The reluctant fundamentalist: Advani

Smita PrakashUnlike in the novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid and later the film, the Indian Reluctant Fundamentalist is not going to turn into a fundamentalist. He was always a fundamentalist, but is now reluctant to accept that there is another fundamentalist who is more acceptable to his own party.

LK Advani, 85 is in a state of denial. Refusing to let go of the reins of the party he created, Advani is convinced that he knows best who should lead the party or rather who should not lead the party. And, of course, he is always a candidate for BJP’s top job, even though the people of the country have rejected him twice.

How blind can one be to not read the writing on the wall? The groundswell of support in the BJP for Narendra Modi is obvious to all. The idolatry expression of his supporters may seem crude to the genteel, upper crust political glitterati but the fact is that those throaty slogans raised by a mere 25 or so Modi supporters, in front of Advani’s house signalled the frustration of the rank and file of the party.

LK Advani is convinced that he knows best who should lead the party or rather who should not lead the party

Enough is enough, they seemed to say. At every public gathering that Modi has attended, in the past few years, the crowds are impatient to hear him and not his seniors and contemporaries who somehow don’t seem to get the message. And when you don’t hear your supporters and worse, don’t seem to care what your supporters want, then it is sure that you are doomed.

Advani supposedly stayed away from the Goa meet due to ill health. Nothing prevented him from participating via video conference or releasing a statement saying that he blesses whatever decision is reached at in Panaji. But no. The entire drama played out like some bizarre Indian wedding where a sulking old uncle refuses to attend the ceremony for some petty reason.

We all have ‘one of those’ with massive egos in our families, right? The kind that parents have to placate, cajole and humour because they could take slight at the drop of a hat. Because without these cussed relatives, weddings wouldn’t be complete. Their absence is noted and gossiped about, so they have to be brought, even if in a wheelchair.

In Panaji, the workers and many BJP stalwarts would have liked Advani to play the role of a benign patriarch rather than show the aggression of an ambitious claimant. The BJP workers are of the opinion that Advani has no new ideas to give them, let alone lead the country in 2014. And that goes for his team of supporters as well.

Modi, on the other hand, talks of governance models and his speeches are peppered with solutions to national problems. He does not begin and end his speeches with Partition, Emergency and Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Modi even has the unfair advantage that he is not seen in Parliament yelling against economic reforms, staging walk-outs and getting into petty arguments.

The BJP cannot at this stage hope to get to the magic figure of 272 on its own to form a government in 2014. But there is one year to go, and nothing is going right for the UPA. Fate is calling out to the BJP but then here you have a party hesitant to grab the hand of fate! Modi has remodelled himself since 2002, painting himself as a guru of development rather than “maut ka saudagar”.

The BJP rank and file have bought into that argument, some albeit grudgingly. But that has only got him the post of the campaign chief for 2014. He hasn’t yet been picked as the PM candidate for the BJP or the NDA. However seeing the way Team Modi operates, there is a meticulous action plan that must have been worked out. Busy bees pouring over spreadsheets working complicated algorithms involving allies, potential allies and the UPA allies who could be weaned away.

If the Goa meet was an Amrut Manthan, then some potent venomous churning of the ocean has taken place on the western coast. The Young Turks have determined that the tired old man has had his fair chances and has to gracefully step aside now. Or he will be shoved aside unceremoniously. Post Script: A pretty anchor asked a question on live TV: “Is Advani portraying himself as the secular alternative to Mr Narendra Modi?” Irony died an instantaneous death.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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