The incomplete ‘winner’ in Manmohan and Advani

A layer of political ozone surrounds India and what many of us breathe today is ‘politics’. In the midst of this highly-charged and politicised atmosphere, two key figures, who failed to hit the finishing line notwithstanding their colossal efforts, have been shown the exit door. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leader LK Advani are two portraits which faded when they were all set to be exhibited. Both have fallen prey to the strategies of their own political parties, the Congress and the BJP.

Ironically, while one lacks leadership skills but holds the highest executive rank, the other knows everything about leadership, but couldn’t ever become the prime minister. The two octogenarians were blamed for the wrongs, but not credited enough for their contribution. The parties, which they had served for decades, seem to have swallowed their stature at the end. They have been reduced to nothing more than a cropped image displayed in some corner of their party poster to boost the nominated candidate.

Dr Manmohan Singh, an academician, had begun his career by teaching in Panjab University. From Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance to Governor of Reserve Bank of India and then by holding the post of Finance Minister, the highly acclaimed economist had proved his mettle by showing satisfactory outcomes during the economic crisis in the early 1990s and has, by far, been one of the most influential architects of India’s liberalization. However in 2004, the day UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi declared him as the party prime ministerial candidate, he was immediately termed as a ‘puppet’ in the Congress President’s hand. Later, due to in-house politics and unrelenting opposition barrage, he was labelled a weak prime minister. As if this wasn’t enough, the various corruption scams involving his ministers sullied his image further and his second term is acknowledged to have been disastrous enough to cause Congress` nationwide nosedive.

LK Advani, the ‘Bhishmapitamah’ and stalwart of Bharatiya Janata Party, began his voyage into Indian politics as a volunteer with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). From Jana Sangh to Janata Party and later to Bharatiya Janata Party, Advani emerged as an established leader. Undoubtedly, it was Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1990 which provided rich dividends to the BJP, subsequently leading it to its first full term in power in 1999. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Advani lived with an aspiration to hold the topmost post of the country. However, the once Deputy Prime Minister instead of gaining the praises for his contribution was first slammed by his own party for endorsing Mohammad Ali Jinnah and calling him a ‘secular’ leader during his visit to Pakistan, and later belittled (if one were to analyse the way his absence was treated at the Goa meet, where Modi emerged as a the party’s new national poster boy).

Later, when the BJP decided to make Narendra Modi the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Advani’s long-cherished dream was shattered. Today, terms like ‘Bhishmapitamah’ and ‘veteran’ are associated with him, but just like Bhishmapitamah, the heroic warrior will never rule. Instead Modi, the man he had mentored and backed, will enjoy power and limelight.

Both Manmohan and Advani are those two illustrious figures, who like old soldiers are ones whom people remember, but do not need anymore. Worse still, neither can rebel, as that would only further compromise their remaining dignity.

With the spotlight on Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 elections, Manmohan Singh has been cast into the shadows and would now have to fade away without a chance of clearing his name. He would have to live the remaining years of his life with a reputation that has a blot, when it comes to assessing his competency as a prime minister, especially in the second term.

L K Advani’s situation is all the more worse. BJP had lost elections when Advani was projected as the party’s PM candidate. And now, when BJP has possibly the best chances of forming the next government, it is Modi who will become the PM.

The two men – Manmohan Singh and L K Advani- who stood opposite and against each other throughout their political careers, share common fate in many ways. Whether history would be kind to them or not, the two would remain potential winners, who could not hold the trophy at the end.