New Delhi: It has been a long and eventful journey for the 'Loh Purush' of Indian politics. But LK Advani, the man who built the Bharatiya Janata Party, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee is an isolated man today.
The Loh Purush gave enough indications in 2012 that there was still some iron left in him. A photo op during 2012's Gujarat poll campaign was an indicator of what lay ahead.
Today, the 'Rath Yatri' of Indian politics finds himself totally isolated in the very party he co-founded in 1980. The man responsible for his isolation is the same person who he mentored, groomed and coronated as the Gujarat Chief Minister in 2001, Narendra Modi.
In June 2013, post Modi's anointment as party's campaign committee chief, Advani resigned from all party positions to lodge his protest. Now a few months later, despite his stiff opposition, Modi has been anointed as the PM candidate. For him and his aides, it's a bitter pill to swallow.
But for many others, he is simply unwilling to pass on the baton. "He should be gracious and give up," said former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani.
But coming out second best has been the tragedy of Advani's otherwise illustrious political career. He's been a three-time BJP president, a former Deputy PM, the nuts and bolts man, the key organiser, yet forced to play second fiddle to the more charismatic Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Advani was the hindutva hero, but Vajpayee the inclusive and hence more acceptable face.
When he tried to repackage himself on the lines of Vajpayee by undertaking a trip to Jinnah Mausoleum in Karachi, praising Jinnah's secular credentials, it ended up in Advani being ejected out of his party presidency courtesy the RSS. Ironically, while Advani's stock within the Sangh parivar was falling, Modi's profile was growing.
As Modi started revealing his national ambitions becoming the darling of the corporate class, Advani's equation with Modi deteriorated. Things finally came to such a head on between the two, that in 2011, as Advani announced a nationwide yatra against corruption from Gujarat, Modi announced his own 3-day Sadbhawna fast in Gandhinagar. With an attempt to make himself more inclusive, Advani ended up starting his yatra from Sitabdiara in Bihar.
There are many who say that Modi has done to Advani what Advani attempted to do to Vajpayee throughout the NDA years, try to position himself as an equal if not above Vajpayee. Today, Narendra Modi is described in all phrases that were used earlier to describe Advani - Hindutva hero, the hardliner. Advani was the nuts and bolts man for the BJP, taking the party from a mere two seats in 1980s to a high of 182 in 1998. Today, for the 85-year-old yatri, the yatra seems to be ending in his own isolation within his party.