Monday, May 18, 2009

So, Advani won't quit after all!

Kanchan Gupta / Comment

Here's the news of the day from the BJP front, as circulated by PTI:

Advani to continue as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha
New Delhi, May 18 (PTI)
Grappling with the aftermath of the election defeat, BJP today (May 18) persuaded LK Advani to continue as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha probably with a view to avoiding jockeying for the post among its next rung of leaders.
81-year-old Advani, who had decided to step down from the post after his bid for Prime Minister's post failed, was "requested" by the party to stay on in the new Lok Sabha.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said Advani has agreed to continue as Leader of BJP's Parliamentary Board. "Therefore, it is understood that he will also be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha," he said.
On Saturday, as the results trickled in Advani had expressed his desire not to become the Leader of the Opposition. He had asked the Parliamentary Board to choose another leader but it did not agree with his request and keeping in view his insistence, the party president was authorised to talk to him to change his decision.

My mailbox is flooded with e-mail from well-meaning individuals, including those who do not vote for BJP, expressing a wide range of emotions, excluding anything that remotely resembles joy, in response to Mr Advani's decision to continue as Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, after declaring that he was stepping down.
Mr Gopi Maliwal's mail, which is the mildest of the lot, reads, "What is the difference between BJP and Congress then?"
Well, I can't answer that question; it's for the BJP to deal with it.
However, here are some points on the issue that come to mind:
1. Mr Advani presumably based his decision to step down from the post of Leader of Opposition after election results were announced last Saturday (May 16) on two factors --
a. Since the BJP campaign was entirely centred around him, and he led from the front, he was obliged to accept moral responsibility for the party's defeat;
b. It is only fair that having failed to win a mandate for the party in 2009, the 'seniors' should make way for the next line of leaders to take over so that they can fashion the strategy for the 2014 electoral battle and the Assembly elections that will be held in between now and then.
Mr Advani's decision to step down was noble and laudable. It was both dignified and morally correct. It was what was expected of him.
2. Between Saturday evening and Monday morning, Mr Advani was 'persuaded' to change his decision. He finally decided to stay put as Leader of Opposition, "bowing to pressure" from the party. A critic said, "Actually, it is the other way round. The party has bowed to pressure..." The crudity of the comment is indicative of what is bound to follow by way of reaction.
3. I personally feel Mr Advani would have gained in stature had he stuck to his decision and gracefully allowed the long-overdue transition to take place. The harsh truth is that young India wishes to see a young BJP. This is one of the seminal messages of Election 2009.
4. I find the reason for Mr Advani being 'persuaded' to reverse his decision, and his 'bowing to pressure' from the party, that is, to "avoid jockeying for the post among its next rung of leaders", rather specious. If true, it shows the 'next rung of leaders' in very poor light. The 'next rung' will now have to live with this slur.
I am reminded of what is popularly attributed to Louis XV: "Après moi, le déluge."
Meanwhile, as Shammi Kapoor famously sang, "Tally ho..."

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