(Ashutosh is an official spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party. He comments on LK Advani's desire to resign as MP because of the logjams in Parliament.)
A tragic hero upstaged by his own protege. A disappointed veteran shedding tears when the very person he trained, nurtured and promoted has turned a blind eye towards him.
The original Hindu Hriday Samrat, the original Rath Yatri, the man behind the rise of Hindutva in India, LK Advani, stands ignored today. The man who owes him his career, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, doesn't seem to care.
On Wednesday, Advani expressed his desire to resign as an MP because of the constant disruptions in Parliament. The Modi government's demonetisation drive created a logjam in Parliament, and no business could be transacted over the course of the recently-concluded Winter Session.
Now, Advani is a seasoned politician. He weighs his words before articulating them. He is not known as someone who'd make random comments. So, his words resonate his inner thoughts and turmoil.
The fire still burns
There was a time when Advani was second only to Atal Bihari Vajpayee in stature, and his words were supposed to be the last word in the BJP's affairs. At Advani's peak, even Vajpayee could not ignore him.
The duo ran the party (in its different avatars) for more than 40 years, after the demise of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in the late 60s. It was only recently, after the 2009 Parliamentary elections, that Advani's writ stopped running in the party.
Still, till the beginning of the 2013, he was a respected figure and was never ignored. But with the emergence of Modi as a serious contender to be the face of the party, Advani was eclipsed. He was slowly forgotten by his own coterie, whom he had prepared for future leadership.
The final nail in the coffin proved to be his induction into the BJP's newly-constituted Margdarshak Mandal, along with the ailing Vajpayee and fellow veteran Murli Manohar Joshi. People close to Advani admit that he has not reconciled to this.
The same people also say that he still harbours the ambition to play a pivotal role in the affairs of the party and the government. After all, despite his ripe age, Advani is still mentally and physically very alert; he has a sharp mind.
Why Modi sent him to the old age home
Today, Modi is unchallenged as the top leader in the BJP. He does not believe in wider consultation. He is what is called a 'pure power' politician. Like power itself, he is neither moral nor immoral but amoral. He is value neutral.
The system is there to support and spur his ambition; the rest of the party has to do his bidding. Nobody can claim equal status with him - his cabinet colleagues, technically supposed to be his equals, are clearly his subordinates and he their boss.
As soon as Modi became Prime Minister, he realised that due to Advani's stature and contribution to the party and the RSS, he would always be a thorn in his flesh. Therefore, he planned his swift removal from the mainstream of the BJP - like a dispassionate son, he sent him to the 'old people's home' of the BJP.
A different ethos
Advani ought to get a lot of credit for modernising the BJP and making it acceptable to a much larger audience in a very hostile political environment in the late 1980s and 1990s. This was the time when Hindutva was an anathema in the national intellectuals' discourse.
But he remained an old-fashioned politician, who grew up in the Nehruvian age, when Parliament was treated like a temple of democracy and attendance in the house was sacrosanct.
So, he gets very upset when he sees Parliament not functioning, and session after session being wasted without any legislative work getting done.
Modi, on the other hand, has no such qualms. Even in Gujarat, when he was Chief Minister, he had scant regard for the Assembly; its sessions used to be mere formalities. He is more comfortable directly communicating with the masses. So Advani's tears won't cut any ice with Modi.
Root of the problem
So why are these two Hindutva icons not on the same page?
After the BJP's defeat in the 2004 Parliamentary polls, Advani realised - rather late - that the party's Hindutva ideology needed to be toned down in order to give it a pan-India acceptibility.
It was because of this that he made the statement praising Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Pakistan, due to which he was unceremoniously dumped as party president.
Despite being the original Hindutva warrior, he recognised the diversity of India. He wanted the BJP to move in a secular and liberal direction in the true traditions of this nation, from regressive Hindutva to 'moderate' Hindutva.
On the other hand, post the Gujarat riots, Modi emerged as a hardcore Hindutva icon. He added the colours of nationalism and development to Hindutva, and created a more powerful brand than Advani had ever done.
It was this ideological difference which led Advani to oppose Modi as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate. He did not go to Goa when Modi was made the leader of the campaign committee. He wrote a nasty letter to the party's highest decision making body when the BJP's parliamentary board appointed Modi as the PM candidate. He boycotted the board meeting held on 13 September 2013 in Delhi.
He underlined in his letter that the party was moving away from the institution of collective leadership to a personality cult. He wrote that the party had moved from the ideology of Syama Prasad Mookerjee Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the promotion of one individual's interests. In his blog, he hinted at the dictatorial tendencies in Mr Modi; he even made references to Hitler and Mussolini.
Later, in an interview to The Indian Express,he didn't mince words and said that the democratic ethos of the country was in danger, which was again a reflection on Modi's style of governance.
Father of this out-of-control child
The real problem with Advani is that he is haunted by his past. He is the man who let the genie out of the bottle. It was his Rath Yatra and vitriolic campaign which poisoned the minds of the people, permanently damaged the liberal ethos of the country and divided society along religious lines, which finally culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992.
Advani is responsible for the destruction of the secular fabric of the country, and bringing respectability to the regressive ideology of the RSS. History can't absolve him, and he knows that.
It is he who saved Modi from a certain political death when Vajpayee had decided to sack him as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Advani has to answer that when Gujarat was burning, what steps did he take, as Home Minister of the country, to save minorities from the macabre dance of death in Gujarat?
Modi is his creation, not an extension. He has taken the regressive ideology to the next level, where Parliamentary democracy has no meaning; the cabinet system is obsolete; the rule of law is for one individual; debate and discussion serve no purpose; diversity is the weakling in the larger Hindutva discourse; and nationalism is for the powerful.
Today, if Advani is paid in the same coin, he should not resent it. It is he who fathered this child, which has become hyper masculine and is now threatening his own existence.
Food for thought, Mr Advani.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
More in Catch
Advani's anger justified, Modi govt acting like a fascist: Congress on Parliament logjam