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Advani's blog post merits scrutiny

Narendra Modi’s BJP is the antithesis of the party that was once led by Advani

  • Published 9.04.19, 8:52 AM
  • Updated 9.04.19, 8:52 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Even though L.K. Advani is now in the sunset of his long public life — he is a member of the benign 'margdarshak mandal' meant for party veterans — he seems not to have lost his sense of political timing. (PTI)

There cannot be any doubt about the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party looms large on the Indian political landscape at the moment. The prime minister, the man who helped the BJP soar in the last general election, has an explanation for the dizzying heights that have been scaled by the party. Speaking on the occasion of the BJP’s foundation day, Narendra Modi claimed that the party’s democratic ethos serves as its engine of popularity. Democracy, however, demands the recognition of multiple views. Hence, L.K. Advani’s opinion on the matter, encapsulated in a blog that was published a couple of days before the founder’s day celebrations, merits scrutiny as well. Even though Mr Advani is now in the sunset of his long public life — he is a member of the benign margdarshak mandal meant for party veterans — he seems not to have lost his sense of political timing. In his blog, Mr Advani asked party workers to reflect on some fundamental aspects that are pertinent not just to the BJP but also to the future of the nation. For example, he stated that the freedom of expression and respect for diversity are integral to the idea of Indian nationhood. He made an important distinction between ‘enemy’ and ‘adversary’. A political opponent, one who subscribes to a different ideology, was, in the BJP that Mr Advani had helped build, merely a rival — never the enemy. The choice exercised by citizens, personal or political, is, Mr Advani argued, sacrosanct.

Mr Advani was, in a manner of speaking, advocating the best traditions of democracy. It cannot be denied that his own record in upholding some of these cherished ideals in the course of his political life is chequered. But the appraisal of Mr Advani’s legacy should ideally be left to impartial minders of history. The importance of what appears to be Mr Advani’s swansong lies elsewhere. Today, the BJP is but a pale shadow of the outfit that had been envisioned by an earlier generation of stalwarts. The party allegedly dances to the muscular marching tune set by the prime minister and his trusted lieutenant. The erosion of democracy within the party has had portentous implications for democratic India; opposition — political and ideological — is being branded as anti-national; the autonomy of choice in matters of faith or food has been trampled upon; pluralism and diversity are being annihilated in the pursuit of authoritarianism. Mr Modi’s BJP is thus the antithesis of the party that was once led by Mr Advani. Does that explain Mr Advani’s demotion to the toothless margdarshak mandal?

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