Deputy Prime Minister - Shri Lal Krishna Advani
A Man of Sweetness & Light
Few ministerial appointments have been welcomed as widely and as warmly as Shri Advani’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister of India. He is a very worthy heir to a very worthy heritage.
Lal Krishna Advani was born on Nov.8, 1927 in Hyderabad Sindh, now Pakistan. He had his schooling at St.Patrick’s, Karachi. For higher education, he went to D.G. National College, Hyderabad Sindh, where he came in contact with RSS in 1942. It was love at first sight and he has been a steadfast and model Swayamsevak ever since. Although he got admission to N.E.D. Engineering College, Karachi, he decided not to take it, to be able to devote more time to RSS work. (Much later he did LL B. from Bombay University) At the time of Partition, in 1947, he was RSS Secretary (Karyavah) of Karachi city.
After Partition, Advani worked full, time as RSS Pracharak in Rajasthan. When Jana Sangh was born, he became Rajasthan State Secretary 1952—57. In 1958 he shifted to Delhi and became Delhi BJS Secretary 1958—63. During this same period he acted as Secretary to the BJS Parliamentary Group led by Vajpayee. Meanwhile he joined ‘Organiser’ weekly as Assistant Editor in 1960. Here his columns ‘Delhi Diary’ arid ‘Periscope’ became great hits. Also it was his questions as a Pressman, that elicited the information from Dr. Bhabha in 1966, that if Government of India did decide on a Hiroshima—type A—bomb, the same could be produced in two years at a cost of Rs. 15 lakhs a—piece only.
In 1967, he was elected Chairman, Delhi Metropolitan Council. In 1970 Advani became Member Rajya Sabha, and he has continued in that House or the Lok Sabha ever since with a brief break.
Meanwhile he had become All India BJS President in 1973 and he continued in that office until that Party was merged in Janata in 1977. He married Kamala Jagtiani in 1965 and has two Children — Jayant and Pratibha.
Advani has the reputation of being, like the late Deendayal Upadhyaya, an ‘Ajatashatru,’ a man who has no enemies. Indeed he personifies Mathew Arnold’s definition of culture as “sweetness and light”.
As Chairman, Metropolitan Council, Advani devoted much time to study of Electoral Reform. He was the first man to point out that our electoral system is a gamble, where a party with 40% vote can get 70% seats. He urged the Lists Systems as more representative of public opinion. He also urged state funding of electoral campaigns.
He also studied the vexed language issue and found, to his amusement, that until 1650 — well after Shakespeare, the vested interests had opposed English, and retained Latin as the official language of England. And when patriotic Englishmen urged adoption of English, old—timers argued that only “new lawyers who cannot write and read” would like to have a “barbarous inelegant and inadequate ….. Toonge (tongue) like Englysshe” as the language of law. They also argued that patients would not be safe in the hands of doctors who studied medicine, and wrote their prescription, in English !
In the Parliament, Advani commands attention and respect by his sobriety and thoroughness.
Whenever Advani stands up, the House is all attention because he is bound to have something worthwhile and weighty to say.Advani’s term as BJS president (1973—77) was marked by much excitement, hard struggle and great achievement. He led the Party through all these phases with credit.
When in 1974 the President of India made a reference to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution, seeking its opinion whether Presidential polls could be held even though the Electoral College, which elects the President, is incomplete, the Jana Sangh decided to intervene in the hearing. Instead of having a professional lawyer present its case, the party asked Shri Advani to argue in person. Shri Advani had qualified for law but had never practised law. This was his first appearance in court.
At the hearing, he had to cross swords with legal luminaries like Attorney—General Niren De, Solicitor-General Lal Narain Sinha, and Additional Solicitor General F.S. Nariman. Shri Advani’s able exposition of the case —how GOI had wilfully not held the Gujarat poll — earned him rich encomiums from the 7 Judge Bench, which included, among others, Chief Justice A.N. Ray, Justice Beg, Justice H.R. Khanna and Justice Chandrachud. Shri Nariman told him that should he at any time renouce politics, he had a ready-made profession in Law.
