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Advani will regret supporting Modi, predicted Vajpayee, who had wanted Modi to step down as Gujarat CM

Advani, Vajpayee, Modi at a public rally in Ahmedabad
By RK Misra*
After a life embedded in flowing prose and lyrical poetry, embellishing harsh politics with soft imagery, Atal Bihari Vajpayee entered the domain of the dead on August 16, 2018. A sombre nation spared time from lynchings and launchings to lament. The dust has settled. The man is no more, but images linger: Of ironies and contrasts, of the first saffron prime minister viewed from the home state of the next one. Of the time when there was melody in politics and the heart stirred to a captivating tune, of feet stomp stadiums, shrill-shriek speeches and snuff lives on the street.
As in his last days, so in 1980, Vajpayee stood straddling the divide between irrelevance and irreverence. The 1977 post-Emergency Janata Party experiment, which had brought the first non-Congress government to power headed by Gujarati Morarji Desai,  had come unstuck. The contentious issue was the dual membership of the erstwhile Jan Sangh members.
The Jana Sangh was re-born as the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with Vajpayee as it’s first president in 1980. Soon after, he was in Rajkot, considered the bastion of the saffron outfit in Gujarat, to address one of his initial public meetings , post the re-birth.
The memory is still vivid for this correspondent present that night to cover the event. A bowed head Vajpayee and his by-now famous pauses -- pregnant with verbal possibilities -- and an overflowing ground with it’s gaze fixed at the man. The face rises to utter just a single sentence -- the world is round (duniya gol hai) -- and goes blank again before it lights up, almost after eternity to utter, "We are back to where we started” (jahan the wahi aa gaye). The tone, the tenor, the man and his prose. The gathering is in raptures. Candid as he was, Vajpayee could carry a situation merely by mocking himself and his predicament!
Who else could have seen the BJP plumb the bottom getting merely two seats in a Lok Sabha of 543 members four years later (1984), and oscillate to power at the head of an NDA coalition in 1999,and more importantly rule for the length of the term, his earlier terms aborting prematurely at 13 days and 13 months respectively.
If present Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an Uttar Pradesh connect in Varanasi, Vajpayee also had a momentary flirtation with Gujarat. He had contested from Gujarat’s capital, Gandhinagar, and Lucknow parliamentary constituencies in 1996, but unlike Modi, who gave up Vadodara in his home state to retain Varanasi, Vajpayee opted for his roots.
Simple assumptions singe but comparisons provide clarity. Vajpayee was vanilla, fragrant with velvet hiding a crusted core but a humane spirit. His saffron successor in government has neither time nor space for such niceties, cold, and ruthless as he is in the pursuit of absolute power.
It shows in his approach to Vajpayee as well. The late leader, quite literally, must be restless in his grave to see those who neglected him in his life after he fell ill are now ‘marketing’ his death. The ‘asthi-kalash’ yatras (carrying the ashes of the dead leader) to every district of the country quite literally turned an occasion of sobriety into a saddening spectacle.
The forthcoming Assembly elections to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram was apparently playing on the minds of the ruling party. The just concluded national executive of the BJP cemented lingering doubts by adding his name to the party’s new slogan for the 2019 general elections -- ‘Ajay Bharat, Atal BJP’ (Indomitable India, Unshakeable BJP). Cash-in and carry on!
Contrary to what is sought to be made out, Modi owes his political survival, salvation and rise to only one person, party veteran LK Advani. He shared an uneasy equation with Vajpayee, who was inherently suspicious of his behind the scene manipulations.
Vajpayee generally refrained from interfering in matters pertaining to Gujarat and would candidly tell political complainants from his own party to talk to Advaniji. He was known to have a soft corner for Kashiram Rana,  who was twice minister textiles in his government, and former chief minister Suresh Mehta. After Modi returned as chief minister in 200, both became persona non-grata and were virtually hounded out.
Incidentally, Rana as Gujarat BJP president in 1993 had dropped Modi as general secretary and replaced him with Suresh Mehta. There were protests, and even Advani was heckled at a function.
Gordhan Zadaphia, in the period he quit the BJP and formed his own regional outfit, had confessed to this correspondent how these 'spontaneous’ protests was the work of the threesome -- Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia, Modi and him.
Zadaphia, who was the minister of state for home in the Modi government during the 2002 communal riots, subsequently fell out with Modi but has since returned to the BJP. One time close pals, the Togadia-Modi feud leading to the ouster of the VHP chief is a known fact now.
Interestingly, when Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled taking away a large chunk of BJP legislators to Khajuraho, threatening the stability of the Keshubhai Patel government, it was Vajpayee who had struck a compromise. Under the terms of the compromise, Keshubhai Patel was replaced by Suresh Mehta and Modi was moved out of Gujarat.
Among those who had demonstrated against the compromise outside the VIP Circuit House in Gandhinagar where Vajpayee was put up that night was Anandiben Patel, who remained a senior minister in the Modi cabinet in Gujarat, succeeded him as chief minister and is presently the Madhya Pradesh governor.
Vajpayee was also very upset when a public function in his honour at the Sardar Patel stadium in Ahmedabad on May 20, 1996 was used to virtually lynch an elderly cabinet minister, Atmaram Patel of their own BJP led Suresh Mehta government. Patel and others owed allegiance to Vaghela and were brought into the cabinet after Vajpayee brokered the peace.
While an FIR of attempt to murder was registered against Togadia and 38 others after the incident, the matter lingered on for 22 years despite the formal move by the government to withdraw the case in 1998.The case came alive suddenly in January 2018 when warrants were issued for Togadia’s arrest and he levelled allegations implicating the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) in the move. The case was closed thereafter.
When the 2001 earthquake devastated Kutch, Vajpayee had pulled out all stops to ensure relief and rehabilitation. Among many others, he sanctioned over Rs 100 crore from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to rebuild the Kutch district hospital into a state-of- the-art medical facility. He wanted it to be the first of the four All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) to be built outside Delhi. Alas, this was not to be. The hospital was handed over to the corporate giant Adani to run during the tenure of chief minister Modi and remains with them.
Vajpayee’s remark at the airport press conference on April 4, 2002 after a day-long visit to  the riot-affected Ahmedabad, where he reminded chief minister Modi of his ‘raj-dharma’ and Modi’s displeasuredly, low voiced intervention 'wohi to kar raha hun saab’ (that’s what I am doing sir) will continue to haunt him for a long time to come.
Not content by merely chastising in public, Prime Minister Vajpayee felt the need to shoot off a letter dated June 1, 2002 (two months later), expressing doubts whether the interests of the riot-hit were being looked after by the state government properly and stressing on the need to do so forthwith.
It is common knowledge that Vajpayee wanted Modi replaced as chief minister after the riots and had made this known to Advani. The stage for the change was to be set at the Panjim national executive of the BJP. Advani let the cat out of the bag to Modi, who upstaged Vajpayee by tendering his resignation to ‘orchestrated’ shouts opposing the move, while Advani sat silent through the entire drama.
Vajpayee had subsequently vented his anguish and anger to a journalist close to him with the words "lalkrishna ek din bahut pastayenge’ (one day Lal Krishna will regret this). Prophetic words indeed!
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

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