It is a painful irony that the one man who was most responsible for taking the once also-ran BJP to dizzying heights had to deliver a stinging slap that is going to hurt it for a long, long time to come.
Irrespective of how la affaire Advani plays out, the BJP will find it very tough to live down the allegation – from one of its own patriarchs – that most of its leaders pursue “personal agendas”.
If the Congress had stated this, it would not have fetched more than two obscure paragraphs in a newspaper.
But this was an anguished Advani speaking, a man who has been a part and parcel of the Hindu rightwing for over six decades and who now felt increasingly ignored by the BJP’s second-rung leadership.
It would have been painful for one who in the 1980s and even beyond was the singular face of the Hindutva brigade as it roared against and later razed the Babri mosque at Ayodhya in 1992.
When he took charge of the BJP from Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1986, it had just two members in the Lok Sabha. Those were the years when Advani had to tag behind other opposition stalwarts, all faced with a brute Congress majority in the Lok Sabha.
Backed by the larger Hindutva family, Advani began to aggressively spearhead the Ayodhya movement, helping the BJP to grow and grow until it became the main opposition party and finally the ruling party.
As long as Vajpayee loomed large, Advani could not become the prime minister. With Vajpayee ailing, Advani led the BJP’s Lok Sabha challenge in 2009 but was worsted by the Congress.
It marked the beginning of a great wall, even if Advani didn’t realize it.
After two successive Lok Sabha defeats, the BJP wanted a new general to lead it to victory. Advani, a rare politician with a clean image, enjoyed a lot of respect. But many in BJP wondered if he was a winner any more.
This is when the single-minded Narendra Modi began to grow out of Gujarat. His third thumping electoral win in 2012 gave him wings to soar high.
Advani, once Modi’s most vocal backer, wasn’t happy. As the BJP met in Goa, a miffed Advani stayed away. This is when the Modi camp made a blunder. It committed sacrilege by holding a screaming anti-Advani protest outside the veteran’s heavily guarded house.
If that wasn’t insult enough, the BJP’s second-rung leaders, many of who had been groomed by Advani, decided to pitchfork Modi as the party’s face in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle. Advani had been ignored.
Advani’s carefully-worded resignation letter is a time bomb – it will keep ticking. To say the BJP is no more “the same idealistic party” will hurt it where it hurts most – in election time.
If the BJP – and Modi – had not been in such a tearing hurry to bury Advani, the post-Goa celebrations would not have ended in a whimper.