Narendra Modi and Amit Shah brought down the curtain on LK Advani’s 68-year-old career in the BJP and its progenitor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Advani, 91, will not contest the Lok Sabha election. He was not renominated from Gandhinagar, a seat he held since 1991 but for a brief interregnum. BJP president, Amit Shah, will replace Advani from Gujarat’s capital.


That Shah was Advani’s election agent in the past several elections makes the contest easier because of the deep networks he has built among the BJP workers, interest groups as well as the voters. This will be Shah’s first election to Parliament although he was elected to the Gujarat legislature several times.


Shah’s prospective entry in the Lok Sabha recommends him for a top position in the Modi government in case it returns in May, possibly as the Home minister, a portfolio he held in Gujarat under Modi. The Modi-Shah duo is known in the BJP to think several steps ahead of their colleagues.


Although Shah was brought into the Rajya Sabha to initiate him into Parliament, as it were, for the past few years, the BJP was abuzz with the speculation that he would replace Advani in Gandhinagar.


A section in the BJP wanted to sweeten Advani’s exit by offering the seat to his daughter, Pratibha, but given the Modi-Shah antipathy towards political dynasts, the suggestion was rejected out of hand.


It is almost certain that Advani — who was pensioned off to the highsounding ‘marg darshak mandal’ back in 2014 with a host of other seniors — will not be considered for any role in the BJP or government. The political end raises a host of questions over quotidian matters that typically worry leaders: whether he can return a bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi, retain a staff, and most importantly, the NSG security ring around him.


What’s also inevitable is that Advani’s peers, Murli Manohar Joshi and Shanta Kumar, will be denied tickets. Veteran Kalraj Mishra  of Uttar Pradesh saw the writing on the wall. A week ago, he said he was opting out of electoral politics to “work” for the party. Yashwant Sinha, who was similarly binned in 2014, revolted, left the BJP and is likely to contest from a Delhi seat with the AAP and Congress’s support.


Shah’s prospective debut in the Lok Sabha signals the coming of a new generation of leaders which will replace a line-up that was nurtured and promoted by Advani.


Prominent among them is Sushma Swaraj  who announced she will not fight from Vidisha for health reasons. Arun Jaitley is the only leader from this vintage who has the confidence of Modi and Shah. Indeed, he’s heading the campaign committee with Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, the rising stars in the present regime.


Just as the Modi-Shah ‘jodi’ ensured that the government and the BJP were perfectly in line, in case Modi is back as the PM, it’s a given that Shah will be the second-in-command. The insinuation, voiced internally in the BJP at times, about Gujarat’s overwhelming dominance over the power structures seldom bothered Modi and Shah because of their common credo that in the mind, winning an election was all that mattered.


The BJP, tutored and shepherded by the RSS, ensures generational changes with a little more ease than the other parties although dissensions and discontent have spilled out publicly in the past as when Advani opposed Modi’s candidacy as the PM. By then the Sangh had made up its mind that Advani’s “shenanigans” would not be countenanced because having been given a chance as the BJP’s PM candidate once in 2009, he failed to deliver the seats.


Advani could not have faced a more inglorious finale than what came yesterday. Sources close to him maintained till the last that he was “physically and mentally fit” to keep going for another five years as an MP. He joined the RSS in 1941as a 14-year-old in Karachi and was taken in the Jana Sangh in 1951with Syama Prasad Mookerjee.


Whatever his twilight years might have been like, the country’s political annals will have a place for him as the leader who took the BJP to new heights albeit through controversial and divisive means. Advani was Modi’s patron and fought to keep him as the Gujarat chief minister after the 2002 violence when Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then the PM, wanted him out.


His exit proves that in politics nobody is anyone’s chela.


source: Mumbai Mirror

About Radhika Ramaseshan