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March 19, 1998

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The most dynamic saffron leader

Lal Kishinchand Advani has steered the Bharatiya Janata Party's fortunes for the most part of its existence, leading it to power for a second time, although in seas that remain choppy.

As the party's most dynamic leader, he undertook rath yatras and worked ceaselessly to reach to the people. In ensuring the return of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister, he can at least experience the satisfaction of a 'mission accomplished'.

Advani enters the Lok Sabha 22 months after he resigned his seat, following his alleged involvement in the hawala scandal. Announcing that he would enter Parliament only after his name is cleared, Advani did not contest the 1996 election.

Contesting the 1998 election from Gandhinagar after the Delhi high court had cleared him of the charges, Advani had a pleasant surprise when the Surpreme Court gave him a clean chit in the case on March 2, when the counting of votes began.

In any case, the Gandhinagar electorate had reposed confidence in him by giving him a lead of more than 200,000 votes.

Holding the party presidency on an extended term, Advani was thrust the onerous responsibility of bringing the BJP to power. This forced him to enter into regional pre-poll alliances.

The party has achieved its goal, but it is now riding piggyback on the allies.

With impressive terms both as party president and as MP, Advani has a career graph whose undercurrent is committed devotion.

Taking over from Vajpayee as party president in 1986, he had a two-term tenure till 1990. After an interregnum between 1990 and 1993, when Dr Murli Manohar Joshi held the reins, Advani assumed leadership once again and continues till now.

It was Advani who put the BJP on the Hindutva track after his predecessor tried for years to shed the Jan Sangh legacy in his bid to project it as a centrist alternative.

Bringing the Ayodhya temple issue centrestage, Advani chose his battleground carefully and blew the conch to signal political war, exploiting religion for political gain.

The climax of Advani's political strategy was the launch of the rath yatra which simultaneously pulled down the V P Singh government and projected the BJP as a national alternative.

Thereafter, although occupying the Opposition benches, the party assiduously continued to pursue its own agenda, primarily aimed at propelling it to power. However, the backlash after the Babri mosque demolition on December 6, 1992, put it on the defensive.

A keen parliamentarian, Advani manned a number of committees and espoused innumerable causes both inside and outside the House.

The 1977 success of the Janata Party led to his installation in the Union Cabinet as information and broadcasting minister. He was also made leader of the House in Rajya Sabha.

His term in office was marked by the relaxation of government control over the official media. It was largely because of his pioneering efforts that the Emergency decisions were rescinded.

Born in Karachi on November 8, 1927, Advani had his schooling at St Patricks and later at D G National College, Hyderabad, Sind.

Later he sought admission in the Ned engineering college, Karachi, but did not join the institution. This was mainly because he came in contact with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

At Partition, he was the Karachi RSS unit secretary. After Partition, he came to Rajasthan and worked as an RSS pracharak. He later did his law at the Bombay University.

In 1951, when the Jan Sangh was formed, he joined the party and was its unit secretary from 1952 to 1957.

Between 1958, when he shifted to Delhi, and 1963, he was secretary of its unit. It was during this time that Advani worked as secretary of the Jan Sangh parliamentary group, of which Vajpayee was the leader.

He joined Organiser, the RSS weekly, as its joint editor in 1960.


Elections '98

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