The pouting patriarch of saffron brigade

Lal Krishna Advani on Monday shook the edifice of the BJP, which he not only helped to build, but also to transform from one of the many fringe and numerically insignificant forces in national politics to the most formidable challenger to the grand old Congress.

Even as the pouting patriarch relinquished all posts except the primary membership of the BJP and thus sent shockwaves through the party just a day after it celebrated appointment of Narendra Modi as its poster boy for the 2014 polls, what remains undisputed is his claim to the credit for raising the party’s tally in the Lok Sabha from just two in 1984 to 183 in 1999.

However, one cannot miss a few controversies he courted during his six-and-a-half decade career that started in 1947, when he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Karachi, where he was born and grew up. 

The “Rath Yatra” he launched from Somnath in Gujarat in 1989 galvanised the BJP in northern India, but the “Ram Janambhoomi” movement he spearheaded also led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1993. It led to a communal flare-up that spread fast, claiming hundreds of lives across the nation.

Advani later said he was saddened with the “karsewaks” demolishing the disputed shrine, but the Liberhan Commission that probed the incident for 17 years ended up indicting him, along with other BJP leaders.

Despite being the chief architect of the BJP’s ascent to power in the late 1990s, Advani could never make it to the prime minister’s office and served as the home minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet. His tough stance in dealing with internal security challenges earned him the sobriquet “Louh Purush (iron man).”

Vajpayee was being projected by the BJP as the “Vikash Purush (development icon).” Rumours on differences between the two power centres within the BJP-led government, however, flew thick and fast and Advani was eventually elevated to the post of the deputy prime minister in 2002.

Advani’s decision on Monday to quit key posts in the BJP was triggered by the party’s decision to ignore his reservations and declare Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi the face of the party’s campaign for the 2014 polls. Ironically, if anyone steadfastly backed Modi after his controversial role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, it was Advani, who dissuaded Vajpayee from initiating action against the Gujarat chief minister.

Advani courted a huge controversy in 2005, when he visited Pakistan. He praised Mohammed Ali Jinnah and called him “secular.” As the remark drew flak from the RSS, other right-wing outfits as well as hard line sections within the BJP, Advani resigned as the party president on June 7, 2005. He withdrew his resignation, but stepped down again on December 31 that year.

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