My name is Lal Krishna Advani.
Now that Ram Nath Kovind is all set to be the president of India, I can say that this just sums up my life of bad luck and missed opportunities. In Japan they have a phrase called “Kokura’s luck“.
“When America decided to drop the first atom bomb, Hiroshima was the main target and Kokura was the backup target. Everything went according to plan and the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, the primary target for the second bomb was Kokura, with Nagasaki as the backup. However, due to several factors, America had to abandon the plan for Kokura and bombed Nagasaki instead.”
If there is anything that is the opposite of Kokura’s luck, it should be Advani’s luck. My Prime Ministerial aspirations got nuked every time.
I toiled hard for the Jan Sangh in its early years. After the Janata Party split, the Jan Sangh was reformed as the BJP. But we won only 2 seats in the Lok Sabha in the 1984 elections. Then I took over the leadership of the party and then there was no looking back for the BJP. There was quite a chance that I would have become a PM in 1991 Lok Sabha elections but the unfortunate assassination of Rajiv Gandhi caused a sympathy wave in the favor of the Congress.
In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, we became the single largest party. Since I was considered unacceptable to the mainstream liberals, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister. However we could not muster a majority and Vajpayeeji had to resign after being the PM for only 13 days. Looking back, I think I should have become the PM right then since we did not anyways get a majority despite projecting Vajpayeeji. At least, my Prime Ministerial ambitions would have got fulfilled. What if only for 13 days.
In 1998 we formed the government with a majority. Vajpayeeji was again the Prime Minister. But our government enjoyed a thin majority and it was I who did all the hard work. Amma and Balasaheb used to regularly rattle our government and I had to rush to Chennai and Mumbai respectively to keep them in good humor. However, in 1999, Amma rattled our government so hard that it fell.
But in the ensuing elections, we came back with a more comfortable majority.
In 2002 I became the Deputy Prime Minister. In our country, the deputy Prime Minister is not technically a constitutional office. But it is generally given to people who deserve to be the Prime Minister outright but are not able to because of some constraints. We were so confident of winning the 2004 Lok Sabha elections that we advanced the election date by several months. However Pramod Mahajan’s India Shining campaign misfired and we lost. The next shock I got was the news that Dr. Manmohan Singh would be the new Prime Minister. What? Deve Gowda, I. K. Gujral and now Dr. Manmohan Singh. What luck some people have!
Our English language media liberals and intellectuals celebrate the fact that both I. K. Gujaral and Dr. Manmohan Singh who came to India as refugees after partition went on to become the Prime Ministers of India. They call this a greatness of Indian democracy. But then these two had the post of Prime Minister handed over to them. Why don’t they celebrate my story? I came to India as a refugee and went to build a lasting 2 party democracy. So I realized that all I needed to become the Prime Minister was acceptability from the liberals.
I got my chance when I visited my birthplace Karachi in 2005. I visited Jinnah’s tomb and called him a secular leader. I thought this would make our liberals happy. However, this misfired. I of course got attacked by the RSS and other Hindutva organizations. But even the liberals instead of praising me as a statesman attacked me for praising Jinnah.
Vajpayee retired from active politics and said that Advani and Pramod Mahajan would lead the party. I was much taller in stature than Mahajan and obvious choice to lead the party. Pramod Mahajan’s death some time later was a big loss to the BJP as we lost a great organizational man.
In 2009 I was finally BJP’s PM candidate. But we lost due to some unfortunate circumstances like YSR’s manipulation of Telangana and Raj Thackeray’s impacting NDA prospects in Maharashtra. In 2014, I was sure that I would have become the PM if the BJP had projected me as the PM candidate. But I was sidelined in favor of the younger generation of leaders like Modi.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were held and BJP got to a majority on its own! How far had the BJP come! I was happy at this victory but one aspect of the victory saddened me. From 1984 to 2014, any time the BJP had got to a majority of its own, I would have become the Prime Minister. But in 2014, here was the BJP with a clear majority and I could not become the PM. Ironically, had the BJP fallen significantly short, my name would have been definitely suggested as a compromise candidate.
