Ten days after consecration of Ram Temple, Bharat Ratna for L.K. Advani

L.K. Advani's parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary and full of rich insights, PM Modi said

February 03, 2024 11:56 am | Updated 05:09 pm IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with senior BJP leader L.K. Advani. Photo: X/@narendramodi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with senior BJP leader L.K. Advani. Photo: X/@narendramodi

Former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, helmsman of the Ram Rath Yatra that catapulted the movement for the Ram Temple to national prominence, was conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, on Saturday, just ten days after the consecration of that temple in Ayodhya. He was previously awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, in 2015.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Mr. Advani after the decision was made and congratulated him. “One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental. His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister,” Mr. Modi posted on X.

The announcement also comes 10 days after socialist leader Karpoori Thakur was accorded the same honour posthumously, completing the circle from the politics of the 1990s, which were dominated by the social justice and Ram Temple movements.

Honour for his ideals

Mr. Advani released a statement soon afterwards, acknowledging that it was an honour, not just personally but also for his “ideals and principles.”

“Ever since I joined the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) as its volunteer at the age of 14, I have sought reward in only one thing – in dedicated and selfless service of my beloved country,” he said, adding that he was inspired by the motto “Edam na mama (This life is not mine)“. He remembered, he said, the late senior Jan Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya, the late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and his own late wife Kamala.

His 1990 Ram Rath Yatra, which traversed India, whipping up support for a campaign to build a temple on the site of the Babri mosque, led not just to the mosque’s destruction in 1992, but also redefined national politics for decades to come, along with the Mandal Commission’s recommendations.

It gave the BJP a fillip in national politics to the point where it formed the government in 1996 (for 13 days) and in 1998 (for thirteen months), and finally, for a full term between 1999 and 2004. Along with former PM Vajpayee, Mr. Advani was part of a duo that ensured that the BJP has occupied the pole position in Indian politics since the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Mr. Advani did not, however, attend the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya, with his office citing the intense cold wave in north India at the time as the reason.

Strains in relationships

Mr. Advani went on to serve as the Union Home Minister in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government from 1998 to 2004. From 2002 to 2004, under Vajpayee’s leadership, he served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India. He then remained the Leader of Opposition during much of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA era (2004-2014).

Some wrinkles did appear in his relationship with the RSS and the BJP when, in the wake of the Vajpayee government’s defeat in 2004, Mr. Advani made an attempt to recalibrate his image from a political hawk to a more broad-based leader, making a landmark six-day trip to Pakistan in June 2005. However, his praise for Pakistan’s founder and the right-wing’s bete noire, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, describing him as secular — a nudge to how far the current theocratic state of Pakistan had gone from that vision — led to controversy in India. The Sangh Parivar have always viewed Jinnah as having been responsible for the division of India along communal lines, and Mr. Advani had to quit as BJP president.

A rapprochement with the RSS ensued soon afterwards as he was projected as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in 2009; however, that year’s election saw the return of the UPA government under Dr. Singh.

He had some differences with the RSS and the BJP on the question of succession within the BJP as well, which was settled in favour of Mr. Modi in 2013, despite Mr. Advani not attending the BJP’s national council in Goa that year, where the announcement was made.

The relationship has been subsequently mended, with Mr. Advani being accorded the Padma Vibhushan as soon as the Modi government came to power, and now with the Bharat Ratna. Along with Mr. Advani, the Modi government has acknowledged its ideological underpinnings by also conferring the Bharat Ratna on Vajpayee, as well as Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.