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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 18 New Delhi April 20, 2019

L.K. Advani Makes a Historic Intervention

Tuesday 23 April 2019, by Badri Raina

Writing on his blog ahead of the BJP’s foundation day on April 6, L.K. Advani made a historic intervention in the country’s political climate fraught with polarisation. Sensing a real and present danger to both—the character of the party and the Constitutional Republic (and perhaps in expiation of the indulgent advice he gave Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2002)—Advani has underscored the anxieties prevalent over certain foundational values that go to the heart of the continuance of India as a democratic and constitutional nation.

Here are some of the things that Advani has flagged:

• that the Bharatiya Janata Party of his day did not look upon political rivals as “enemies or anti-national” but as “adversaries”;

• that the Party always regarded “diversity and freedom of expression” as the “essence” of Indian democracy;

• that the Party he knew stood by the “independence, integrity, fairness, and robustness” of state institutions;

• that the credo of the Party has been “nation first, party second, and self, last”.

Instructively, the Prime Minister chose to respond only to the last of Advani’s forewarnings, reiterating—rather disingenuously—that this indeed continues to be the party’s credo. The insinuation in Advani’s statement that the “nation” and “party” have come to be subsumed under the “self” is thus neatly side-stepped.

Modi’s silence on the first three implications by Advani is not only a tell-tale confirmation of the widely-shared public apprehension that the Constitutional Republic and all its democratic edifice is under jeopardy, but that the stage will be set for more terminal danger should the current leadership return to power.

Furthermore, the fact that in his electoral campaign thus far, the Prime Minister has chosen to ignore any mention of the livelihood issues that confront the overwhelming majority of citizens, and has focused exclusively on bruisingly divisive and communal perorations only lends further credibility and macro-historical piquancy to the dangers voiced by Advani.

As a founding member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and now of its decorative ‘Margdarshak Mandal‘, Advani has thus not only cautioned his own party but, by inference, conveyed a thought-provoking pointer to the political Opposition of the day.

Whatever be the facts of Advani’s Hindutva compulsions, he has risen like a caring statesman to express how autocratic predilections must yield to the supremacy of the foundational building blocks of India’s constitutional democracy or else be impugned as destroyers of the republic.

The timing of Advani’s intervention confirms the general feeling in the body politic that the general elections of 2019 will not be just another routine electoral exercise, but a happening whose consequences will not but have far-reaching systemic implications for the country.

For this, the nation must be thankful to Advaniji, and, drawing the appropriate concl-usions from his warnings, ensure that the fruits of India’s uniquely precious freedom struggle and the secular, democratic and egalitarian values intrinsic to it, are not allowed to be erased by those who are cavalierly indifferent to its histories.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

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