March 28, 2020
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Look...No Horns

The dovish makeover is the desperate act of a leader who fears the prospect of fading into the sunset

Look...No Horns
Narendra Bisht
Look...No Horns
As I write this on Thursday evening, with the crisis fires burning wildly, I am overwhelmed by a sense of bafflement. I have read the Advani resignation narrative backwards, sideways, upside down, and I still cannot understand why one of India's shrewdest, most experienced, ambitious and astute politicians should seem to write his own political obituary on a sight-seeing tour of Pakistan. This act of political harakiri is unparalleled in our republic's post-Independence history. The past, however, should not detain us, neither should a debate on the undiscovered secularism of Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

It is inconceivable that a person like L.K. Advani was unaware of the tsunami his remarks in the visitor's book would unleash. Compared to Mr Advani's "stray" observations, if Prakash Karat had hailed George. W. Bush as a world statesman there would have been less shock.

So, why did he do it? I may be a perverse pseudo-secularist (so, by the way, is LKA now) given to conspiracy theories which demonise the parivar, I may not possess the killer e-mail or case-winning video recording, but here is my take on the mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Mr Advani embarks on his passage to Pakistan fully aware that before the end of the year, he would be forced to quit as BJP president. That is the "understanding" he had reached with the RSS in April this year. For a man of his ego, vanity and sense of self-esteem to give up the top job in the party midstream, in full public glare, would have been a humiliation too terrible to endure.

To avoid such a fate, he goes to Pakistan and makes the suicidal noting at the Jinnah mausoleum, where he not only praises the Qaid-e-Azam's commitment to Hindu-Muslim unity but anoints him as a "great" man. None of his colleagues in the party has any inkling of what the boss plans to do and say in "enemy" country. When the entirely expected outrage occurs and charges of traitor are flung, Lalji resigns, thus avoiding the forced resignation he would have had to deliver some months later.

The urgently needed image makeover is also accomplished, or at least he believes it is, as evidenced by voices of support from NDA allies. Mr Jinnah, therefore, helps Mr Advani achieve twin objectives: resignation with honour (even if he stays on, he would have tellingly made his point) and elimination of horns from head.

My mise en scene does not come courtesy Salim-Javed but from Sherlock Holmes. Loosely, I must hasten to add.
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