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Missing consensus, fallen patriarch

It might have come as a shock to the Indian public, but the resignation of LK Advani from all posts of the Bharatiya Janata Party has laid bare the gaping chasms in the rank and file of the party leadership. It has now become obvious that the decision to anoint Narendra Modi as the Chairman of the poll campaign committee was a unilateral decision taken by the party president Rajnath Singh, in the wake of the aggressive push to crown the Gurajat chief minister from BJP’s ideological reservoir, the RSS. Moreover, that the BJP could not stand by its oldest and tallest leader, and could not respect his request for either more debates and discussions before naming Modi as the face of the election, even though not the prime ministerial candidate itself, or a compromise formula to have two committees for the assembly and the Lok Sabha polls, says a lot about the kind of ‘manufactured consent’ that has been thrust on the members of the BJP, as well as on the leaders forming part of the National Democratic Alliance. Ironically, even though the party top brass tried to camouflage Advani’s glaring absence from the Goa conclave as a curious case of ‘ill health’, BJP’s ‘Iron Man’ kept blogging so as to air his strict disapproval and compared himself to the pain suffered by Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata. Fatefully, Narendra Modi finds his opponent-in-chief not in an outsider, but in the towering figure who had been the Gujarat CM’s mentor for over four decades, standing by him in crisis after crisis, including the riotous post-Godhra days.

Now with Advani’s resignation from all three of BJP’s top panels, including the national executive, the parliamentary board and the election committee, his bitterness and frustration with the party is out in the open. Clearly, he’s a man snubbed by the very party that he built from the scratch, taking it from a situation when it had merely two seats in 1984 to 161 seats in 1996, strategising the Rath Yatra and mobilising the Hindutva ideology to turn BJP first into a formidable opposition and then catapulting it to the seat of power. However, Advani had to back off when it came to becoming the PM because of his overt hardliner image, and had to project the more moderate and acceptable Vajpayee to head the government in 1996. Yet, Advani always retained his clout and played the kingmaker within party, until his fall out with Modi in 2005, when Advani visited Pakistan and created ripples of ideological disruption by calling Jinnah secular. Modi stole a march over his mentor in 2011, when the Gujarat CM announced his Sadbhavana fast to win over Muslims and lay open his prime ministerial ambitions around the time when Advani had planned his ‘anti-corruption yatra.’ With the rift now complete and absolute, and the Modi-Advani bond consigned to history, the inglorious treatment that the party has meted out to the grand old man speaks volumes about the dispensable nature of leadership in the age of leaders destructively pursuing their ‘personal agendas.’

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