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Understanding Advani in 2006

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April 06, 2006 11:43 IST

Lal Kishenchand Advani, the man who was until recently seen as the BJP's ideal leader, has in a very short period of time has lost his appeal within the party.

If there were any doubts that the Advani phenomenon is waning, the number of people who had come to attend the public meeting before the yatra's kickoff settled the issue.

Even half-an-hour before the rally, not more than 2000 people had assembled.

Most observers pin this down to Advani's visit to Pakistan last year and his comments on Jinnah there.

Shortly before Advani's sixth yatra, gauges the pulse of the BJP in Gujarat to decipher how the Hindutva crowd perceives him. After all, this is the state that has been sending him to Parliament from the early 1980s.

The first thing about Advani that almost everyone agrees is the fact that in spite of being around in public life for more than five decades, Advani is still a clean man. Although allegations have been made against his son Jayant, nothing substantial has been proved against him.

Another characteristic of Advani that the people admire is the ease with which he articulates political issues.

The BJP's and the RSS's ideology of Hindutva has been constantly articulated and even improved upon by Advani. Where leaders like Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu merely speak, Advani communicates.

These traits have deserted Advani, the people feel.

They claim that Advani's oratorical skills work no more because of what they see as his attempts to dilute Hindutva while in power.

Also, the fact that he tried to change the party's course while touring the 'enemy country' did not help things much.

The general feeling is this: 'Advani is opportunist; we are not. Just to win the elections, we can't change our fundamental belief.'

Also, they find that Advani is repeating himself and that sounds merely confusing or boring and just not appealing.

Even within Gujarat, it looks like Chief Minister Narendra Modi has usurped the loyal Hindu following.

The grassroots worker thinks this is the decade of Narendra Modi, without whose presence no Saffron rally or meet is complete these days.

On Wednesday, it will be interesting to see how Advani reacts to the cheers and applause when Modi comes on to speak.

A young Ahmedabad-based RSS worker explained the difference between the Ram Janam Bhoomi yatra and the current yatra without mincing words.

"We believed that Muslims of India were gifted Pakistan because they were not comfortable living with Hindus and in Hindustan. Once Pakistan was created, we never wanted the Muslim community to set the political agenda in India.

"When we saw that because of their political stance, the Hindus were denied the right to construct a Ram temple, I felt miserable. How can Muslims keep dictating even now, we thought. Our belief that the Muslims can't set the agenda of the nation is the reason behind Advani getting a rousing welcome wherever he went.

"But once he became home minister, he changed his tune. Instead of changing the order at the top, he became part of that order allowing Muslims a special locus standi in Indian politics. That's when Advani lost our trust. The Pakistan visit just sealed his fate."

A young BJP voter in Navarangpura, Ahmedabad, claims: "Even if he has a point when he says the winds of change are blowing in the country and that the RSS should change its conservative course, we cant adapt to the new things he says as easily. Simply what he says now completely contradicts what he has been saying for so many years."

For an observer, it is perplexing to see how the element of emotion is absolutely missing now as BJP men speak about Advani.

In such a backdrop, Advani would do well to use this yatra as an opportunity to win back his own people and regain their trust.


A Correspondent in Rajkot