Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 3, 2024 informed through his message on social media that the Government of India had decided to confer the highest civilian award to the senior most statesman of the country, LK Advani. The news was received by the people of the nation with great interest, happiness and excitement. LK Advani was given away the second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, only a few years back. It is quite satisfactory to note that the Bharat Ratna is being conferred on Advani Ji, in recognition of his profound services to the nation, during his own lifetime.
It would be appropriate to visit some important facets of the life and work of Advani Ji consequent upon his being considered for the highest civilian award. While Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Nehru are recognised as the leaders of the freedom struggle of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani are recognised as the leaders of the revival of the movement of cultural nationalism in India. It is LK Advani who taught this nation to speak in its own geo-political language. He led from the front to unleash an intellectual debate in the political arena laying at rest the pseudo-secular character of our political debate and discourse. He led to enforce the establishment of a national alternative with a clear vision of cultural and nationalist values and outlook successfully. In short, Advani Ji truly brought us our civilization back to our public life.
This author had a number of acquaintances with Advani Ji. It was in May 1975 that one Parliamentary Standing Committee was scheduled to come to Srinagar, Kashmir in regard to its meeting and the related business of the committee. I along with a group of activists got the information that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani as the members of the committee were also accompanying the said committee on its visit to the Kashmir valley. Both Vajpayee and Advani were the two topmost leaders of the then Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). They were also in the limelight because of their deep association with the struggle launched by Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) at the national level. Most of us at that point of time were the students of colleges and university, and as per our convenience, we chalked out a programme to meet both the leaders at their temporary place of stay in Srinagar.
Accordingly we all, comprising a team of six youth activists, paid a visit to the MLA Hostel, near Broadway Hotel in Srinagar and knocked on the door of the room in which Advani Ji was staying. On seeing a youthful delegation before him, he graciously opened the door and welcomed us and sought our full introduction. We were together for almost an hour. Later, someone informed Advani Ji about the arrival of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At this point of time, Advani ji asked us to meet Atal Ji as well; and he led us to the room of Atal Ji. For all of us, it was a dream come true to meet both the then top leaders of the nation for the first time in our life. Both Atal Ji and Advani Ji had a nice and friendly discussion with us and they advised us to keep doing the “Shakha work” with deep devotion and dedication in a place like Kashmir. They also encouraged us to introduce ABVP in all the major colleges and university of the valley.
Thereafter, this author kept following both leaders very closely. Only one month after this incident, Indira Gandhi declared the Internal Emergency and put both these two leaders along with JP and the other opposition leaders in jail for nineteen months. When these leaders were released from the jail on the declaration of the general elections by the government, Advani played a key role in the formation of a nationwide Janta Front (later as Janta Party) which swept the general elections in 1977. He also wrote a book, A prisoner’s scrap-book, about the political scenario in the country with its focus on the situation of Emergency. Thereon, Advani ji never looked back and played uninterrupted innings at the centre of the storm to shape the future of the nation.
LKAdvani is currently the oldest living national leader in our country. He has served as a member of the Lok Sabha seven times and as a member of the Rajya Sabha four times. He was the President of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh for one term and also served as the President of the BJP for a number of terms. He was one of the key founding members of the Bhartiya Janta Party in 1980 after the split of Janta Party. Besides performing the party’s various responsibilities, he served as the I&B Minister during the Janta Party government, the Home Minister in the NDA government and also the Dy. Prime Minister of India from 2002 to 2004. He also remained the leader of the opposition in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha a number of times. He undoubtedly deserved the coveted award and everybody, in his case, felt enthused with the declaration of the Prime Minister in this regard.
LK Advani was born in 1927 in Karachi in a Sindhi family. He got his early education in a Christian missionary school in Karachi and got into contact with RSS in 1942 in the background of the Quit-India movement. Immediately after his displacement in 1947 due to the partition of India, his family came to this part of India as refugees. Once he completed his education at the university level, he came out as a whole-timer (pracharak) of RSS and was deputed to Rajasthan for organisational work. After sometime when he was back in his family, RSS assigned him the responsibility to work as an Assistant Editor in the Organiser Weekly. Some time later, KR Malkani, Editor-Organiser went to the US for further studies, and thus Advani was asked to take over as the Editor of the Weekly. He did his job brilliantly to the satisfaction of all concerned and was therefrom asked to officially join BJS to provide it the needed organisational and political strength.
