The BJP’s announcement that L.K. Advani will be its prime ministerial candidate in the next general election is a hasty move, born of a lack of confidence and his losing grip on the party. It is clear that there is more than one contender for the Prime Minister’s post in the BJP. If Narendra Modi wins the Gujarat elections, the old brigade within the party will be further isolated. He is the only serious challenger to Mr. Advani with Atal Bihari Vajpayee being old and in poor health, and Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu performing poorly in their home States. No other leader is in the reckoning.
It is difficult to visualise Mr. Advani as the Prime Minister of India, despite the BJP’s compulsions to project him as such. It would be a step in the backward direction if our country is led by one who faces criminal charges. One would indeed have to be naïve to forget the hatemongering indulged in by him during the rath yatra, and his winking at the ethnic cleansing in Gujarat. It will be difficult to respond positively to a leader who seems to be coming to terms with the reality of India being a multicultural country by making an out-of-character observation about the neighbouring country. However, one is thankful for the comic relief provided by the act of a person seeking the blessings of his contemporary.
It is true that the BJP reached its high point in history under Mr. Advani’s leadership. But he was also the man who led the movement to build a Ram temple in the place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Its demolition resulted in communal violence in many States. I cannot accept Mr. Advani as Prime Minister because the person who occupies this post should have the ability to carry everyone along. I do not know whether Mr. Advani is communal or secular but I know he is anti-Muslim.