Through the years Shri L. K. Advani had served as the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party for the longest period since its inception in 1980. Capping a parliamentary career of nearly three decades, Shri L. K. Advani was, first, the Home Minister and, later, the Deputy Prime Minister in the cabinet of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1999-2004).
Shri L. K. Advani is widely regarded as an individual of great intellectual ability, strong principles, and unwavering support for the idea of a strong and prosperous India. As confirmed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri L. K. Advani has ‘never compromised on his core belief in nationalism, and yet has displayed flexibility in political responses whenever it was demanded by the situation’.
Shri L. K. Advani was born on November 8, 1927, and grew up in pre-Partition Sindh. As a student in St.Patrick’s School, Karachi, his patriotic ideals inspired him to join the Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh (RSS) at the mere age of fourteen. He has dedicated his life to the service of the nation ever since.
Shri L. K. Advani’s celebration of India’s independence from the British in 1947 was sadly short lived as he became one of the millions to be torn from his homeland amidst the terror and bloodshed of the tragedy of India’s partition. These events, however, did not turn him bitter or cynical but instead spurred him on in his desire to create a more secular India. With this goal in mind he journeyed to Rajasthan to continue his work as an RSS Pracharak.
Through the latter half of the 1980s and the 1990s, Shri L. K. Advani focused on the singular task of building the BJP into a national political force. The results of his efforts were underscored by the 1989 General Election. The Party bounced back from its 1984 tally of 2 to achieve an impressive 86 seats. The Party position moved up to 121 seats in 1992 and 161 in 1996; making the 1996 elections a watershed in Indian democracy. For the first time since independence, the Congress was dethroned from its preeminent position, and the BJP became the single largest party in the Lok Sabha.
An emotional individual with strong family ties, Shri L. K. Advani has said that ‘nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them, but I have had the good fortune of experiencing both, and in abundance’.
Today, Shri L. K. Advani asks the people of India to make the right choice, in choosing a leader who has lived through the mistakes of India’s past, and looks forward to ensuring that India becomes more united, stronger and stands taller with its Tomorrow brighter than its Today.
ABOUT SHRI L.K. ADVANI : A TIMELINE
Beginning of Political Career
The aftermath of the independence and partition of India was an immense political upheaval in Sindh. Like millions others, Shri L. K. Advani left for Delhi on 12th September, 1947 with fellow RSS swayamsevaks, to seek shelter and a new beginning in truncated India. His journey from Karachi to Delhi brought a formative phase of his life in Sindh to an abrupt end, and thus began the next phase of his life—as a RSS pracharak in Rajasthan.
All pracharaks and senior leaders of the RSS from Sindh had been asked to assemble in Jodhpur where, in due course, they would receive instructions regarding the tasks to be carried out in the coming days. The RSS leaders instructed the swayamsewaks who had come from Pakistan that their main task was to help channelise the migration of refugees in a smooth and systematic manner. Shri L. K. Advani and others were also required to assist in the relief and rehabilitation of the immigrants. The latter half of 1947 saw him plunging himself in this work wholeheartedly.
After the Jodhpur camp was over, he along with others was sent to different parts of Rajasthan to continue the activities of the RSS. For the next decade, Rajasthan, was to be his karmabhoomi (place of work), first only as a pracharak of the RSS and later-on as a whole-time party activist of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
It was in early 1957 when Shri L. K. Advani was asked shift base from Rajasthan to Delhi to assist Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the other newly elected Jana Sangh MPs in their parliamentary work. Thereafter, Delhi became the centre of his political activity. His new responsibility gave him an opportunity to learn about the functioning of Parliament and the government, besides enabling him to develop his skills in drafting statements, formulating questions, and preparing points for the party’s political propaganda.
First Foray Into Alliance Politics
Shri L. K. Advani’s first entry into alliance politics was in the municipal affairs of Delhi. In addition to his work in the party’s parliamentary wing he was asked to look after the Delhi unit of the Jana Sangh as its General Secretary. The party was pitted against the Congress, which at that time had a predominant presence in Indian politics. In a house of eighty, Jana Sangh won twenty-five seats, only two less than the Congress. The CPI had eight members, just enough seats in the corporation to tip the balance in favour of either the Congress or the Jana Sangh.
