LK Advani, one of the BJP’s founder members, has been upset since he was benched and BJP president Amit Shah decided to contest from Gandhinagar.
LK Advani, benched by the ruling BJP ahead of the April-May national election, broke his silence today in a blog titled “Nation First, Party Next, Self Last”, in which he said that the party never regarded his critics as “enemies” or “anti-nationals”. In the piece, he urged the party to “look back, look ahead and look within” and stressed on “democracy and democratic traditions” within.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also tweeting Mr Advani’s blog, said that the veteran leader perfectly summed up the true essence of the party.
“Advani Ji perfectly sums up the true essence of BJP, most notably the guiding Mantra of ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last.’ Proud to be a BJP Karyakarta and proud that greats like LK Advani Ji have strengthened (sic),” PM Modi tweeted.
The BJP veteran, one of the party’s founder members, has been smarting since he was shafted and BJP president Amit Shah decided to contest from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, a seat Mr Advani, 91, has held for six terms.
“Defense of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the Party and in the larger national setting, has been the proud hallmark of the BJP,” Mr Advani wrote.
“The essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our ‘enemies’, but only as our adversaries.”
He said similarly, “in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national. The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at personal as well as political level.”
The BJP had always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all democratic institutions, including the media, Mr Advani reminded, referring to the Emergency.
Referring more than once to internal democracy, he said: “The triad of Satya (truth), Rashtra Nishtha (dedication to the Nation) and Loktantra (democracy, both within and outside the Party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my Party. The sum total of all these values constitutes Sanskritik Rashtravad (Cultural Nationalism) and Su-Raj (good governance), to which my Party has always remained wedded.”
Mr Advani, who was Deputy Prime Minister in the BJP government that Atal Behari Vajpayee led nearly two decades ago, was hurt at the way he was pink-slipped. The party has dropped many leaders on the basis of its 75-plus age ban, but Mr Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi had been exceptions in 2014. But while the BJP scored big in those elections, the old-timers were eased out of decision-making and made members of a mentors’ club, the “Margadarshak Mandal”.
Sources said more than the idea that he would not be in parliament for the first time in decades, Mr Advani was hurt that the emissary of the news was not BJP president Amit Shah but a lower functionary.
Last Saturday, Amit Shah filed his nomination papers from Gandhinagar with much fanfare and a show of strength by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The grand show meant the end of the road for Mr Advani, who, along with Mr Vajpayee, formed the Big Two of the BJP.
Mr Advani used the blog to reach out to his voters, expressing gratitude to the people of Gandhinagar, “who have elected me to the Lok Sabha six times since 1991. Their love and support have always overwhelmed me.”
He said elections are “also an occasion for honest introspection by all the stakeholders in Indian democracy – political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the election process and, above all, the electorate.”