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L.K. Advani: The charioteer whose Ram Rath Yarta set the narrative for 'saffron surge'

IANS | February 03, 2024 05:36 PM

NEW DELHI: Bharat Ratna to Lal Krishna Advani couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time: in the immediate aftermath of fulfillment of promises of the charioteer of the Ram Rath Yatra and dreams of crores of people on January 22 – “Ram Lalla hum aayenge, mandir wahin banayenge.”

Incidentally, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who led the grand Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya and related it to awakening of India’s civilisational conscience. Modi was the organiser of Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath in September 1990. The yatra was a grand success. Modi was also by his side when the Bihar Chief Minister got Advani arrested in Oct 1990 in Sitamarhi. The rest is history.

Besides the Ram Rath Yatra, of some other Yatras that Advani led, one was based on the theme of Suraj (good governance) and honouring the martyrs. The Modi model of governance has taken care of both – fair, equitable and transparent delivery on the ground, as also honoring and caring for those who died protecting the nation before and after Independence.

Advani spoke of “pseudo secularism” and “cultural nationalism”, PM Modi has unveiled Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Sabka Prayas and Vikas Bhi, Virasat Bhi.

In a befitting tribute to his one-time mentor and former Deputy Prime Minister, PM Modi on Saturday announced that Lal Krishna Advani will be conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award. He described Advani as “one of the most respected statesmen of our times, adding that his contribution to the development of India is "monumental."

PM Modi, who has been with Advani in his remarkable journey over the years, said: “His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister.” Definitely, the highest civilian honour has been given to Advani in recognition of his multifaceted contributions to the country. Each of his contributions has been transformative in their own way. What is also of significance is that this honour is being conferred under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This great occasion also reminds the nation how BJP’s towering figure, Advani, propelled the party into national reckoning with his Rath Yatra for Ayodhya’s Ram Temple in the early 1990s. Apart from his immense contribution to nation building as Deputy Prime Minister of India, Advani has been instrumental into building the BJP as a national political force.

The results of the general election of 1989 bear testimony to this fact. The BJP bounced back from two seats in 1984 to 85 seats in 1989 in what was a clear indication about its growth trajectory in Indian politics. This election led to forming the first minority government since India’s independence, under V.P. Singh of Janata Dal.

BJP’s representation rose to 120 seats in 1991 Lok Sabha elections. By 1996, the BJP had emerged as the single-largest party with 161 seats. Despite minor setbacks in 2004, the BJP maintained its upward trajectory, securing 138 seats. The year 2014 marked a massive turning point for the BJP’s political gains, with the party winning a decisive majority with 282 seats.

In 2019, the BJP continued to expand its footprints and influence, increasing its vote share to 37 per cent, securing 303 Lok Sabha seats. The meteoric rise of BJP is attributed also to the firm belief of L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee that there would be a massive saffron surge in the political landscape of the country and that BJP would one day win a huge majority in Lok Sabha polls. This turned out to be a reality.

Another interesting way to understand the contribution of Advani to the party is that ever since he first helmed the reigns of the BJP, the Congress never won an absolute majority in Lok Sabha. Advani’s massive efforts that made BJP a formidable political outfit today date back to September 25, 1990, when the BJP stalwart had addressed a mammoth gathering of people near Gujarat’s Somnath Temple, from where the wheels of Ram Rath Yatra started rolling. As a result, Advani became the face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the late 1980.

It is common knowledge that the Rath Yatra played a crucial role in shaping and defining the saffron party’s electoral and political fortunes.

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