Soon after the elections, the CPI, in order to keep the Jana Sangh out, offered to enter into an alliance with the Congress, provided the latter agreed to make one of its members, Aruna Asaf Ali – a prominent freedom fighter and star of the Quit India movement, the first Mayor of Delhi. The Congress agreed. However, the alliance broke up within a year due to constant internal squabbles.
Thereafter the Jana Sangh and the CPI entered into a written agreement, whereby the offices of Mayor and Deputy Mayor would be shared by the two parties on a rotational basis. In keeping with that, Aruna Asaf Ali would be Mayor for the first year, and Kedarnath Sahni, who later became a prominent leader of the Jana Sangh and the BJP, the Deputy Mayor. For the second year, Sahni was to be the Mayor, and a CPI nominee the Deputy Mayor.
For Shri L. K. Advani, this was a useful initiation in the art of political leadership and strategy-making. He says “I can confidently say that this is where I had my initial grounding in alliance politics, something that held me in good stead on many occasions in subsequent years and decades.”
The ‘Organiser’ Years
The first house Shri L. K. Advani lived in after moving from Rajasthan to Delhi was Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s official residence at 30, Rajendra Prasad Road. After working as the Organising Secretary of the party in Delhi for over three years, Shri L. K. Advani began a new chapter in his life as a journalist by joining Organiser, a weekly journal inspired by the RSS ideology. He joined Organiser as the Assistant Editor, in the year 1960.
Founded in 1947, Organiser had a relatively small circulation but its visibility and influence in intellectual and political circles was considerable. Its Editor, K.R. Malkani, was a fine writer who, like Shri L. K. Advani, was a RSS activist in Sindh prior to Partition. Under Malkani’s able editorship, Organiser began to be read avidly by friends and foes alike of the RSS and the Jana Sangh.
One day in an editorial review meeting, the team discussed the common perception that the journal was too dry and had only political issues’. So it was decided to add other interesting facets of life, such as films. Shri L. K. Advani, an avid enthusiast of film and theater, volunteered and began writing a regular cinema column under the pen name ‘Netra’ (eye).
Shri L. K. Advani’s seven-year stint with Organiser came to an end in 1967. An important responsibility paved his return to Delhi’s politics. Delhi was given a full-fledged statehood in 1952, but in 1955 its statehood was annulled by the Central Government on the recommendation of the States’ Reorganisation Commission. This did not go down well with its citizens and Jana Sangh articulated their aspirations to become the first party to demand full statehood for the national capital. In 1967, in the space of five months, Delhi witnessed three elections, almost simultaneously—to the Lok Sabha, Metropolitan Council and the Municipal Corporation. The Jana Sangh triumphed in all three elections. Shri L. K. Advani’s party secured six out of seven Lok Sabha seats; fifty-two out of hundred seats in MCD; and thirty-three out of fifty-six seats in the Council. This staggering triple-victory in the national capital, along with the substantial increase in the tally in the Lok Sabha from fourteen in 1962 to thirty five in 1967, catapulted the Jana Sangh as a potentially powerful force in Indian politics.
Shri L. K. Advani did not contest the Council elections since he was entrusted with the responsibility of organizing the party’s city unit for the three polls. Under the Delhi Metropolitan Council Act, the Union Home Ministry could nominate five members to the Council. Making use of this provision, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee persuaded the Union Home Minister Y.B. Chavan to nominate Shri L. K. Advani to the Council. The party then decided to field him as a candidate for the election of the Council’s Chairman. Shri L. K. Advani won the election and became the Presiding Officer. Vijay Kumar Malhotra, his colleague in the Jana Sangh, became the Chief Executive in the Council. By the end of the decade his stint at the Council also came to a close.
Entry To The Rajya Sabha
In April 1970, there was a vacancy created in the Rajya Sabha after the term of Inder Kumar Gujral who was a member from the Union Territory of Delhi. The party fielded Shri L. K. Advani and he was elected on the strength of the Jana Sangh’s majority in the Council. From the office of the Chairman of the Delhi Metropolitan Council he moved to the Parliament house.
In his early speeches in the Rajya Sabha, Shri L. K. Advani articulated his thoughts on important issues including – strengthening the unity and integrity of the country; safeguarding our democratic institutions and making them more effective; how the ruling party must learn to respect the voice of the Opposition; and how to make Centre-state relations smooth and harmonious.
