The Eternal PM – Waiting

Posted : April 7, 2013 at 7:54 pm IST by ManaTelugu
“In political activity men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbor for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither a starting point nor an appointed destination”. The BJP has “prime ministers in waiting, prime ministers in lurking and prime ministers who are sulking” which is reflective of intra-party warfare, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said recently.

For the ears of hardcore supporters of the BJP, The Union I&B Minister’s statement might not have sounded music. They might never find any sense in his speech on any polemics…For them he might be uttering some idiotic verbiages which no one understands and keep on moving his mouth like a LKG kid who has by-hearted his rhymes. Tiwari might be uttering circumlocutions, but there is no denying the fact that there are a good number of leaders who have been nursing the ambition of becoming PM for a long time within the BJP.

Among those who have been suffering with this “nursing the ambition syndrome”, LK Advani, the self-styled “Iron Man” of Indian politics stands out. Like King Vikramarka he refuses to give up his ambition. His is a case of disconcerting evidence that Indian leadership simply doesn’t know when to retire and hang its gloves.

There is nothing wrong in nursing a political ambition – in fact, it’s refreshing when a politician actually admits to nursing prime ministerial ambitions rather than resort to faux Caesarian humility in turning down the crown. The senior BJP leader’s status as having always been a bridesmaid, and never the bride, has become something of a running joke in Indian politics, and no one can fault anyone for having a bit of harmless fun at the Advani’s expense to say that the “PM-in-Waiting” designation has been assigned to LK Advani for eternity .

That the 86-year-old patriarch still nurses residual ambitions of having one lost shot at the top job that has thus far eluded him and is unwilling to retreat to being the political Bhishma, and yield space to younger, more dynamic leaders within BJP was evident in his comments he made at the BJP Foundation Day event in New Delhi, the senior leader suggested tantalizingly that ongoing efforts to confine him to a political old-age home, so to speak, were unwarranted. “I am active in politics with a dream to make India the greatest nation,” said Advani.

There is, of course, nothing exceptionable in those remarks – but read in conjunction with Delhi BJP leader Vijay Goel’s ambiguous comments at the same event – that the “next government at the Centre” would be formed “under Advani’s leadership” – they have predictably led analysts to conclude that Advani is “back in the prime ministerial race.”(It is another matter Goel subsequently retracted from his statement).

Had Advani announced his retirement soon after the BJP’s electoral set back in 2004; he would have been a political legend. Imagine if Advani had drafted a meticulous farewell statement at that time, he would have made the transition from a politician to a legend. Today, he is just another MP.

Today, the BJP has a clutch of young leaders who are rather more appealing to the party cadres, but like a guest who has overstayed his welcome, Advani insists on injecting himself onto the political stage. On Saturday, he asked party workers to recall the Ram temple campaign – which he spearheaded – with pride, and invoked Samajawadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s faint praise of Advani as a badge of honour.

And today, the prospects of a revival of the BJP’s political fortunes rest not on polarising campaigns like the Ram temple issue but on perceptions about the party’s ability to deliver on good governance – on the strength of the performance of some of its stalwart Chief Ministers.

An 86-year-old patriarch who wistfully recalls memories of a communally polarising campaign from the late 1980s and early 1990s – when the world was a different place – is exactly the wrong man to represent a BJP that wants to project a forward-looking image of itself. And that Advani preened with pride over Mulayam Singh’s foxy “certificates” shows just how much the physically towering Advani has shrunk as a political strategist. The Iron Man of Indian politics is showing advanced symptoms of rust and political corrosion. Which is why the eternal PM-in-waiting is today something of a laughing stock.

But, the BJP’s Iron man looks worn-out and cynical now. Advani failed to seize the moment before Narendra Modi could do it successfully. He failed to become a hero to herald a new revolution against failures of Congress led UPA-2. The wisdom of visualizing a chance to exploit the situation dawned to him very late after the increase in Modi for PM clamor within BJP has grown and consolidated. He is in a danger of becoming a parody of himself with his latest display of his ambition. It would possibly be the final attempt to the ageing iron man of sangh parivar outfit. It would be a tragedy, if he has to be seen as a poor imitation Modi and if he failed to reach his destination. Or does he have a starting point and an appointed destination or is he on a sail to a boundless and bottomless sea? It has never been, and never will be easy work! As the road for him, this time, is built in despair.