Lal Krishna Advani: A persona of grace and dignity

By G. L. Batra, ST Guest Columnist, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana

Lal Krishna Advani is not only an indispensable and a prominent leader in his party, the BJP, and occupies the second place after Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, he is also one of the topmost leaders in India whose reputation goes beyond the country’s boundaries. He proved his credentials when he became the Home Minister in the Vajpayee government and was rightly promoted as Deputy Prime Minister. He fully suited the chair of Home Minister which he adorned, and it was rightly said that after Sardar Patel, he was the most prominent Home Minister of India.

Mr. Lal Krishna Advani was born in Karachi, now in Pakistan, in 1927. Having successfully completed his education in law from Mumbai, he did not enter the profession, choosing instead, to enter politics, beginning as an RSS pracharak (volunteer) in Karachi during the difficult period of Partition and continued his voluntary work with the RSS in Rajasthan after independence. In 1951, he joined the Jana Sangh founded by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, as its Secretary, ultimately serving the party in several administrative capacities, including as its President until 1977. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1970 to 1989, and served as Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the Janata government. In 1989, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time, and in 1991 he became the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Mr. Advani has been the President of BJP for three terms:- 1986-1991,1993-1998 and 2004-2006. Since then, Mr. Advani has held important posts in Parliament and in his party.

Photo Source: US State Department on www.flickr.com

The meteoric rise in the fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party over the past two decades can be attributed largely to the acumen and political genius of Mr. Lal Krishna Advani. There is no doubt that it was largely due to his astuteness and boldness, that the BJP could achieve a phenomenal growth in Parliament, from only 3 seats in 1952, to a clear majority of 183 seats in 1999. Though widely criticized as being a communal move, it was his iconic Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990, which mobilized the dormant Hindu vote bank to create a widespread mass base for the BJP, which hitherto did not possess much political power or clout among the masses. The BJP went on to become, and still is a formidable challenger and rival to the Congress Party. Mr. Advani’s schemes, engineering and orientation are par excellence.

He is a fearless and outspoken person, and has the courage to voice his opinion in the face of the stiffest opposition. A recent example of this is his recent visit to Pakistan, where he publicly acknowledged M. A. Jinnah to be a true secularist –a comment that attracted large scale anger from Indians as Jinnah is considered the main architect of India’s partition. In spite of this, Mr. Advani remained unfazed, and did not allow himself to be affected by this controversy.

Mr. Advani dresses very simply, yet tastefully, and still adorns the dhoti and kurta. His clothes remain spotlessly clean in spite of the dust and grime that abounds Indian politics. He has a very refined sense of aesthetics. He is an extremely well organized person, and his office and desk are always well arranged, showing his love for perfection. Punctuality, clarity of thought and promptness of action are his hallmarks. Yet, he is an extremely soft-spoken personality and always shows respect for others’ points of view even if they are contrary to his own, and hears every one out. His public life has shown his courage and action-orientedness, and the tremendous force of his personality is evident from the fact that whenever he speaks, he is listened to with respect, and without interruption. His ability to control and defuse tense situations and deadlocks, whether in Parliament, or within his party, shows the diplomacy and statesmanship that is inherent in him. . He listens carefully to whosoever comes to meet him and speaks only when he is needed to speak and believes in human dignity. He has a power of attraction and radiates positive waves among people around him.

In Parliament, Mr. Advani has shown himself to be a master of the rules of procedure, and is a stickler for decorum and discipline. In fact, it might be said that no other leader from his party has as vast a knowledge of the rules of procedure of the House as he does.

A principled and honest man, Mr. Advani has stuck to his views and ideologies under all circumstances. When it is common for politicians to conveniently drop their ideology for the sake of securing power, Advani has evolved a formula of continuously reinventing himself, and at the same time, remaining faithful to his ideals and values, and it is in this that his true genius shows through.

The BJP owes a great deal to Mr. Advani’s deep understanding of Indian politics, and the fact that his finger is always on the pulse of the common man. His ability to take the right decision at the right time has stood him and his party in good stead throughout his political career. Along with Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr. Advani is today, one of the BJP’s pillars. At the national level, if Mr. Vajpayee is at the first position, Advani comes a close second.

Dissent and opposing views are naturally present in every political party, and within the BJP too, there are factions, led by Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani. Though differences between these factions may be apparent, they are kept within healthy limits due to the sagacity, experience and restraint of Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani. When questioned about the future Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP, Vajpayee always states that after him, it will be Mr. Advani alone. Mr. Advani, on the other hand, categorically states that as long as Mr. Vajpayee is there, he alone shall be the party’s choice for Prime Minister, and being the senior most leader, Vajpayee will continue to guide the party. This decisiveness and consistency of views is characteristic of Mr. Advani, as even the former party President, Mr. Rajnath Singh, has not been able to state clearly, as to who will be the Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP in the event of its winning the next General Elections.

A self made person, Mr. Advani has fought zealously and courageously for his ideals throughout his life. He is acknowledged within his party, and by many others as the modern-day Iron Man of India. He has faced adverse circumstances several times in his life, but every time, he has emerged victorious in face of all odds, giving meaning to the saying: “tough times never last but tough people do”.

Though it would be unfair to draw parallels between Mr. Advani and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, it is not far from the truth that the qualities of firmness, decisiveness, adherence to values and ideals, and great statesmanship which Sardar Patel embodied, are also present in a large measure in Advani.