On Saturday, February 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a significant announcement, revealing that Lal Krishna Advani, a stalwart of the BJP, would be awarded the prestigious Bharat Ratna. PM Modi personally extended his congratulations to Advani, recognising his immense contributions to Indian politics and society.
Advani, born on November 8, 1927, in Karachi (now in Pakistan), has left an indelible mark on Indian politics. Notably, he holds the distinction of serving as the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party for the longest tenure since its establishment in 1980.
Additionally, Advani’s role as Assistant Editor at Organiser Weekly underscores his multifaceted career and his significant influence beyond politics. His journey, marked by dedication to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology, political activism, and a significant stint in journalism, is emblematic of his multifaceted career.
Advani’s involvement with the RSS began in 1942 when he became a Swayamsevak. His commitment led him to become a Pracharak during the pre-Independence era, where he was assigned full-time work in Rajasthan. Transitioning into political activities, he joined the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) and eventually moved to Delhi in 1957.
Simultaneously, he embarked on a new chapter as a journalist by joining “Organiser,” a weekly inspired by the RSS ideology, in 1960. Initially serving as an Assistant Editor, Advani quickly made his mark, contributing significantly as a film correspondent under various pseudonyms, including NETRA.
Advani’s dedication and talent didn’t go unnoticed. In 1962, when the then Editor KR Malkani departed for Harvard on a fellowship, Advani assumed editorial responsibilities. During this period, he covered critical events such as the Indo-China War of 1962 and the Indo-Pak war of 1965, showcasing his journalistic acumen. His tenure at the weekly not only sharpened his writing skills but also provided a platform to intertwine his political and journalistic pursuits.
Despite his increasing involvement in political activities, Advani maintained his association with “Organiser” until he became a national executive member of the BJS. In Delhi, Advani took on the role of Organising Secretary for the BJS, marking a pivotal moment in his career.
Reflecting on his journey with Organiser, Advani once emphasised the importance of duty over individual rights, rooted in Indian tradition. He recounted his sense of responsibility towards his family, particularly his father and cousin residing in Kutch, Gujarat. It was the sage advice of Deendayalji, a leader known for his empathy and wisdom, that steered Advani towards a role at Organiser, enabling him to balance his filial duties and political aspirations.
Advani, upon joining the weekly’s staff, was granted creative freedom by the then Editor Malkani, allowing him to express his views across a spectrum of issues under various pen names, reflecting the scarcity of writers at the time.
Advani’s transition to journalism prompted a sartorial shift, as colleagues suggested a departure from traditional attire to a more conventional Western style. Despite his personal inclination towards the dhoti-kurta, Advani acknowledged the practicality of their advice and adapted accordingly.
Prompted by Malkani’s initiative to diversify content, Advani took on the role of cinema critic, contributing a regular column under the pseudonym ‘Netra.’ This venture not only expanded the journal’s scope but also afforded Advani opportunities to engage with the international film community, a role that would later intersect with his political career.
Additionally, Advani’s persuasion led to the inclusion of a weekly column titled ‘Political Diary’ by Deendayalji, renowned for his insightful analysis of current events. However, Deendayalji’s innate humility prompted him to withdraw from personal reflection within the column, a testament to his modest character.
The collaboration between Advani, Malkani, and Deendayalji underscored Organiser’s evolution beyond a mere political weekly, enriching its content with diverse perspectives and insightful commentary. Their contributions not only enriched the publication but also left an enduring mark on Indian journalism and political discourse.
In October 1961, a significant shift occurred at Organiser as its Editor, KR Malkani, embarked on a two-year fellowship at Harvard University, leaving a void that would soon be filled by Advani, assuming the role of Acting Editor. This period coincided with one of the most critical junctures in India’s recent history: the Chinese aggression of 1962.
While the Jana Sangh advocated for peaceful relations with all neighbours, tensions had long simmered regarding Prime Minister Nehru’s approach to China. The party, echoing the concerns of Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel, viewed Nehru’s stance as overly sentimental and cautioned against the risks it posed. These apprehensions found voice in the pages of Organiser, where editorials and reports vigorously articulated the party’s stance on the matter.
Advani’s tenure as Acting Editor was marked by not only editorial responsibilities but also personal reflections. Witnessing the inadequacy of winter supplies for Indian soldiers during the conflict left him grappling with a profound sense of guilt, highlighting the human toll of geopolitical decisions.
Amidst these tumultuous times, the question of leadership succession loomed large, with Bahadur Shastri emerging as a beacon of hope. Shastri’s dedication, simplicity, and incorruptibility garnered widespread admiration, transcending ideological divides. Unlike Nehru, Shastri fostered a constructive relationship with organisations like the Jana Sangh and the RSS, seeking counsel and collaboration on national matters. Advani’s encounters with Shastri left an indelible impression, portraying the Prime Minister as a man of stature despite his physical stature.
Advani’s immersion into the journalistic world of Delhi proved immensely fulfilling. Interactions with eminent national leaders such as Jaya Prakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, and Morarji Desai provided insights and enriched his understanding of the political landscape. Organiser offered a platform for his passion for writing, while his continued involvement in the Jana Sangh allowed him to maintain his political activism. Amidst it all, the camaraderie and support of colleagues in both the journal and the party added to Advani’s sense of contentment.
There are multiple achievements to mention from Advani’s life but in this article, we are restricted to his role at Organiser (weekly) only. We as a family are very proud to keep on his legacy and raise our voice on issues that are often neglected by the mainstream media. We have always given voice to the unheard and will keep doing so.