Just look at Modi’s luck. People like Ram Vilas Paswan, Keshubhai Patel and Gordhan Zadafia who refused to support me for PM in 2009 because of Modi supported Modi for PM because of Modi. And the Congress which fooled the people of Telangana and yet managed to sweep the undivided Andra Pradesh in 2009 got thrashed in both Seemandra and Telangana despite giving in to the demand for the Telangana state.
Post 2014, I have been just sitting with Murli Manohar Joshi in the Margadarshak Mandal. Given my decades of experience in public life, occasionally people come to me to meet, for advice or just to air their grievances. Despite my differences with Modi, he highly respects me but due to some reasons does not openly show it. He does it through other ways though. Murli Manohar Joshi tells me that the reason Modi chose 8th November 2016 as the date for announcing demonetization was because it was my 89th birthday. This was his way of honoring me, a lifelong crusader against corruption.
However, I maintain that this date was announced because on this day Barkha Dutt would be in America campaigning for Hillary Clinton and Arun Jaitley would not be able to give her an exclusive interview. Murli Manohar Joshi says that Modi renamed RCR to Lok Kalyan Marg or LKM in my honor. According to Murli Manohar Joshi, LKM means Lal Krishna Margdarshak.
A few months after the 2014 elections, our phone rang one morning and I picked it up. My body went numb as I heard the voice at the other end. I put down the receiver sweating. “What happened? Is everything alright?” asked my concerned wife.
“Rajdeep Sardesai has called to say that he is coming around in a few minutes to peddle his book. I am going out for a walk before he comes.” I said as I put on my chappals.
“Come on. You have faced bigger problems in life. He will come and give his book and go away. Running away like Arvind Kejriwal does not suit a great leader like you.” I nodded. But as soon as she went into the kitchen, I tried to run away from the house. But unfortunately, as soon as I opened my front door, Rajdeep Sardesai thrust a book in my hand and some accompanying photographers clicked our photo before I could recollect myself.
My wife invited Rajdeep Sardesai inside. She brought some tea and snacks for us. But Rajdeep said he wanted to eat papads. He added “I celebrated the diversity of my country through food. Eating idli at Tamil, lassi at Punjabi and papad at Sindhi acquaintances house is my fundamental right which I cherish and am unwilling to cede.”
My wife who is very patriotic was overcome by emotion by this show of patriotism and brought a plate full of papads which he ate greedily.
I asked my wife “Papad is supposed to be an accompaniment, not a meal. Why have you got a full plate?”
She replied “Don’t you see how patriotic Rajdeep is? It is a noble deed to help someone express his or her patriotism.”
Rajdeep said “We are a very inclusive family. My wife even puts paneer in the dosas she makes to make them more inclusive. She even prepares Jain chicken tikka masala.”
I have always been unhappy with the English language media given how badly they have treated me. But speaking to Rajdeep that day, I realized how difficult life is for him, poor man.
Rajdeep narrated a horrific experience he went through recently. He had gone into a popular book store for peddling his book. He saw an old man walk into the bookstore looking lost.
“You are looking lost. Can I help?” asked a sales clerk.
“My grand-daughter had asked me for a book as birthday gift. I remembered the title till I walked into this shop. But now I have forgotten.” He answered.
“No problem.” replied the sales clerk and asked “Do you remember any word from the title? Or the theme of the book?”
The old man tried to remember and said “Well, umm…, yes, the title of the book contains an year. I forgot which year though. I think my granddaughter said it is something about politics and revolution.”
At this Rajdeep lunged forward and shoved a book into the old man’s hand and said “2014 – The Elections that changed India. This is the book your grand-daughter wants.”
“No, no, it’s not this..” stammered the old man.
“This is the book. Take it for your granddaughter.” Rajdeep bullied him.
“You are scaring our customers.” shouted the sales clerk angrily.
Then turning to the old man she gave him a copy of Chetan Bhagat’s “Revolution 2020” and said “I think this is what you need.”
“Yes.” said the man happily “This is the one. My granddaughter will be so delighted.”
