The biggest hiccup in the way of a much-ballyhooed generational shift in the BJP from the Vajpayee-Advani era to that of Narendra Modi came in the form of the resignation of party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani from all party positions—national executive, parliamentary board and election committee—in one single stroke.
Shooting off a pithy letter to the BJP president Rajnath Singh in the middle of a hot summer Monday in Delhi, raising the political temperature by a few notches, Advani lamented his inability “to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party or the direction in which it is going”. For Rajnath, hailed just the day before at BJP’s Goa conclave as a “decisive leader” who overruled all opposition in his party to usher in Modi to the national stage as its 2014 election campaign committee head, thereby re-energising the party’s rank and file, Advani’s afternoon post came as a shocker.
The patriarch did not mention Modi or his elevation in his short three-para note to Rajnath. He did not have to. Without the specifics, Advani’s message was clear: “I no longer have the feeling that this is the same idealistic party created by Dr (Shyama Prasad) Mookerji, Deen Dayalji, Nanaji (Deshmukh) and Vajpayeeji. Most of the leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas.”
It was enough of a stinker from the “tall leader”— a former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, who had built the BJP brick-by-brick from a two-member entity in 1984 to the ruling side of 1998 — to send the entire top party leadership scurrying for cover.
But before BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, V K Malhotra and Venkaiah Naidu could reach Advani’s Prithviraj Road residence (to pacify “the angry old man”), or Rajnath’s home, the BJP chief himself tweeted that he has “not accepted Advaniji’s resignation”.
Faced with what looked like a parting shot from the fading leader, who had shaped two decades of Indian politics, beginning with his Ram Mandir Yatra in the late ’80s, two other aging colleagues, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh, and NDA allies JD-U, Shiv Sena and Akalis spoke in one voice: “A BJP without Advani is unthinkable.” Well, that was exactly what the BJP was trying to do in Goa—trying to find its feet without the “guidance” or endorsement of Advani. It was the first time that the party’s architect had skipped a crucial national executive meeting, but the party did not pause in his absence. Having gathered a momentum around a new leadership and in the excitement of claiming a future, it forgot to pay obeisance to past.