Lal Krishna Advani

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2019, Mar: end of parliamentary career

Akhilesh Singh, March 22, 2019: The Times of India

The BJP replaced L K Advani with party chief Amit Shah as its candidate for Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, formally bringing the curtains down on the career of the 91-year-old stalwart who played a crucial role in the transformation of the saffron outfit from a marginal player to a major political influence.

After initial reluctance, Advani allowed himself to be persuaded that at this age he should stay away from the rough and tumble of electoral politics. It potentially clears the way for Shah to play a big role —this time officially, in the affairs of New Delhi — if Narendra Modi gets a second term as PM in May. The move could also presage the benching of other members of the Old Guard, including another former party chief Murli Manohar Joshi.

Advani hurt himself by praising Jinnah, never fully recovered from controversy

But it is Advani’s exclusion which highlighted the list of 184 candidates. Though not unexpected, the decision marks the political boldness which has characterised the functioning of the Modi-Shah duo and which could lead to far more significant changes, both in terms of governance and intra-party equations, if Modi wins a second term.

Advani played a major role in the revival of the party after the debacle in 1984, when it won only two seats. He won six times from Gandhinagar, the first time in 1991 (Vajpayee contested and won the next one, in 1996) and the last five elections since 1998 consecutively.

The original hardliner, Advani embarked on a rath yatra a year after winning first from Gandhinagar to push for the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya: a campaign which arguably changed the course of politics. He also launched a powerful intellectual assault on ‘pseudo secularism’ and the politics of ‘appeasement’, shorthand for BJP‘s charge that the reigning consensus indulged Muslim sectarianism.

He, however, hurt himself grievously praising M A Jinnah during a controversial trip to Pakistan and could not fully recover from it even though the party projected him as its PM candidate in 2009. He started fading away after losing overwhelmingly to Narendra Modi in the contest for who should be party’s PM choice in 2014. The decision to bench him does not come as a surprise as Advani, it is learnt, was receptive to the suggestion that it was time that he made room for someone younger and be an accessory for Sangh Parivar’s plan for a generational shift.

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