I asked Rajdeep “But why the sudden urge to write books?”
Rajdeep replied “Since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, life has become difficult. It is the end of acche din. No more free foreign trips with the Prime Minister. The rise of social media has made my profession more or less redundant. I anyways have good experience of writing fiction as a journalist. So I thought I might as well try my hand at writing books.”
I replied “Yes, I know how redundant you journalists have become. The way you went after Modi post 2002 riots was one of the factors which cost us the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Vajpayee even said that Gujarat riots were the reasons for the BJP’s defeat. The same with 2009. The BJP lost 2004 and 2009 because you had credibility. The BJP won a majority on its own in 2014 because you had no credibility. Don’t you see Rajdeep that you are one of the reasons I could never become the Prime Minister?”
“Yes.” Rajdeep said with sadness in his eyes. “If only I had known that the end result of attempting to stop you from becoming the Prime Minister would result in Narendra Modi become Prime Minister, I would never have opposed you. If you had become Prime Minister in 2014, I would have celebrated Eid, Christmas and Diwali on the same day by eating korma, pork sorpotel and shrikhand in a single mean.”
I thought “Finally, I got an approval from the liberals, something I have craved all my life. But, now that I have got it, it sounds so meaningless.”
You have to credit Modi for one thing. He never craved for the approval of the liberals, maybe one thing which makes him so successful.
I told Rajdeep “You have to admire one thing about Modi. He never lost his cool despite severe provocations from you liberal folks with statements like “Mass Murderer”. Compare this to how easy it was to provoke you at the Madison Square.”
Rajdeep replied “Yes. In hindsight I think we liberals chose a wrong man to target. But back then, how hard you put down Modi was a measure of how great a journalist and liberal you were. After Karan Thapar drove Modi out of his show, he had become the benchmark to beat. My wife used to gush about his talent. So, I wanted to better Karan Thapar to impress my wife and might have gone overboard in attacking Modi because of this.”
I asked him “But why are you continuing it even now.”
Rajdeep said “Attacking Modi has become a habit, like overeating. You know that overeating is bad but you cannot resist the temptation and tend to overeat.”
Rajdeep added “Nowadays, there are paid trolls on social media who call us paid media.”
I replied “I actually think that some of the media are paid. Paid by Modi, I mean.”
Rajdeep beamed “Yes, Advaniji. So many media houses paid by Modi nowadays to market him.”
“No, you got me wrong.” I replied. “I think Jaitley goes to NDTV and his other favorite channels and pays them to keep attacking Modi so that Modi does not lose credibility.”
In conclusion, I would like to say that it’s not that I am power hungry. I saw the post of Prime Minister as the natural progression of my political journey. If people like I. K. Gujral, Deve Gowda, Dr. Manmohan Singh can become PM, then why not me? If Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee can become president, why not me? Unlike other leaders, I never brought my family into politics. You would have heard of Akhilesh Yadav, Misa Bharti, Tej Pratap Yadav, Uddhav Thackeray, Chirag Paswan, M. K. Stalin, Jagan Mohan Reddy but not of my kids Pratibha Advani and Jayant Advani. While others groomed their children into leaders, I groomed leaders like Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu and several others. If you see the best performing and the least corrupt leaders today, you will find that most of them have been groomed by me.
I am not bragging but merely stating the facts. I have to speak for myself because I am no longer in favor with either the left or the right wing in the country.
Arun Shourie criticizes Modi these days. To me he sounds like that fox in the fable who said grapes are sour because he cannot reach them. Before 2014, he was a fan of Modi and called me a stateless leader in Delhi. Did he pause to think why I was a stateless leader? It is because my state Sindh is no longer a part of this country. Despite being a stateless leader, I changed India from a one family monopoly to a 2 party democracy. My hope now is that Modi and Rahul do not together conspire to change it again to a one party monopoly.
Folks, remember one thing. If India has a vibrant 2 party democracy today, it is largely because of me.
Wishing Ram Nath Kovind the best, I am now retiring from public life, happy that I have been able to serve my country so well all these years.