Defending the motion
The problem with LK Advani is that the party he built is slipping from his grasp. And the man who may take it away from him is the same one whose gaddi he helped save at Goa in 2002, when Atal Behari Vajpayee thought Narendra Modi should offer to resign after the communal carnage. Today, the protégé is the larger than the mentor. And the sooner the latter realises this the better.
The problem is that when the old don’t give way to younger and more capable people, they may be forcibly pushed aside. During the Mughal era, kings were shunted aside and imprisoned by their own stronger sons when they were old and feeble. In a democracy, this process is normally done through an electoral process where the strongest contender wins through the ballot. But what happens when parties make such a big deal of consensus and non-combative decision-making and do not have a mechanism to decide between contending ambitions through the ballot?
You then get a situation where a Modi has to use the power of the grassroots to claim what he believes is his by virtue of his performance. Wisdom lies in Advani realising that the child is the father of the man. When you are young, you hold your father’s hand. When you are old, you hold your son’s hand to steady yourself. This is the law of life, and this is the law that requires Advani to yield gracefully to the man who may yet honour him if he bows out gracefully and plays the role of elder statesman rather than a contender for power.
Against the motion
LK Advani may be the last voice of reason in a party that seems consumed by the hype surrounding a man who has done little for the party except in one state. Advani knows that on a national front Modi may not be the force he is projected to be, and in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s case he has earned a reputation that precedes him, and could well damage ties and alliances even before they are formed.
Other BJP leaders may see the pitfalls of elevating Modi to a point from which there is no return for the party, but few have the influence or power to prevent it. Advani, irrespective of Modi’s supporters admit it or not, is one of the few leaders who can be a stumbling block for Modi.
Whether Advani is the voice of reason or not, only time will tell, but in a party where few seem to be able to express their frank opinion regarding Modi, it is important for the party to have a counter-weight to the Gujarat Chief Minister to ensure the party has some allies by the time the next elections come around.