As Party President
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had become the party President in February 1968, was seriously considering stepping down after the 1971 general elections. Around the beginning of 1972, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked Shri L. K. Advani to become the party President as he had already completed four years in this office and wanted to give opportunity to others.
Shri L. K. Advani was reluctant as he didn’t think of himself to be a great orator and was nervous when it came to speaking at public meetings, while on the other hand, a great orator that he was, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee could easily captivate the audience with his magical speeches.
Later, after lot of insistence from Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri L. K. Advani agreed and was formally elected as the President of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in December 1972. Soon thereafter, he presided over the eighteenth annual session of the party in Kanpur.
EMERGENCY AND JANA SANGH
On 25th June, 1975, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, invoked ‘Emergency’ under which she assumed almost totalitarian power. She ordered all her opposition party leaders to be arrested and imprisoned them, while banning the RSS. Shri L. K. Advani who along with Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in Bangalore at that time was arrested and sent to the prison. After elections were announced on 18th January 1976, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was released and flew back to Delhi. Political developments in the country moved at frantic pace and the very same day of the announcement of fresh elections, Jayaprakashji (Jayaprakash Narayan) declared the formation of the Janata Party and named a twenty-eight member national executive committee, with Morarji Desai as its Chairman and Charan Singh as Vice Chairman. Its members were drawn from the four constituent parties—Jana Sangh, Congress (O), Socialist Party and Lok Dal—which had merged to give birth to the new party. Along with Madhu Limaye, Ram Dhan and Surendra Mohan, Shri L. K. Advani was made one of its four General Secretaries.
Emergency was officially lifted on 23rd March 1976, following the resounding win of the Janata Party with a clear majority by securing 295 seats in a House of 542 seats.
AS MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING
Morarji Desai was sworn in as India’s fifth Prime Minister on 24 March 1976. Two days later, a nineteen-member Cabinet was sworn in. Shri L. K. Advani was one of the three persons from the erstwhile Jana Sangh who joined the new government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was made the External Affairs Minister while Brijlal Verma was given the Industries portfolio. The Prime Minister asked Shri L. K. Advani which portfolio he wanted, and without a hesitation he said he wanted the ‘Information & Broadcasting’ ministry. He believed that his experience as a journalist in the 1960s, had developed a deep penchant for media-related matters. He also had frequently written about the partisan use of the government-run media by Indira Gandhi and her party, which he wanted to change.
In the Rajya Sabha, he had raised the demand for granting autonomy to AIR and Doordarshan and his first task as I & B minister was to present a White Paper in Parliament on the misuse of the mass media during the Emergency. He quickly appointed a special committee, headed by a former Secretary in my ministry which completed its job in record time and he could table the White Paper in Parliament in August 1977.
As I & B Minister, Shri L. K. Advani tabled two bills in the Lok Sabha. One sought to repeal the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act. The other was aimed at restoring the Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act, popularly known as the Feroze Gandhi Act. The two bills were passed with great enthusiasm by the house.
He also initiated a serious debate, both within and outside Parliament, on the need for institutional autonomy to AIR and Doordarshan. A working group under the chairmanship of B.G. Verghese was set up for this purpose. The concept of Prasar Bharati, an autonomous corporation to run the two media organisations, was a recommendation of this committee. He introduced the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Bill in Parliament in 1977. It could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha, since the Congress, which had a majority in the House, was not in favour of it.
Sadly, the Janata government’s glory was short-lived. Internecine squabbles within the party soon brought about its early demise, before it could complete even half its term. Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister on 15 July 1979. Charan Singh, his Deputy, was sworn in as Prime Minister with the support of Indira Gandhi, who, however, withdrew it in less than six months. Thus, one betrayal followed another in quick succession.
The country then witnessed another unfortunate development. After Charan Singh’s resignation, the Janata Party decided to lay claim to forming the next government under the leadership of Jagjivan Ram. However, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the then President of India, overlooked Jagjivan Ram’s legitimate right of being invited to form the government and dissolved the Lok Sabha on 22 August 1979. Mid-term elections were thus forced upon the country in January 1980. The electorate, disillusioned by the power struggle and the split in the Janata Party, voted Indira Gandhi back to power.
