Advani, the hardliner in BJP

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New Delhi, Dec 10: L K Advani, widely credited with making the BJP one of the most domineering political forces in post Independence India, began his long association with the RSS just by chance in 1930s when a friend interrupted his tennis match to drag him to a RSS 'shakha'.

It was Karachi again where the BJP leader in May 2005 eulogised Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secular politician.

That stance, which the RSS contended was a departure from ideology, spelt the end of his BJP Presidency and fall from grace in the Sangh 'Parivar'.

Advani, the Leader of the Opposition, resigned from the post of BJP President on New Year's Eve in 2005, marking the end of a long-running feud with the RSS which had been triggered by his controversial remark.

Advani had guided the BJP's rise in the wake of his 1990 Rath Yatra and his arrest in Samastipur (Bihar) by the then Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was the flashpoint of the events leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6,1992.

The eventful decade that began with the 'Rath Yatra' to put the Hindutva agenda of building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya on the forefront, saw him steering the BJP to the centrestage from the fringes of national politics.

With great political acumen, he managed to avoid any impression of differences cropping up with a more moderate Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on several important national issues during his tenure as the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the National Democratic Alliance Government at the Centre.

Even in 1998, he had the onerous responsibility as the Party President to bring the BJP to power by entering, for the first time, into regional pre-poll alliances.

Advani, who took over from Vajpayee as Party President in 1986, had a two-term tenure till 1990. After an interregnum between 1990 to 1993 when Murli Manohar Joshi took over, he assumed leadership once again. He handed over the reins of the Party to Khushabhau Thakre in May 1998.

It was Advani who put the BJP on the Hindutva track after his predecessor tried for years to shed the Jan Sangh legacy to project the BJP as a centrist alternative.

Advani's political strategy saw the launch of the 'Rath Yatra', which simultaneously pulled down the Janata Dal government of Mr V P Singh and projected the BJP as a national alternative. Thereafter, although occupying the opposition benches, the party assidously continued to pursue its own agenda, primarily aimed at propelling it into power.

Advani was returned to Lok Sabha in 1991 from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, a seat he first won in 1989 and quit in January 1996 after being chargesheeted in the Hawala scandal. He contested from there in 1998 after being cleared of the scandal and regained the seat. He first became a minister in the Union cabinet in the Janata Party regime in 1977 when he was given the Information and Broadcasting portfolio. He was also the leader of the House in Rajya Sabha.

Advani was born on November 8, 1927 at Hyderabad, Sindh (Pakistan). He joined the RSS in 1942 and in 1947 became secretary of the Karachi unit.

Partition saw the Advani family move to India. He began helping the RSS in Rajasthan and soon after in 1951 joined the Jana Sangh.

He obtained a degree in law from Mumbai University before pursuing a brief career in journalism.

The years between 1958 and 1963 saw him serve as the Secretary of the Delhi unit of the Jana Sangh. He rose to be its Vice-President (1965-1967) and President (1970-72). In 1966 he was inducted into the Central Executive Committee of the Jana Sangh.

The next year he was elected Chairman of the Delhi Metropolitan Council. And in 1973, Advani was elected as the Jana Sangh President, a post he held thrice.

Advani entered Parliament for the first time in 1970 as a Rajya Sabha member, to which he returned three more times, the last in 1988. When the Emergency was imposed, Advani was jailed. When the Jana Sangh joined the Janata Party in 1977 Advani was appointed General Secretary. He was Minister of Information and Broadcasting during the Janata regime (1977-79).

In 1986, Advani assumed charge as BJP President for two consecutive two-year terms. It was the period when the BJP was at its lowest following the debacle in the 1984 polls. Advani set about galvanising the party. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989 from Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Then came the controversial Rath Yatra of 1990 and the demolition of the Babri Mosque.

Advani handed over the party post to Murli Manohar Joshi in 1990 but took it up again in 1993. He was also elected Leader of the Opposition in 1991. In 1996 Advani did not contest the Lok Sabha polls as he was chargesheeted in the hawala scandal. But after exoneration by the Supreme Court he returned to the Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar and was re-elected in 1999 and 2004.

Advani is married to Kamla and they have a daughter and a son.


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