LK Advani does not matter for the Indian right any more. Period. He might throw a tantrum at being made redundant by newbies on the block and marginalised in the party, and might even allow himself to be coaxed to hang around for some more time, but the veteran leader is surely smart enough to read the writing on the wall. The BJP has decided its course and direction for the future and he will no more feature in it.
Narendra Modi could be more hype and bluster than substance; maybe he carries enormous potential to damage the cause of the Indian right; and there’s no guarantee that his presence will make the NDA’s electoral prospects soar, but the BJP has to sink or swim with him. It’s fait accompli for the party. It never had a leader with mass appeal at the national level and Modi fills the vacuum. He might not be the best choice for the slot, but he is the best among the available. The BJP has to live with the reality.
When a big leader resigns from important positions to make a point, it is obvious that he has run out of options to manipulate his advantages within, and is striving hard for a dignified exit option for himself and suitable rehabilitation for loyalists. After he was upstaged by the combined might of the Sangh Parivar and the vociferous supporters of Modi in Goa, Advani would have realised that his time was up. The Sangh Parivar always treated him with distrust and the party he nurtured over the last three decades delivered the telling blow to his prestige by refusing to pander to him. The developments at the national executive drove home the message that he is no more relevant in the party’s scheme of things.
It was never so much a battle between Modi and Advani as it was a battle between the right and the centre-right within the BJP. Despite all the grand praise for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his inclusivist persona and policies, the party has subtly shifted to the right. The generation of Vajpayee and Advani - the latter at least in the latter part of his career - represented the centre-right. Such an ideological position involved keeping the Sangh Parivar and its Hindutva agenda at bay. No wonder, the RSS and its sister affiliates were not particularly pleased with the duo.
The gradual elevation of Modi to the top - it’s not complete yet - with open backing from the Sangh, speaks a lot for itself. The Gujarat Chief Minister never had a cosy relationship with the RSS in his state. In fact, he has been accused of causing a vertical split in all the Hindutva organisations, and going particularly hard at some of their leaders such as Pravin Togadia. Why would the Sangh back a leader like him knowing well that he could prove dangerous for its own existence?
The fine print of a secret deal is not in the public domain, but there’s reason to believe that that is a quid pro quo arrangement: the Sangh Parivar gets to promote its own agenda while Modi gets its organisational muscle to promote his own. Of course, Modi’s development mantra is a wonderful camouflage. And he knows how to play the media and the middle class sentiments to his advantage. It works for both. The BJP had to distance itself from its centre-right stance as it was not electorally productive either. The party had stopped growing in the last decade and the only hope was a new leader with a new approach.
It had to take a position: either go the whole hog and bet on Modi or let things be with leaders like Advani calling the shots. It has chosen the former and there can be no going back now. It does not matter now how long Advani lasts in the BJP, it has moved beyond him and is not likely to bend to his wishes. It is likely that many of his loyalists, particularly the ones without RSS background, will get sidelined too eventually. There is too much machination going on at the top.
The party is in a churn, at an inflexion point. A purge was always on the cards in such a situation. If not thrown out, some leaders could be made redundant. Modi would ensure that.