As he bows out of electoral politics, BJP veteran L K Advani fired a parting shot at the party leadership, cautioning that the saffron outfit had never regarded those who disagreed with it politically as its “enemies” or as “anti-nationals”.
Stating that the essence of Indian democracy was respect for diversity and freedom of expression, Advani said, “BJP never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our enemies... in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national.”
The comments were seen in the light of BJP’s attacks on the opposition for demanding evidence of casualties in the Balakot air strikes and, more recently, criticism of Congress’s manifesto pledge to review AFSPA and scrap the sedition law, which the saffron outfit said reflected anti-national sentiments.
Interestingly, PM Narendra Modi reacted to the veteran leader with a tweet, “Advaniji perfectly sums up the true essence of BJP, most notably the guiding mantra of ‘nation first, party next, self last’. Proud to be a BJP karyakarta and proud that greats like LK Advaniji have strengthened it.”
The PM clearly intended to convey that no offence was taken over Advani’s comments on plurality—BJP’s rivals and critics often accuse it of promoting intolerance—and that the advice does not really apply to the party while underlining the “nation first” aspect of the comments.
Advani noted that BJP would celebrate its 39th founding day on April 6, a week before Lok Sabha polling gets under way. “As one of the founders of BJP, I deem it to be my duty to share my reflections with the people, more specifically with millions of workers, who have indebted me with affection and respect,” he said.
Speaking out after almost three and a half years since he refused to address the party forum at the Bengaluru national executive in April 2015, and shortly after BJP decided to bench him in the LS elections, L K Advani urged all stakeholders in Indian democracy to consider honest introspection.
“[Elections] are an occasion for honest introspection by all stakeholders in Indian democracy — political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the election process and, above all, the electorate,” he said.
Advani’s relations with the Modi-Amit Shah dispensation have been uneasy almost since NDA assumed office and when he and other BJP elders — Murli Manohar Joshi and the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee — were made members of a “margdarshak mandal”. He was party to a statement critical of the BJP leadership after it lost the Bihar election in 2015 but has avoided the limelight since .
“Defence of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the party and in the larger national setting, has been the proud hallmark of the BJP. Therefore, BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions, including the media,” Advani wrote.