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Advani praises socialist icon

Lucknow, April 3: L.K. Advani today praised socialist icon Ram Manohar Lohia at a state BJP meet, two weeks after Mulayam Singh Yadav quoted the “respectable” BJP leader’s opinion about bad law and order in Uttar Pradesh.

Advani said Lohia, considered a Samajwadi Party ideologue, had overlooked political differences and backed former Jan Sangh chief Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s proposal for an India-Pakistan Mahasangh in the sixties.

Addressing BJP leaders at Chitrakoot, 300km from Lucknow, Advani recalled the first time he had met Lohia. “I met him when I was not an MP or even a full-time politician. I met him while working as a journalist,” he said.

“He rose above narrow political differences to support Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s initiative to start an India-Pakistan Mahasangh.”

Advani’s words are being seen as a response to Mulayam’s praise for him at Lucknow’s Lohia Park on March 23.

The Samajwadi chief had quoted Advani’s criticism of state law and order while ticking off chief minister-son Akhilesh: “Advani is a respectable leader. He does not lie on such issues.”

Mulayam today told party workers in Lucknow he had not been wrong in praising Advani but “there was an uproar in the media when I admired him”.

“Good leaders need to be praised. Ram Manohar Lohia deserves admiration, too. Not every statement should be linked to the narrow boundary of politics.”

Although Advani’s praise for Lohia has come at a time the Samajwadi Party is being seen as distancing itself from the UPA, the BJP leader had written about the socialist icon in his 2008 book, My Country, My Life.

In the chapter on Upadhyaya, Advani had talked of how Lohia signed the joint statement on a proposed India Pakistan Mahasangh with Upadhyaya on April 12, 1964, despite political differences with the former Jan Sangh president.

“Despite differences in approach to politics, they were good friends. Lohia even endorsed Jan Sangh’s demand for India to produce its own nuclear weapons in the wake of the 1962 Indo-Pak war,” he had written.

A section of Samajwadi Party insiders said Advani’s praise for Lohia could affect Mulayam’s minority vote bank as it could jog memories of his 2009 association with Kalyan Singh.

A minister in the Akhilesh government said: “Mulayam’s praise for Advani is, like that friendship with Kalyan Singh in 2009, mistimed. In politics, harmless praise is often misinterpreted.”

Advani said BJP leaders’ commitment should be greater than that of colleagues from other parties as “the BJP… is not just a political party, it is part of a big cultural movement”.

He surmised that the Lok Sabha polls, due in 2014, could be advanced to coincide with Assembly elections later this year.

He praised Swami Vivekananda, a portrait of whom was seen on the dais, for popularising Hinduism.

“His 150th birth anniversary celebrations are now underway. His Chicago address at the age of 30 is a milestone in the history of this country,” he said.