New Delhi, May 2: When he took over as BJP president for the first time in 1985, he embodied the persona of Ram as the 'Maryada Purshottam' (ideal man), courtesy his rath yatra. He also sent his party's fortunes soaring ' two Lok Sabha MPs in 1984 swelled to 89 in 1989 and 119 in 1991.
When he was crowned again in 1993, he made a mark both in Parliament and outside: in the House, he demolished P.V. Narasimha Rao's claim to being an 'able and capable' Prime Minister with his string of 'exposes'. Outside, he positioned the BJP as the Congress's alternate pole by stitching up alliances with ideologically compatible and also disparate parties and ending its spell of political isolation.
L.K. Advani has had a dream run through his five terms at the helm of his party.
But in his third innings he is a man under siege, whose leadership is being questioned day after day by his paterfamilias and party members.
There are three major reasons why Advani's stocks have fallen.
One, the manner in which Advani installed himself as president last July had the Sangh breathing fire. Although his predecessor M. Venkaiah Naidu had come in for a lot of flak, the RSS had not bargained for the way he was eased out to bring in Advani.
Sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan was reportedly not consulted on the change of guard. He did not forgive Advani as the RSS had been instrumental in swinging the deputy Prime Minister's post in his favour at a time when A.B. Vajpayee seemed 'vulnerable' on the Ayodhya and Gujarat issues and gave into the parivar's demand.
Two, there was a perception that Advani placed his individual ambitions over the party, overturning the cardinal rule governing the parivar.
BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi revived the leadership debate last week and declared the next elections would be fought under a new leader. However, Vajpayee reneged it for a second time in 10 days and asserted that Advani alone would lead the party in 2009.
The Sangh felt the Naqvi episode was an effort of the pro-Advani lobby to secure a second 'certificate' of approval from Vajpayee and buttress the BJP chief's defences vis-a-vis the 'manoeuvrings' of Sudarshan and Co.
'What is important at this juncture' To resurrect the BJP or project Advani as the PM candidate' The elections are four years away and unless he does something for the party, can he hope to become the PM' an RSS source asked.
The third factor that has put Advani in the bad books is that he is believed to being 'controlled' by a coterie. The RSS and 'concerned' members of the BJP feel that rather than interacting with a cross-section of leaders, Advani chooses to be surrounded by a group of self-styled 'strategists and advisers', each with an axe to grind. At least four leading lights of this 'coterie' are under the Sangh's scanner.