AA Edit | Advani is a real Ratna of the Bharat of today

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Discover the man behind the political evolution that reshaped India's ethos and ideas

Lal Krishna Advani ingenious tactics paved the way for the BJP's ascent, setting the stage for Narendra Modi's era. (Image: PTI)

Most modern intellectuals would love to hate Lal Krishna Advani because he has singularly changed the foundations of the modern narrative of India. If God, money and India are the three most enigmatic abstractions in the modern world, Advani, at a time when his party was down to just two Lok Sabha seats in the 1984 elections, against the over 400 seats of the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi, in the post-Indira Gandhi assassination era, found a political solution that is sheer genius.

In the post-Independent India, the biggest intellectual-political contribution was of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who combined socialism, Gandhiism, non-alignment and modernity as pillars of nation building. Independent India was, by default, Nehruvian, whose political consolidation created not only the greatest and most powerful modern dynasty, the Nehru-Gandhi family, but also peaked in electoral terms in 1984.

Then Advani, born in the Pakistan province of undivided India, a refugee of Partition, who migrated to India and found his new destiny in the RSS-Jana Sangh, found the answer to Nehruvian-Congress ideals in Lord Rama. The Ram Janmabhoomi temple agitation, against the disputed structure that was Babri masjid, was an age-old conflict, which was reimagined by Advani. Not many intellectuals in India realised he was drawing a page out of the textbook of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, whose reimagined politically surcharged version of Lord Ganesha fuelled the Indian national movement against the British.

Like Tilak’s Ganesha, Advani’s Ram, was not merely or purely religious or spiritual, but also had a large-scale nationwide impact on society and people. Advani’s Ram yatra changed the contours of collective thinking in India, forever. He posed the biggest challenge to Nehruvian intellectuals and their secularism by calling it pseudo-secularism. No one has brought down an entire pillar of thinking in modern times in a democracy as Advani’s intellectual assault brought down secularism in popular thinking, reducing it to an impediment to national potential and future from a virtue.

From two seats, Advani took the BJP within a few years, to a seat in the government at the Centre, as an alliance partner with almost all anti-Congress regional parties, and even the Left as an outside supporter. Advani’s intellectual and political acumen and achievements were not acknowledged in the V.P. Singh era, who put Mandal back on the political map, and then, P.V. Narasimha Rao’s interregnum put liberalisation and capital on focus.

Advani’s packaging of Ayodhya, Article 370, Uniform Civil Code as the central troika of ideas to power the BJP into centrestage of Indian politics succeeded, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to stratospheric success. Today, most Indians respond to Modi aligned to a new India of India, whose foundations were sown by the man who moved to Independent India as a refugee, and who made a sacrifice of Prime Ministership claims to Atal Behari Vajpayee without a second thought.

It is Advani’s ideas and their creative transformation into political campaigns and narrative to redefine the centre of India’s political space that most of today’s political thinkers and intellectuals are finding impossible to find a counter to — the political image of Modi is the perfection of projections that began with Advani’s ideas.

Without a doubt, Advani has changed not only India’s politics but its people, its ethos and ideas. The romantics of the idea of India may scoff but he created the modern idea of Bharat, and is its unimpeachable Ratna.