbled in the heat of the moment means nothing for them; what is significant to the common man is commitment and delivery from the political class. One can clearly say that commitment to a corruption-free government and good governance is missing from BJP and even from Advani. What BJP and Advani harbours are hidden agendas. There was absolutely no sign of such commitment from BJP when the discussion on Jan Lokpal took place in Parliament.

Though BJP sought to hang on to the apron strings of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement in order to derive political mileage BJP as a party definitely differed with Anna on the corruption issue. How can BJP possibly go along with Anna's anti-corruption agenda when its government in Karnataka was set up with the loot from the 'minesgate' run by the Reddy brothers? It will be far from truth to say that Advani had absolutely no role in what has been happening in Kartnataka. His protege Sushma Swaraj was the god-mother of the Bellary Reddy brothers.

In Parliament BJP only opposed, that too symbolically, the arrest of Anna and his being taken to Tihar. The party stood with Anna on his freedom to fast and not with the issue of corruption. In fact, in an interview to NDTV Anna himself said: "I do not support Advani's yatra; if the BJP is serious about corruption let them start with appointing Lokayuktas in their states." There are no Lokayuktas in BJP-ruled states like Chhattisgargh and Jharkhand. In Gujarat, the appointment of a Lokayukta was delayed by eight years. Now the appointment of Lokayukta by the Governor has been questioned by the BJP. As the second most important leader (till Vajpayee is alive) of the BJP how come Advani do nothing about it? After all politicians of all colours and hues, with the exceptions of Union Minister A. K. Antony and a couple of others, band together to give and take favours for their kith and kin.

So one cannot really understand the logic behind the forthcoming/declared yatra of Advani. The only logic seems to be that of opportunism. Politics after all is a game of pure opportunists. Advani, as shown from recent history, seems to be very good at smelling opportunities. When the Mandal issue galvanized Other Backward Castes (OBC) and threatened to capture power at the centre Advani brought to the fore the Mandir issue and undertook the first rath yatra (1990), which was to catapult the BJP at the centre stage of Indian politics with 120 seats (1991). But it also transformed the communal history of this country as never before, not for the better, but for evil.

India is still suffering from the evil consequences of Advani's first yatra. Suddenly he has smelt yet another opportunity towards which he has already made two significant statements: First: "Arrest me, it was my sting," referring to the arrest of two of his party MPs in the cash-for-vote scandal. Here he is dreaming of the martyr's way to occupy the chair. Second: "Manmohan must resign, hold fresh elections." Here he feels almost at the threshold of wresting the PM's chair from Manmohan Singh. For according to the State of the Nation poll by some media houses if elections are held today BJP will be the beneficiary of Congress' tendency at self-annihilation, which might propel the NDA to power once again. And if that happens who else can be the PM except the one who has been PM-in-waiting, not for years, but for decades!

The main strength of Advani has been his capacity for double talk, a tongue twister at that. He has demonstrated this ability time and again to explain what Hindutva means, what re-writing history means, what Hindu Rashtra means and so forth. And we can expect a lot of such tongue twister master class acts during his forthcoming yatra purportedly aimed at freeing India of corruption and to give it good governance. As a man grows older his wisdom increases, it is said. As far as Manmohan Singh is concerned silence seems to be the sign of his wisdom. But Advani and his erstwhile BJP colleagues think otherwise. Remember Venkata Naidu, one time BJP president, had to utter at least something nonsensical every day in the full glare of the national media; not that everyone, including his partymen, understood what his tongue-in-cheek pronouncements were, because of his natural impediment of clear utterance. Advani, thank goodness, has no such impediments; rather he is a kind of orator. His focus during the yatra would be to use his oratorical skills to win over the Indian electorate so that he can capture the much elusive chair.

If Congress continues to make one mistake after the other as it had been from the time UPA II came to power then Advani's hopes may not belie him. But if Congress in the remainder of its term avoids arrogance of power and chooses the path of correction, feels the pulse of the common man, properly and efficiently targets the schemes meant for the poor, brings in a strong Lokpal Bill, ushers in electoral reforms to remove money power and muscle power from the election arena, builds the much needed infrastructure through the length and the breadth of the country then to Advani the much sought after chair might once again remain elusive. And our feelings of pity and sympathy for him would only increase in intensity.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Oct 2, 2011
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