Eight-time MP and BJP veteran leader LK Advani has been dropped from his Lok Sabha seat as declared in the party's first list of candidates for Lok Sabha polls.
Six-time Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Gujarat's Gandhinagar Lal Krishna Advani heard his name dropped from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) first list of candidates on the morning of Holi, a festival that brings cheers with colours.
The eight-time MP fell silent.
Earlier this week, BJP general secretary Ram Lal had visited Advani at his residence, asking the veteran to issue a statement that he would not contest because of his age. Fondly described by followers as Loh Purush or the Iron Man. Advani is now 91 years old -- sixteen years over the party cut-off line for electoral candidates. Ram Lal wanted to know if Advani would recommend his son, Jayant, who had been interacting regularly with voters in Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat.
Advani remained silent, he merely reminded Lal that he was against family succession in politics and had made his stand very clear around the time when Jayant showed interest in politics. That was in 2014 when Jayant had said he would like to join politics, ostensibly because he was helping his father in campaigning in Gandhinagar.
Ram Lal would have been happy if Advani had issued a statement, it would have helped the party to drop ageing Murli Manohar Joshi from the Kanpur seat. But Advani did nothing, neither did he speak, nor did he issue the statement.
Ram Lal left thereafter; he never returned.
The BJP top brass, which went into a huddle from Tuesday, March 19, 2019, to select the first list of candidates, found a way out to resolve the candidature issue at one of its most prestigious seats: Gandhinagar. It named party president Amit Shah the candidate, a move that only surprised the Opposition Congress which instantly asked its spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala to criticise the move, asking “How could (Narendra) Modi insult Advani.”
The BJP did not react on Advani, party spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam was quoted saying the party was thankful to Advani’s contribution. “If someone has to replace Advani ji, then who better than Amit Shah,” he remarked. It was like a business conglomerate’s boardroom decision saying it did not want a mentor chairman, and that the management was perfectly fine and healthy to run the show.
Instead, the BJP sent a stern message to SP-BSP combine that it did not care about their teaming up. The party repeated most of the MPs in the state -- at least in the 28 of the 80 seats that were announced by Union Health Minister JP Nadda. What was surprising was that despite wild rumours, only four of the 28 sitting MPs were dropped. Some had gods on their side, like veteran actress Heman Malini, the party’s sitting candidate from Mathura. Malini heard the news when she was at a temple in the holy city, she instantly offered prayers.
But in the national Capital, the holi revelries died an instant death, the air was full of hard talk and rumours about Advani, who had first won the seat in 1991, making way for his mentor late Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996. The city’s political cognoscenti knew the obvious -- Advani won’t get a ticket -- but was surprised at the party’s choice of Shah. Many even wondered whether the party would also drop Joshi, now that it has dropped Advani. In short, the party made it clear that it was against giving tickets to candidates over 75 years.
The BJP also made it clear -- many said it was a line from the party’s topmost leader Narendra Modi -- that it wants its senior leaders to fight elections and come to Parliament from Lok Sabha and not wait for Rajya Sabha seats.
But the Advani issue refused to die, it refuses to die.
Advani was not an ordinary candidate. He was the former party president, former deputy prime minister and former home minister; a towering leader known for his hard talk about some of India’s most contentious issues. He was a man who offered food to everyone who walked into his home. Advani was a die-hard cricket fan who would call up sports channels to ask for video tapes of India’s classic wins, among them the 2003 ICC World Cup tie against Pakistan.
Many remembered his August 8, 2012, speech in Lok Sabha that ran into 5,000 words. The Lok Sabha was debating an adjournment motion on the issue of illegal infiltration into Assam and large-scale ethnic violence. Advani was leading the debate and he remained unchallenged despite repeated disruptions from members of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA II government that was hell-bent on defeating the adjournment motion. Advani, a seasoned politician, held his guard. His speech was punctured with at least 50 interruptions and eventually the motion was defeated, but not before Advani speaking his mind.
But the same Advani remained silent when the Narendra Modi-led NDA government on January 8, 2019, introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the House, knowing well that if passed by both houses, it will have far-reaching consequences on the socio-political life in Assam. Advani knew the Bill’s importance; he himself had talked about large scale illegal immigration in Assam. But this time he fell silent.
The India Today newsmagazine computed an analysis of the Lok Sabha records and found that in the last five years, LK Advani had uttered just 365 words in the House -- a plunge of 99 per cent. The same Advani had -- between 2009 and 2014 -- taken part in as many as 42 debates/proceedings in the Lok Sabha and uttered 35,926 words, claimed the magazine.
In short, the magazine said all the 365 words that Advani uttered in the present Lok Sabha were in 2014. He didn't speak in the Lok Sabha since December 19, 2014, show Lok Sabha records for the past five years.
Advani, claim old timers in Delhi, is not a man of few words. He loves to speak his heart out, even when surrounded by adversaries. His autobiography, My Country My Life, runs to more than 1,000 pages, suggesting he has lots to say. But of late, Advani, one of the founding members of the ruling BJP and the party’s senior most leader, has rarely talked. And his near withdrawal from public discourse is not due to ill health. The eight-time MP had an exemplary record in Parliament, he was present on 92 per cent of the days it was in session.
Outside Parliament, Advani rarely featured in scores of tweets which the BJP posts every day. To many, it seemed that his presence had ebbed away ever since the BJP formed its government. Advani, an avid blogger, last wrote on April 24, 2014, a day synonymous with the birthday of India’s celebrated cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
What was surprising is that his sunset year started at a time when the party formed a majority government at the Centre in 2014 on its own -- the NDA figure was a whopping 336. Soon after Modi took charge, Advani, Vajpayee and Joshi, were made part of the Margdarshak Mandal that was meant to enlighten the BJP’s path. Political cognoscenti say the club, which also has Modi and Rajnath Singh as its members, is of no consequence. It is yet to have its first meeting comprising all members. The same year, Advani and Joshi were also dropped from the BJP parliamentary board and its central election committee -- top decision making bodies.
The high-pitch entry into the Margdarshak Mandal was the final signal for his ouster from the very party he founded, nursed and kindled. The rest, as they say in politics, is just history.