The BJP’s two top leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, have now been awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Narendra Modi government. Both have been awarded the Bharat Ratna while alive, Vajpayee in 2015 and Advani when he is 96, silencing critics who accused Narendra Modi of sidelining most of the BJP’s senior leaders.
Advani was also awarded the Parma Vibhushan by the Modi government in 2015, soon after coming to power. Now, at the age of 96, Advani has been awarded the Bharat Ratna in a major move that will prove to be Modi’s political legacy. He also consolidates the Modi government’s claim that it has acknowledged the political contributions of stalwarts from both sides of the political spectrum, which the Congress ignored.
For example, senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee and Madan Mohan Malviya were also awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Modi government, along with socialist icon Karpoori Thakur, an awardee this year.
Modi, in his message on Saturday, said he had learned a lot from Advani, who has been the architect of the BJP. Advani has been among the senior leaders of the party who rose to prominence by making the BJP the political face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1990. He co-founded the party in 1980 and was party president three times. He also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister, was leader of the opposition in both houses of Parliament and became the face of the party’s prime minister in the 2009 elections. In 2014, Advani became part of the mandal margdarshak of the party along with Murli Manohar Joshi.
Advani’s political rise came from his Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya to press for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the Babri Masjid site. He was detained in Bihar by the then chief minister of the state, Lalu Prasad Yadav, on the orders of then chief minister VP Singh.
In 1992, when kar sewaks mosque was demolished on December 6, Advani was accused of making provocative speeches near the site. CBI charged him and other BJP leaders with criminal conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid. Twenty-eight years later, in 2020, a court acquitted Advani in the case for lack of evidence and said that the demolition of the mosque was a spontaneous act and not previously planned. In 2022, the High Court confirmed the same.
Despite being the face of the party and raising many BJP stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj, Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley, Advani could never realize his dream of becoming Prime Minister. Modi’s rise in 2013-14 saw Advani retreat to the sidelines. But Modi maintained his unwavering respect for Advani, and made it a point to visit him on his birthday every year.
A Padma Vibhushan in 2015 and now a Bharat Ratna now underlines Modi’s respect for Advani and silences those who questioned Advani’s absence at the Pan Prathistha event in Ayodhya on January 22. Advani had cited harsh weather conditions for missing the event.
“Advani Ji’s decades of service in public life have been marked by an unwavering commitment to transparency and integrity, setting an exemplary standard in political ethics. He has made unparalleled efforts to promote national unity and cultural revival. The awarding of the Bharat Ratna to him is a very emotional moment for me. “I will always consider it a privilege to have countless opportunities to interact with him and learn from him,” PM Modi posted on X on Saturday.
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first published: February 3, 2024, 1:45 PM IST