New Delhi, Mar.19 : Former President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam today released the much awaited autobiography of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K.Advani -- "My Country, My Life" -- at a glittering function at New Delhi's Siri Fort Auditorium.
The 1040-page book was released in the presence of a host of glitterati and chatterati, and was nothing short of a star-studded evening.
Business honchos like Sunil Bharti Mittal and Anil Ambani, Bollywood stars Sanjay Dutt, music maestro Amjad Ali Khan and playback singers Abhijeet and Sonu Nigam, besides leaders from various political parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party's Sharad Pawar, former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and former External Affairs Minister K.Natwar Singh attended the function.
Prior to the function, the book's publishers -- Rupa and Co -- confirmed that at least 50,000 copies of the book had been sold, certifying Advani's emergence as a best-selling author.
''Political memoirs often tend to be politically sensitive and we did not want any controversy, as we wanted the people first to read the book and form their opinion. Initially we wanted to release the book in November 2007 on Advani's birthday, but since the book runs into 1200 pages it got delayed to March,'' said Rajan Mehra, the Chairman of Rupa and Co.
The book, which is set to open a can of worms on a number of sensitive political issues with which Advani has been linked with during his nearly five-decade long association with politics, has a forward written by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In the forward, Vajpayee writes that Advani has been "misunderstood" and become a "victim" of the dichotomy between his image of a hardliner and reality.
Recalling his association with Advani, Vajpayee describes him as his "friend and comrade-in-arms" ever since he started working for the Bharatiya Jana Sangh over 50 years ago.
Vajpayee said the BJP leader has made an "enduring contribution" to a vigorous debate on "genuine secularism".
Vajpayee sought to allay the impression that Advani is the hardliner in the party.
"During the course of his long, and inarguably eventful, political life, Advaniji has, at times, been misunderstood and as a result become a victim of the dichotomy between image and reality," he writes.
Vajpayee said those who have worked or interacted with Advani know him as a man who has never compromised on his core belief in nationalism, and yet has "displayed flexibility in political responses whenever it was demanded by the situation".
Vajpayee candidly admits that there have been differences on issues and approaches with Advani during their long association.
He said it was not possible for two individuals to always have an identical response while working together for over half a century within an organisation.
"However, it is not the differences, but the unity of purpose and action, that marked our relationship," 84-year old Vajpayee said seeking to put a lid on media speculation about rifts between the two leaders.
To drive home his point, Vajpayee said divergence of viewpoints never led to discord "neither did they become a cause for division".
Vajpayee believed that the party pursuing the ethos of working together as the primary reason for remaining united. He saw this as an exception in India, where "organizational fissures have sadly been a regular feature".
The former prime minister also sounded a word of caution to the party which is preparing for elections in the next 12 months.
He emphasised that the ethos of camaraderie needs to be zealously preserved and further strengthened in the BJP as it charts its future course of development.
"The self-imposed discipline of never taking differences beyond the Laxman Rekha in matters of what is good for the party and the nation is the most reliable guarantor of success in the long-term," he said.
Going a step further, he said the philosophy of working together is a fundamental requirement for strengthening the democratic system and making it immune to the often debilitating pulls and pressures of politics in the era of coalitions.
Vajpayee described Advani as an "outstanding" leader "whose best, I hope and pray, is yet to come".