Advani has never shied away from hailing the RSS-BJP umbilical ties

The shadow of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the unmistakable influence of RSS leadership on the affairs of the BJP were hard to miss on Tuesday as the party battled with all its resources to overcome the crisis created by L.K. Advani’s resignation after Mr. Modi’s elevation as head of the election campaign committee.

Ironically, it was Mr. Advani who saved Mr. Modi’s job back in 2002. At the national executive of the BJP in Goa that year, communal riots in Gujarat were in focus and the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was keen on forcing Mr. Modi to quit.

Mr. Advani on Tuesday evening acceded to a request by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to withdraw his resignation. He may be sore now at the “micro-management” of the BJP by the Sangh Parviar, but he has never shied away in the past from hailing the RSS-BJP umbilical ties.

Often described by political analysts as the Prime Minister India never had, Mr. Advani’s ambition to occupy the chair of the country’s chief executive faded with the Congress-led UPA coalition coming to power in 2004 and then again in 2009. The BJP had projected Mr. Advani as the party’s face in the 2009 elections. He had to give up his position as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha to Sushma Swaraj. RSS hand was evident then too. It wanted young leaders to be given more responsibilities in the party set up.

Mr. Advani, who became president of Jana Sangh in 1975, was among the founders of the BJP in 1980. He remained its general secretary till he was chosen party president in 1986. His grip on the party’s organisational apparatus remained firm and his popularity peaked with his Rath Yatra in 1990 that projected him as a hardline Hindutva leader with divisive tendencies.

He took the high moral ground and pledged not to contest elections till his name was cleared in a hawala controversy in 1995. But in June 2005, he incurred the wrath of the RSS with his endorsement of Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a “secular” leader while on a visit to the late leader’s mausoleum at Karachi. The Sangh Parivar forced him to quit as BJP chief. Though he took back his resignation, he later paved the way for the appointment of Rajnath Singh as party chief.

If it was Mr. Vajpayee who asked Mr. Modi to perform his “Raj Dharma” in governing Gujarat, Mr. Advani, in an interview to TheHindu on September 20 that year did not mince words when he talked about the Gujarat riots. For the first time, he described the violence and killings as a “matter of shame” and a blot on the government. On a flight to the Capital from Mumbai, Mr. Advani, then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, told this newspaper that all his speeches in both Houses of Parliament reflected his “deep distress” at the Gujarat riots.

At that time, Mr. Advani had also disapproved of Mr. Modi’s “Hum paanch, hamaare pachees” remark against the minorities as unbecoming of a Chief Minister.

As Home Minister, Mr. Advani had asserted that the bond between the BJP-led coalition government and the RSS was unbreakable and based on moral principles. The Vajpayee government’s relationship with the RSS was similar to the Nehru Government-Mahatma Gandhi relationship, Mr. Advani said. The RSS exerted moral influence on the government the same way Gandhiji did on the Congress government.

“The relationship… is based on mutual respect and regard for each other’s views,” Mr. Advani told journalists in Agra against the backdrop of his presence at the “Rashtra Suraksha Mahashivir” of the RSS.

In fact, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, had drawn sharp political reaction back home after he said during a visit to the U.S. that he was “always a swayamsevak,” He had then clarified that he had made the remark in the context of his being a volunteer in the service of India and its people and dismissed the controversy as a needless one.

Brave assertions notwithstanding, BJP leaders know in their hearts that the party’s umbilical cord with the RSS cannot be broken. So it is, perhaps, in the fitness of things that it was left to the RSS chief to persuade Mr. Advani to fall in line.

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