Post-Modi anointment: Why LK Advani can't do a Mamata Banerjee

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Bangalore, Sept 15: Supporters of Narendra Modi both in the party and outside are still celebrating his promotion as the prime ministerial candidate. What will be his vision and direction now? This is a fresh question which is doing the rounds in India's political circles now.

But at the same time, another question, equally crucial, is doing the rounds and that is: What will LK Advani, who couldn't prevent the Modi wave despite putting up a stiff resistance, do after this? Given the extent of resistance he exhibited, will it be natural for him to meekly surrender and continue in the BJP as a nominal father figure?

Will he quit the BJP and form a new party now, something the likes of Keshubhai Patel and BS Yeddyurappa did in recent times? Apparently one might feel so but history won't look encouraging for the 85-year-old leader in case he refers it to think on the lines of a separation.

Mamata Banerjee is one of those rare leaders who eclipsed the party she left

There are enough instances in Indian party politics where the elevation of one particular leader did not get complete backing in the party. In the left, the rise of Harkishen Singh Surjeet or that of Prakash Karat did not please others. In the BJP, Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh (during his first stint) did not always enjoy the confidence of all members. In the Congress, Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and P Chidambaram had left the party to join new outfits but returned later to their original party finding it difficult to establish a new identity.

Sharad Pawar is another leader who left the Congress to protest the foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi but although he managed as a powerful politician, his party NCP remained dependent on the Congress to survive politically. The other leader who had also joined the NCP, P A Sangma, faded once he left the Congress and tried too many political platforms.

Perhaps the only leader who emerged as a more powerful leader after quitting the original party is Mamata Banerjee. She formed her own Trinamool Congress in 1998 after pulling out of the Congress and eclipsed both the Congress and the well-entrenched Left to become the chief minister of West Bengal within 13 years. Even leaders like Somen Mitra, another Congress leader who could not accept Banerjee's growing popularity, is a parliamentarian of the latter's TMC today.

Can Advani do a Banerjee? Chances are slim. For Advani is too old now to make a new beginning that can challenge a popular leader like Modi and secondly, he himself is also not above the same suspicion that often haunts Modi and that is promoting communal politics.

It was because the BJP had a moderate face in Atal Bihari Vajpayee that it could manage to lead a government for a complete term. Or else, it could have been difficult for Advani, who had led the BJP's meteoric rise in the 1980s and early 1990s through mobilisation of votes on religious lines, to form a government under his leadership.

It will be interesting to see what the man does from here. Either way, the decision won't be easy to make.

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