He came very close to the stalwarts and colleagues like Deendayal Upadhyay, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Balraj Madhok, Nanajee Deshmukh and Kidarnath Sahni. After the tragic and suspicious death of Deendayal Upadhyay, the then RSS Chief and the inspirational leader, M.S.Golwakar Guru ji wanted Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K.Advani to take the joint responsibility of BJS. Advani ji had special blessings of RSS leadership and the organisation to convert BJS into a political alternative with the ideological emphasis on patriotism and cultural nationalism.
Immediately after the BJP came into existence, it had to undergo a very tumultuous period of political uncertainty during the period of a full decade of 1980s. Terrorism in Punjab and its aftereffects, massacre of Indira Gandhi followed by killings of Sikhs, BJP getting decimated in 1984 parliamentary elections, coalition politics of opposition parties, crisis in Sri Lanka, Bofors scandal and the Kashmir situation were the principal challenges for the BJP during this decade. Then Ramjanambhumi-Babri Masjid dispute also occupied a major space in the socio-political debate and discourse immensely.
It was at this stage that the Bhartiya Janta Party decided to plunge into the Ramjanambhumi movement to take it to the next level under LK Advani’s leadership. It passed a resolution in 1989 in its National Executive meeting in Shimla to the effect that the Ramjanambhumi-Babri dispute needed to be settled either through negotiations or by incorporating a law in this regard. The role of BJP remained exemplary in a historic sense. Along with the RSS and VHP, the BJP didn’t only contribute greatly to the movement but also suffered immensely throughout the movement. LK Advani was arrested in 1990 during the Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra in Bihar and put under house arrest. The BJP consequently withdrew its support to the V.P. Singh government and decided to sit in the opposition in the parliament.
There is no doubt in the fact that LK Advani made a great intellectual and political contribution to the Ramjanambhumi movement. It had its great impact even on the national political narrative, communications, and discourse, leading to heavily directing the electoral politics of the country. He successfully changed the fundamentals of priorities in active politics and erased to a large extent the impact of the Nehruvian narrative based upon British permutations and combinations in the Indian political scenario.
Advani Ji had/has a great regret for the displacement and the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. In a number of meetings with him during the period of 1990 to 2019, he expressed that regret. In a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in 2013, when I met him in the Parliament Annexe, he took hold of my both hands, tears rolled down his eyes and he said, “hum aapkey liyey kuch nahin kar sakey” (we couldn’t do anything for you). Again, when I met him in 2019 at his residence in New Delhi, consequent upon his ill health, he greeted me with warmth and repeated his regrets again and felt sorry. His gentlemanship was always visible both within and outside the Parliament. When he was at his zenith in public career, he announced Atal Bihari Vajpayee as BJP’s choice for the Prime Ministership in a programme in 1995 in Mumbai. This took all and sundry by surprise at that point of time.
He has hundreds of articles to his credit that were published in various newspapers of the nation, besides innumerable editorials and write-ups in Organiser Weekly. The books written by him also include My country My life, New approaches to security & development, My take, As I see it and The people betrayed. Undoubtedly, Advani’s multifaceted personality and contributions have taken the BJP miles ahead of its rivals in politics. When he was accused in the infamous Hawala scam in 1996, Advani in order to maintain probity in public life resigned as an MP. He was consequently reelected in 1998 after his name was cleared by the competent court. Also in the Babri demolition cases, he was acquitted by the relevant Tribunals, Commissions, and the Courts with honour.
History will remember Advani Ji for producing one of his brilliant disciples in public life and politics in the form of Narendra Modi. Though fundamentally Advani and Modi belong to the same ideology and school of thought, yet Advani and Modi had slightly two different socio-political scenarios to address. Both chose their formats carefully and with due thought. While Advani was a stalwart of coalition politics, Modi crafted his own format of “Ekla-Chalo” with a formidable success putting BJP far ahead of others. Advani Ji also acknowledged this in his address in the Parliamentary meeting of the newly elected MPs of NDA in the Central Hall of Parliament in 2014. It was he who proposed the name of Narendra Modi for the Prime Ministership of the country in the above said meeting and also thanked Modi for realising what was a dream throughout his life. History will also duly remember PM Modi for acknowledging and recognising the ‘role of a Guru by his disciple when the turn comes for that’. In the post Ram Mandir scenario, that turn had truly come and has also been duly honoured…..!