He was an aspiring prime minister once. It did not happen. Then it was hoped that he would become the president of the republic at least. Even that hasn't happened. And now, the Narendra Modi government is reportedly considering of honouring BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani with the Bharat Ratna next year.
According to a report published in Bengali daily Anandabazaar Patrika on Tuesday, July 4, the Modi government is considering the move to bury the theory that the current PM is determined to eclipse his 89-year-old mentor. That would give both PM Modi and Advani an opportunity to settle the matter with grace. Neither will risk losing their face via such an arrangement.
But even if it looks okay for Modi to take such an initiative, it is not so for Advani. The man, who was instrumental behind the rise of the BJP in the 1980s and 1990s and also stood by Modi when the latter was cornered in the wake of the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat, should find such plans derogatory for himself.
Advani, despite his efforts, had remained in the shadow of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee earlier and PM Modi now. His ambition to make it to the 7 Race Course Road never materialised and now with the prospects of entering the Rashtrapati Bhavan also fading, Advani needs to put his foot down and exit the scene.
At 89, the man has nothing to gain electorally but a lot as a statesman. This is Advani's time to become one but surprisingly, he has chosen mum on issues on which he has all the liberty to speak up. It is true that even his words will only fall on deaf ears today but yet, he needs to speak.
Acting as ruling party's conscience is not showing dissent
Advani reportedly told the dissenters after Modi became the PM that he would not turn into a dissenter himself at the fag end of his long political career for he has his party and Modi close to his heart.
Fair enough, the grand old man. But speaking up against the government and the party doesn't amount to dissent. Advani, who has participated in each election but one since Independence, is best placed to act as a conscience of the government, especially since his own party is in power. But while he is expected to act like Pitamah Bhisma, he has chosen to remain Dhritarashtra.
A Bharat Ratna would be more than a humiliation for Advani for history will remember him as a man who was content with state rewards and did not feel to serve as its mirror. Moreover, his sour terms with the Sangh Parivar has resulted him losing the support as a prospective presidential candidate. The ignorance should have been a reason enough to trigger a self-exile for the patriarch. He should also refuse the award if it eventually comes his way to assert indirectly a voice against the rising intolerance in the era of Modi.
Even Manmohan Singh has spoken up as a statesman
Even Manmohan Singh, who is often mocked for his unusual silence, has spoken up as a statesman when the need came. The former prime minister had faced no less humiliation during his term in office with people terming him a toothless premier working in the shadow of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
But yet, when the debate on demonetisation came up or when the government was looking for a consensus for the Goods and Services Tax, the economist-politician had stepped in to speak up as per the merit of the subject. Advani, a man who had more impact on Indian politics than Singh, has chosen to look the other way even when harmless people were being launched in the name of cow vigilantism.
By letting himself into a corner with no voice, Advani has done himself enough disservice. The ghost of Ayodhya is haunting him even at this age, forcing the current BJP leadership to distance itself with him because it doesn't want the super successful story of Modi to be mixed up with that of the bygone era. But yet, Advani, who had lost a battle of prestige to his shishya in 2013 (when the latter was made the prime ministerial candidate) continued as a glorified extra thereafter. Isn't it time for the man to wake up to the reality?