Why I feel sorry for Advani, reduced to a footnote in the history of the Ram Temple

Lal Krishna Advani, the man who revived the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, polarised Indian society on religious lines and saw to the demolition of a centuries old mosque, is today a sad and sorry figure

Lal Krishna Advani (Representative Image)
Lal Krishna Advani (Representative Image)
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Sujata Anandan

As the Sangh Parivar prepares to hold a ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya for the Ram temple, I wonder what Lal Krishna Advani might be thinking. Was it all worth it or is this all it was worth?

Narendra Modi’s name might last on a plaque as one who lays the foundation stone of the temple, but for many of us it is Advani who laid the foundations for the extreme polarisation of India and the dark place we are in today.

I do not really blame Modi for anything that is happening in India today. He should always have been expected to be the kind of man that he is, for what else can one expect of an indoctrinated pracharak with questionable education and little grounding in what the Indian nation state has been all about since Independence? But Advani, who came through the freedom movement with a British education during the struggle for independence, should surely have known better?

No one is really fooled that he engineered the destruction of the Babri Masjid simply because he had some affinity to Lord Ram and wanted a temple to the deity at the exact place of his birth.As he set off on his ‘Rath Yatra’ through India, BJP workers across the route where he sowed discord presented him with silver images of gods and goddesses, including several of Arjun on a chariot driven by Lord Krishna. But far from having all that silver deposited with the BJP treasurer, if the deposition of his estranged daughter-in-law before the Liberhan Commission is to be believed, he had them melted and converted into ordinary cutlery - forks, knives, plates, et al for use in his household.

If I were as devout a believer as the BJP and RSS profess themselves to be, I would have donated those images to temples or at least to the temple trust in Ayodhya in whose name, after all, all those images had been received.

I have always felt ever since that Advani was not true to his own ideology or even beliefs, something that was confirmed a few years later when, during a visit to Pakistan, he lauded the allegedly secular character of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. By then it was apparent to him that he would never be an acceptable leader to the BJP's coalition partners, in the mould of Atal Behari Vajpayee, until he toned down his saffron rhetoric.

In that sense, I appreciate Modi for deigning to make no bones about what he really is despite the intense pressure on him to be more democratic and secular – as stated in the Bible, he may be forgiven, for he believes he does no wrong and does not really know what wrong he does. But Advani clearly knew better and thought he would impress secular parties in India by swearing to Jinnah's secularism.

Jinnah was as cold-blooded about his ambitions during the freedom movement as Advani was during the demolition of the Babri Masjid and I believe the two are kindred spirits in seeking to destroy a united nation and its harmony, Jinnah before independence and Advani after that in the single-minded pursuit of their ambition, shorn of even passing concern about people.

But while Jinnah got what he wanted, Advani did not. Karma tripped him up every time with him having to first cede to Vajpayee when he got embroiled in an alleged Hawala scam, taking second place to him through the NDA years. Then in 2004, when he had expected to become prime minister after retiring an ailing Vajpayee in whose name the election was fought, the Congress won that poll and Advani's moment was past, even if he tried again and was destined to fail.

He might even be brooding over the time when he stood up for Modi post-2002 riots, when Vajpayee wanted him to quit as CM. Clearly Advani would have been in a better position today, if he had supported Vajpayee against Modi, than having to settle for the crumbs thrown his way by the BJP government now.

He was brutally retired by the RSS, publicly disregarded by Modi who would not even deign to return a greeting to him as Advani stood with folded hands before his former charioteer, denied the presidency he had so desperately wanted after the prime minister's office went out of his reach, denied a ticket to the last Lok Sabha elections which he had wanted to contest and generally left to brood about how badly he has been consigned to the dustbin of history by his own party which he had taken from two seats in the Lok Sabha to forming a government, almost single-handedly.

His means might have been abhorrent to the secular forces but at least he raised all the right issues so far as his party was concerned and yet he is neither respected nor revered by the current saffron forces who will remember only Modi for making the Ram temple possible in Ayodhya, while Advani ends up as a footnote of both the temple's and India's history, I feel sorry for Advani.

But I really do not feel sorry for the man who destroyed the secular fabric of India, all for the personal ambition of becoming prime minister without quite caring about how he got there.

(Views expressed are personal)

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