It was not a swansong ~ for the patriarch and founder-member of the Bharatiya Janata Party has given no indication of withdrawing from public life as some in his party would desire him to do. And he is too much of an elder statesman to descend to nit-pick over being denied a ticket to the Lok Sabha. Instead it was a lofty message that Lal Krishna Advani sent out to his party on the eve of the anniversary of its formation ~ a wish that it would fare well during the coming election, and thereafter, by upholding the principles that had gained it rich political space when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and he (Advani) had laid out the party’s guiding principles.

That the Prime Minister quickly endorsed this message can only give rise to the hope that he supports a return to the BJP’s original thinking ~ in contrast to slamming political adversaries as anti-national, enemies or all the other vile terms now in vogue with some of the party’s spokespersons. It was after quite some time that Advani “went public”, and it required little reading between the lines to discern a degree of disappointment and frustration over the tone of discourse, successful though it might prove when the votes are being tallied. There are no party leaders around these days to have copies of Advani’s message circulated among the rank and file of the BJPs members. For as a policy document, the party would find no better proof of its credentials. It is, however, unclear how seriously the party will heed Advani’s advice to “look back and look within”, for truth be told, the current breed of political activists ~ across all parties ~ would prefer to reverse the order of “nation, party and self”. Or to echo his contention that, “in our concept of Indian nationalism we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national.

The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at the personal and political level”… and “the essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us as our enemies, but only as our adversaries.” And in all humility he also recognised the guidance of Deendayal Upadhyaya, Vajpayee and “many other great inspiring and selfless leaders.” There are a few members of the present ministerial council who had their first taste of “office” under Advani (and Vajpayee): they must ask themselves if they honour the ideals espoused by those two stalwarts, or deem their example as obsolete or irrelevant. An honest answer would serve as a guideline for the future ~ or tell us if Advani was only fantasizing.