In his book “The People Betrayed (Vision Books, 1980), he describes in considerable detail the ecstasy and agony associated with the rise and fall of the Janata government. Since it was written immediately after the destabilisation of Morarjibhai’s government, and before the 1980 parliamentary elections, the book analysed the events almost as they happened. Shri L. K. Advani says “When I look back at the same events in hindsight, I find that the main conclusions I had drawn then are relevant even today.”
FOUNDING MEMBER OF BJP
The two-day national convention on 5-6 April 1980 added the invigorating emotion—that of determination. Over 3,500 delegates assembled at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla ground and resolved, on 6 April, to form a new political organisation called the Bharatiya Janata Party. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was elected its first President and Shri L. K. Advani, along with Sikandar Bakht and Suraj Bhan, was given the responsibility of General Secretary.
A few months prior to the election in 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated, creating a sympathy wave for the Congress that also contributed to the BJP’s low tally, as the Congress won a record number of seats. Following this, Shri L. K. Advani was appointed party President.
In the early 1980s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had begun a movement for the construction of a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Rama at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Under Shri L. K. Advani, the BJP became the political face of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. It was believed that at the site of the birthplace of Lord Rama, a temple once stood which had been demolished by the Mughal emperor Babur, who constructed the Babri mosque on the location. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has supported the claim that a Hindu structure once stood at the site, without commenting on a possible demolition.
In the 1988 election, despite the Congress winning a plurality in the election, it declined to form a government, and so the National Front government of VP Singh was sworn in. The support of the BJP, with its tally of 86 seats, was crucial to the new government.
In the 1991 general elections, the BJP won the second largest number of seats, after the Congress. The party, under Shri L. K. Advani, was the major opposition party from 1991–1996 during the reign of P V Narasimha Rao.
AS HOME MINISTER
After the 1996 general elections, the BJP became the single largest party and was consequently invited by the President to form the Government. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as Prime Minister in May 1996. However, the Government did not last long and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned after thirteen days.
Second term 1998–1999
In March 1998, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power with Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee returning as Prime Minister, when elections were called after India saw two unstable Governments headed by H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral respectively.
After the fall of two United Front government between 1996 and 1998 (H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral), the Lok Sabha, a coalition of political parties signed up with BJP to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The NDA won a majority of seats in parliament. However, the government survived only 13 several weeks until mid-1999 (AIADMK) under J. Jayalalitha withdrew its support. With the NDA no longer having a majority, India’s Parliament was again dissolved and new elections were organized. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained the Prime Minister until elections were organized.
A few months after the Kargil War, elections were held again in the year 1999. The 13th Lok Sabha election is of historical importance as it was the first time a united front of parties managed to attain a majority and form a government that lasted a full term of five years under the able leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri L. K. Advani, thus ending a period of political instability at the national level that had been characterised by three general elections held in as many years. The NDA government which lasted for its full term of five years till 2004, became the only non-Congress government to do so.
Shri L. K. Advani assumed the office of Home Minister and was later elevated to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. As Union Minister, Shri L. K. Advani courageously faced the tough times with India facing a string of internal disturbances in the form of rebel attacks allegedly supported by Pakistan.
As elections approached in 2004, the BJP suffered a defeat in the general elections, and sat in the opposition. Following this Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee retired from active politics thus putting Shri L. K. Advani to the forefront of the BJP. Shri L. K. Advani became Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009.
The relationship between Shri L. K. Advani and the RSS reached a low point when the latter’s chief K. S. Sudarshan opined that both Shri L. K. Advani and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee give way to new leaders. Shri L. K. Advani took this remark positively and at the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the BJP in Mumbai, in December 2005, Shri L. K. Advani stepped down as party President. Rajnath Singh, a relatively junior politician from the state of Uttar Pradesh was elected in his place.
In the run-up to the 2009 elections, Shri L. K. Advani being the Leader of the Opposition in a parliamentary democracy was assumingly considered the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the general elections, ending on 16 May 2009. A major factor in favour of Shri L. K. Advani was that he had always been the most powerful leader in the BJP, only with the exception of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who himself endorsed Shri L. K. Advani’s candidacy. On 10 December 2007, the Parliamentary Board of BJP formally announced that L. K. Advani would be its prime ministerial candidate for the general elections due in 2009. But when Congress and its allies won the 2009 general elections, allowing incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to continue in office, Shri L. K. Advani paved the way for Sushma Swaraj to become the Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha.