Advani to party: Be clean, secular - Unity sermon, with eye on poll

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 29.09.12
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Surajkund (Haryana), Sept. 28: L.K. Advani today warned the BJP that it could not hope to replace the Congress at the Centre unless it emerged as a “credible” alternative that brooked no corruption in its ranks and stopped speaking in “multiple” voices.

He also seemed to advocate an image makeover on secularism, but the remarks came not during his actual speech at the conclave but only in a printed text that was handed out to the media.

There, he urged the BJP to make the Opposition alliance “larger and more robust and transform the NDA into NDA-plus” through an “imaginative re-projection of our commitment to secularism”.

Advani’s caution on “credibility” came in the backdrop of certain developments that cast a shadow on the BJP’s two-day national council meeting at a spiffy resort on the Delhi-Haryana border.

One, party chief Nitin Gadkari came under a cloud after an activist accused him of refusing to help her expose the irrigation scam in Maharashtra, involving the NCP, because of his alleged business links with Sharad Pawar.

Gadkari has served a legal notice on Anjali Damania and demanded an apology, but she has said she would not apologise. Many in the BJP privately feel that rather than retaliate legally, Gadkari should have responded through a party spokesperson and maintained that as a public figure he routinely met scores of people and Anjali may have been one of them.

Two, the conclave witnessed a subtle attempt by the BJP’s Delhi brass to put down Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

Modi had virtually hijacked last May’s national executive session in Mumbai, coercing the leadership to throw out his arch-foe Sanjay Joshi and trying to establish himself as a first among party chief ministers. In Surajkund, however, he has been treated as just another chief minister.

In his concluding remarks, Advani claimed that “like UPA-I, UPA-II has lost legitimacy” and that an election in 2013 seemed “almost a certainty”. However, he warned the party it could not expect to cruise to a victory just because the anti-UPA votes would naturally gravitate towards it for want of an option.

“People’s disillusionment is turning into anger. The tipping point in politics always comes when the people are angry. And when the people are angry, they tend to give a thumping mandate to any alternative that is credible,” he told the delegates.

Underscoring the importance of “credibility”, Advani claimed the BJP’s forte was its “commitment to probity in politics and governance”.

“We should credibly tell the people that the change they are looking for should not just be a change of government, but (a change to) a government that is committed to making India corruption-free,” he stressed.

In 2005, when Advani helmed the party, he had made his first serious foray into the slippery secularism terrain. Trying to tweak his “hard-liner” image, he had lauded Mohammed Ali Jinnah during a visit to Karachi.

The effort boomeranged. The BJP and the RSS took a serious view of his comments and eventually forced him out of the party chief’s post.

Today, the circulated text of his speech — but not the actual speech — referred to the film Innocence of Muslims, noted that it was “agitating the minds of Muslims in India and elsewhere” and said he strongly condemned it.

“It is against our ethos to accept the defamation of prophets and saints, who are revered by any faith,” the text said.