Is veteran Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) leader LK Advani being considered for a Rajya Sabha berth? A day after the party released its first list of candidates, leaving out the nonagenarian leader, sources say that the party may consider Advani for a berth in the House of Elders.
The omission of the 91-year-old BJP stalwart’s name from the list of candidates has given rise to many speculations about his political future and whether it signals the end of the poll road for him. Sources cite his age and health factors as the reasons for dropping his name from the candidates list.
BJP President Amit Shah is being fielded from Gandhinagar, a seat from where Advani won six times in the past. Many also interpret the replacement of Advani with Amit Shah as a change of guard within the party after its decisive victory in 2014.
Advani was elected to the Rajya Sabha for four consecutive terms and to the Lok Sabha on seven occasions. Though he has been marginalized by the ruling party since 2014, sources say that the party is not averse to the idea of giving him one more chance in Rajya Sabha.
However, as soon as the candidate list was out, Congress hit out at the BJP saying that the party has snatched the seat from the patriarch and it shows zero respect for senior leaders. “First Mr Advani was forcefully sent to the ‘Marg Darshak mandal’, now his seat has been taken away,” said a Congress spokesperson.
One of the founding members of the BJP, Advani served as home minister and deputy Prime Minister when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the helm. The patriarch is also credited with the phenomenal growth of BJP in securing 180 seats in 1999 from 13 seats in 1980. Described as the original poster boy of ‘Hindutva’, Advani is seen as responsible for the paradigm shift in Indian politics with his Ayodhya movement and Rath yatras in the 1990s. The movement catapulted the party to victory at the Centre for the first time.
Party insiders also believe that his ambition for candidacy to the Rashtrapati Bhawan was thwarted after the Supreme Court in 2017 revived criminal conspiracy charges against Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others in the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid case.
Ironically, it was Narendra Modi who suggested Advani to contest from Gandhinagar after the success of the Rath Yatra in support of a Ram Temple. The Karachi-born stalwart was also instrumental in mentoring Modi and propping him to the post of Gujarat chief minister. Advani stood behind Modi after the inglorious 2002 Gujarat riots. Though an incensed Vajpayee wanted to remove Modi from the chief minister position, it was Advani and Arun Jaitley who put their foot down and saved Modi’s career. The conjecture of Modi’s rise and the beginning of Advani’s fall hasn’t been missed by commentators and political observers.
Advani’s political hara-kiri in praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a “symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity” during his visit to Pakistan in 2005, led to the deterioration of his ties with the RSS. Even though Advani was projected as the PM face in the 2009 polls, he was soon eclipsed by Modi’s rise within the party rank and public perception.
Advani made his intentions clear when he skipped two crucial party meetings where Modi was projected as BJP’s face for the 2014 polls.
The first instance was when Advani was absent from the party’s national executive meet in June 2013 at Goa where Modi’s name was proposed as the campaign chief. Later, he was conspicuously absent in the September Parliamentary Board meeting to name Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. It was an instance of how a disciple had overtaken his mentor in the game of politics.
After Modi-led BJP swept to power in 2014, it was a moment of pride for Advani, who had painstakingly built the party from scratch along with Atal Behari Vajpayee. But his glory was again overshadowed by his protégée, who made him a part of the party’s Marg Darshak mandal, a troika comprising Murali Manohar Joshi and later Vajpayee.
With the last lap of his political innings in sight, Advani was soon running out of options in the “new BJP” under the stewardship of the Modi-Shah combine. Slipping in political relevance, inside the party and the Lok Sabha, the astute politician began to fade in public memory. According to PRS Legislative, Advani participated only in one discussion in the last five years