January 18, 2020
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Back To The Charioteer

A crestfallen BJP turns to the man with no dirt on him - so far

Back To The Charioteer
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Now that the BJP’s brush with power has left it bruised and battered, home minister L.K. Advani is well-poised to play a larger role in party strategy. And the fact that the prime ministerial establishment stands thoroughly discredited would, in all probability, strengthen his position.

Clearly, equations in the bjp have altered. But the Advani camp isn’t celebrating. Says an Advani loyalist: "To gloat now would be a case of cutting the nose to spite the face. As the man who planned the bjp’s journey to power, Advani is shattered."

Even as the RSS cries itself hoarse about a return to values, Advani, say old-timers, stands for probity in public life. They cite the example of the home minister staying in the same house in Delhi’s Pandara Park rather than move to the ministerial bungalow he’s entitled to. And unlike the PM’s foster family, there are, fortunately, no charges of influence-peddling against the two Advani children.

Members of Advani’s inner circle say the home minister is increasingly coming around to the view that it is better to sacrifice the government than to continue in power with discredited individuals. Though Advani will never directly ask the PM to rein in his foster family or get rid of particular officials in the pmo, senior rss leaders have passed on the message to the PM. It is no secret that Advani will be delighted to see the back of Brajesh Mishra and N.K. Singh. Advani is also believed to have exerted pressure for the departure of George Fernandes.

The Vajpayee-Advani equation is so complex that even though Advani is Vajpayee’s greatest challenger, he is also the colleague on whom Vajpayee has to ironically depend the most when it comes to carrying the party. During the three years that the bjp has been in power, Advani has played a secondary role. On vital issues like economic reforms, where there was a sharp difference of opinion with the rss, Advani has always come on the side of the prime minister. Even when he disagreed with Vajpayee, such as on the Kashmir ceasefire, Advani testily toed the PM’s line. And even when some of his closest supporters were sidelined by Vajpayee, Advani expressed his helplesness to come to their aid.

Now, however, Advani will be much more assertive. His supporters expect him to dominate the proceedings at the forthcoming bjp national executive.

According to insiders, it is clear that Advani will regain his hold over the party organisation. The only danger is that the bjp boat may already have sprung far too many leaks to be saved from sinking.
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