Former Deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani has claimed that Prime Minister Vajpayee was opposed to Bharatiya Janata Party’s direct involvement with the Ram Temple movement but had fallen in with the majority view.
Paying his tributes to the late Prime Minister Vajpayee in a Hindi magazine, “Sahitya Amrit”, Advani writes that the former PM had reservations about BJP’s involvement. But as a democrat Vajpayee had bowed to the collective decision. Advani himself had spearheaded the movement and the ‘Rath Yatra’ preceding the demolition of the Babri Masjid. He was stopped in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav and arrested. Obviously Advani and Vajpayee did not see eye to eye on this issue as well as others.
Advani also writes about his differences with Vajpayee on the question of the desirability in asking for the resignation of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat following the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in the state. While sections of the NDA and some BJP leaders, Advani writes, were in favour of Modi stepping down, he himself did not favour the idea as he did not think Modi was responsible for the riots.
Advani writes that Vajpayee was under pressure to take action against the Gujarat Government. “ But my own views were completely different. In my opinion Modi was not guilty. He had spent less than one year as chief minister and to hold him responsible for the riots, triggered by complicated communal situation in the state, would not have been fair.”
During the National Executive Meeting of the BJP in Goa, Advani recalls, Jaswant Singh asked Vajpayee about his opinion. Vajpayee apparently responded by saying that Narendra Modi should at least make the offer to resign. Advani writes that he again opposed the move and said that if the resignation by Modi would help improve the situation, then by all means he should be asked to step down. But in his opinion, the resignation would be quite meaningless, Advani held.
Advani also writes that he spoke to Narendra Modi and communicated to him the discussions he had had. He advised Modi to make the offer to quit. Modi agreed, writes Advani, but when Modi made the offer, he was shouted down and the move was opposed vociferously by the delegates. That effectively brought curtains down to demands that Modi should step down taking responsibility for the Government’s failure to contain the riots.
LK Advani has been known to be a mentor of the then Gujarat Chief Minister and had contested elections from Gujarat for the Lok Sabha. He was BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2009 general election and while he remains a Lok Sabha MP, his role has been considerably diminished in the BJP and on the pretext of he being above the age of 75, was sidelined in the ‘Margdarshak Mandal’.
Several observers had hoped that Modi would reward Advani by offering to make him BJP’s candidate for the post of the President when Pranab Mukherjee demitted office. It is of course by no means certain that Advani will again contest the Lok Sabha election in 2019.