L.K. Advani to be awarded Bharat Ratna

The uneasy relationship between Advani and his one-time protege PM Modi has been widely documented

PM Modi (left) with Advani on the latter's 94th birthday in 2020 (photo: @narendramodi/X)
PM Modi (left) with Advani on the latter's 94th birthday in 2020 (photo: @narendramodi/X)

NH Political Bureau

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday that BJP stalwart and former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani is to be conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award.

"One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental. His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister," Modi said on X.

The prime minister said he was very happy to share that Advani (96) would be conferred the honour. Modi spoke to the BJP's longest serving president, who is credited with having crafted the party's rise through the 1990s when it came to power for the first time as the head of coalition governments under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and congratulated him.

Advani's parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary and full of rich insights, Modi said.

Despite the gushing nature of the tweet, however, the uneasy relationship between Advani and his one-time protege Modi has been well documented in the past, though there appeared to be some sort of reconciliation once the then Gujarat chief minister Modi emerged as the undisputed leader of the party following the huge electoral mandate handed to the BJP following the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

However, as recently as January this year, the shadows of past differences continued to crop up over whether Advani would be invited to Modi's much hyped Ram temple pran pratishtha (consecration) ceremony at Ayodhya. Initial media reports suggested that the veteran leader had not been invited at all, though he was subsequently handed an invitation and announced he would be in attendance.

In 2017, then BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha campaigned hard for Adavni to be nominated as President of India, and told NDTV that he was speaking for an "overwhelmingly large number of people in the BJP" who wanted to see Advani in the chair. In 2013, Sinha had been part of a group led by Advani who had urged the BJP against picking Modi as its prime ministerial face, a suggestion that was given a quiet burial once Modi led the BJP to its massive 2014 victory. 

Videos and photographs from the past 10 years have frequently seemed to indicate the cold vibes between the two leaders on public platforms, with Modi pointedly ignoring Advani on a few occasions, though the PM seems to have made some attempts in recent years to create more positive photo opportunities.

Advani's political career well and truly ended ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when he was dropped from the BJP's list of candidates despite having represented the Gandhinagar constituency six times.

Reportedly "extremely upset" about the way the exercise was conducted, sources close to the leader said the issue was not that his name had been dropped, but the disrespectful manner in which it was done, with no senior leader contacting Advani.

The seat was allotted to present Union home minister Amit Shah, yet another of Advani's proteges, who was making his Lok Sabha elections debut that year.

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