'Step down Advani, make way for Modi'


A Western journalist's friendly advice When I started reporting in India, I had the same ideas as most Western journalists: secularism, as...

A Western journalist's friendly advice When I started reporting in India, I had the same ideas as most Western journalists: secularism, as practiced by Jawaharlal Nehru, was the best policy for India, given its caste and religious differences; Islam was a peaceful religion; and there were also Hindu fanatics. But I had been given three boons by the Lord: I spent the first seven years of my life in India far from Delhi (in Pondicherry); I read Sri Aurobindo extensively and discovered that he had a towering mind, educated in the West, but Himalayan in its breadth; & I started freelancing in the South, which is much softer, much more attuned to its culture and spirituality than northern India. Thus, when I interviewed KR Malkani, then one of the spokespersons of the BJP in 1988, I went there thinking I would get a Hindu 'nationalist' spiel. I was surprised to find a very cultured man, who spoke softly and courteously. And, funniest of all, most of the things he said made sense and reminded me of what Sri Aurobindo had written nearly a hundred years before. Thus I became, probably the only Western correspondent sympathetic to the BJP (Mark Tully, who has an intuition of Hinduism, always remained too British and too Christian to cross that threshold).
I met LK Advani in Jaipur in 1989 and took an instant liking to him: his forthrightness, Spartan simplicity and forceful thoughts. I remember, in these days, there were only three pillars of the BJP: Advani, MM Joshi and Vajpayee. I was never very impressed by Vajpayee, though no doubt he was a consensus man and an able statesman: but both the times I interviewed him one to one, I found that he had no knowledge about the world and nothing much of interest to say. But I had a lot of admiration for Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Both demonstrated that they had guts: MM Joshi by raising the Indian flag in Srinagar in 1992, which at that time was made fun of by the entire Indian media; and LK Advani by breaking a jinx: Muslims destroyed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of temples in India, but he was the one who had the guts to destroy that one mosque, abandoned as it was. It was a symbolic message of the Hindu renaissance. The pity is that these three kept each other neutralized: MM Joshi and LK Advani have hated each other for the last 20 years and Vajpayee made sure that Advani always remained No 2 in the BJP. I, however, always thought that Advani's reputation as a fanatic hardliner and a hawk was misplaced: I have spent many moments in his home and I have never heard him raise his voice. In fact, I doubt he ever hit someone in his life: he is very much a family man, dedicated to his wife Kamla and daughter Pratibha, both of them remarkably intelligent. In fact, it often struck me that these two women were the two biggest influences in his life. When the BJP again lost the last elections in 2009, I met Advani shortly thereafter alone in his office & he firmly told me: "It's time for me to retire from politics". I believed him then: Advani is a quiet man; whatever the press says, he likes to read, think, watch films, and spend quality time with his family. Yet, today he is clearly positioning himself as the BJP PM candidate for 2014 and that is wrong. For one, he will be 87 at the beginning of the mandate and 92 at the end of it, when most of the leaders in other parts of the world are in their fifties or even forties. Secondly, he is wrecking the chances of the BJP, because, whether it is fair or not, he does not have a good image with the electorate. Thirdly, as usual, in the true tradition of Hindu disunity, he is stabbing in the back Narendra Modi, the only man who has a chance to beat Rahul Gandhi and bring the BJP back to power. Fourthly, however much I liked Advani, when he was Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, he did not do better than the Congress: neither did he help the poor Tibetans as he had promised, nor did he show any iron hand in Kashmir, nor did he stand up to the Chinese. In fact, he did nothing except trying to project a goody image of himself and the BJP. For all these reasons, I , who has been the one and only Western correspondent friend of the BJP in all these years, say: Dear Mr. Advani, Please be true to your word and step down from the BJP, so as to leave the place to Narendra Modi, who not only showed that he does things by making of Gujarat a model for all other Indian States, but also in the only chance of the BJP in the next elections. (From the blog spot of the writer and journalist, who has lived in India since 1978)
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