I said it before, that the BJP was a one horse show. The BJP entered its end after 2004 when they were done in by the anti-incumbency. The killer blow was Vajpayee retiring from active politics and the party not being able to move on from there. Advani still held on to dreams of becoming the PM. I can’t imagine a worse thing happening. A PM who is 82, and finishing his term at the real ripe age of 87!
He had his chances of moving on, realizing that he was doomed to be the eternal bridesmaid. But then, I guess it was senility, or the kind of clouded thinking that pushes bowlers to one-more-over when they are clearly getting kicked all over the place. Sometimes it is difficult to realize that your time is up and its just not meant to be today. To say that he should have retired from politics or moved on and become some kind of chief mentor would be forgetting history.
Here was a man who’s been in active politics for more than 50 years, all the way from 1957. And everytime his party came close to power and even when it came to power, he had to play second fiddle to Vajpayee. His only chance came in 2009 where he could emerge from his shadows and proclaim himself the PM-designate. Somehow the voters did not buy it. Whether he would have made a good PM or not is not the question. He might have, you never know. But it was not to be.
Somehow he still hung on to the leader of the opposition role, which is pretty much the PM’s shadow in the parliament. Now that, was where he went wrong. Usually the leader of the opposition is expected to be the PM’s main opponent for the next elections. Was Advani seriously thinking of hoping to lead the country at the age of 87?! Its worse than Ricky Ponting proclaiming a return to England in 2013 to win the Ashes there. I agree politics is a weird place. You spend a whole lifetime thinking this is going to be it every election, living in the dream of the gaddi. But at 87? That would be injustice on the country and the populace can definitely not be convinced that an 87 year old man can be the PM.
Comparisons to Sonia Gandhi almost becoming the PM and relinquishing it are inevitable and can be thrown at Advani. But one needs to realize that while in the case of Sonia Gandhi, she was thrust into the middle only because of her surname and whom she married and spent the best part of her life away from politics, Advani spent his entire lifetime, if I may say so, in politics. Its not so easy to walk away from it when you’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of it.
And well, now what has it lead to. Is the mess the BJP finds itself in something that can be cleaned away? Can they hope that time will heal and people will vote for them again? The best thing about the BJP, if nothing else, was that they gave an alternative to the Congress, and in the 6 years they were in power, they showed that they could rule!
Their main stalwarts are gone – Jaswanth Singh, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. All that leaves is one Arun Jaitley who’s plunged even the DDCA into a nice mess, a Sushma Swaraj who finds herself being marginalized again (the pitting against Sonia Gandhi kind of was her Waterloo), and the RSS. The rest of the party finds itself mostly on the wrong side of 75.
The only hope, if they can find any, comes from the Congress. 1999 was when the Congress found itself at their lowest. Most of the states out of their kitty, their worst showing ever in a general election, no leader in sight, clinging on to a dynasty and a surname. And then 2004 happened! The main thing that worked for the Congress was the people in the party. They still continued to attract the right kind and had people who could administer and rule, if not win elections with their charisma like the Nehru family or even like Vajpayee.
What has come out is probably that the time of the charismatic leaders is over. It might just be left to good governance and anti-incumbency and stable coalitions to decide who wins the day and the 5 years hence. All I can hope is that something comes out of the way the BJP is self-destructing. Maybe a good lesson, or a revamp which brings in a second option to the Congress. History has shown that there is nothing worse than a party without a meaningful and challenging opposition.