It was at this hearing that Justice Khanna met Shri Advani for the first time. Ever since, he has held him in high esteem. In fact as Justice Khanna’s recently published autobiography, — “Neither Roses nor Thorns” — reveals, two major decisions in Shri Khanna’s life have been influenced mainly by Shri Advani :
(1) Resignation from Charan Singh’s Cabinet in 1979; and
(2) Decision to contest against Giani Zail Singh for Presidency in 1982.
Four years later, Advani had another opportunity to appear in court — this time as complainant when Shri Chagla was defending him. Later Shri Chagla reported :
“During the emergency I went to Bangalore to defend Vajpayee, Shri Advani and others. And I remember the learning and the scholarship that my friend Mr. Advani possesses.” Advani sat next to Chagla, took down notes and gave him instructions from time to time.
While in detention during the Emergency, Advani not only maintained a diary but also penned learned political and constitutional commentaries, which circulated throughout the country as underground literature. In these papers he underlined the many parallels between Mrs. Gandhi’s emergency and Hitler’s Reichstag fire and take—over in Germany. He also showed how she was amending the Constitution out of recognition, and converting it into an instrument of dictatorship. Later his Diary and Papers were compiled in book form as “ A Prisoner’s Scrap—book.” Last month they were published a second time. “The Hindustan Times”, described it as “an unscrappable Scrap Book” which bore “the stamp of a reflective mind.” Morarjibhai saw in the Diary “a person of singular honesty and dedication, culture and equanimity,”
The JP Movement passed the Emergency ‘agni-pariksha’ and emerged as the Janata Government. How that great promise was quashed by men like Charan Singh, Raj Narain and Madhu Limaye has been clearly brought out in Advani’s book “The People Betrayed”.
In their anxiety to preserve the unity of the Party, Vajpayee and Advani pressed Morarjibhai to take Ex-Home Minister Charan Singh again into the Cabinet — as Finance Minister. (Men like Jagjiwan Ram, Bahuguna, Chandra Shekhar and Nana Deshmukh, who knew Charan Singh better, opposed his induction. Piloo Modi said that if at all he was to be inducted, he might be given a minor portfolio like Health.) Charan Singh used the new office to topple the Janata Government. Admits Advani : “I have no hesitation in admitting that we took a wrong turning. In a way our emotional attachment to the party’s unity got the better of our political judgement”.
However, the Janata Government performed remarkably well as long as it lasted. It made good on its election manifesto, to give “Both, Bread and Liberty”. Prices remained steady, to the relief of the common man. And everybody could now breathe in freedom.
Writes Advani, who presided over the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting : “Our first and foremost task after entering upon office was to dismantle the Emergency apparatus. The Government set about it with expedition. The three main pillars of democracy are the Press, the Judiciary and the Opposition. All the three were speedily emancipated from the shackles put on them”.
Press censorship was abolished, and the censor machinery formally wound up. Hundreds of presses seized during the Emergency were released. Journalists disaccredited or deprived of their houses, were given back their accreditation and accommodation. Deported foreign correspondents were allowed to return. Newspapers blacklisted for advertisements because they were not willing to become peddlers of governmental propaganda, were put back on D A V P lists.
The Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act, 1976, which can well be regarded as the most obnoxious piece of anti—Press legislation the Indian Press has encountered in its entire history, was repealed. The Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act - popularly known as the Feroze Gandhi Act — repealed by Mrs. Gandhi’s Government, was revived by the Janata. The Press Council wound up during the Emergency, was resurrected. The forced merger of four new agencies was undone, and the agencies were freed from government control.
The Constitution was amended to restore to the judiciary the powers it had lost because of the Forty—Second Amendment. MISA was scrapped. The Rule of Law was fully restored, making it possible for courts to function fearlessly and independently. The Forty—fourth amendment was passed to cancel out the damage done by the Forty—second amendment. The Opposition was accorded statutory recognition in the country’s polity. The Leaders of Opposition in both Houses of Parliament were given Cabinet rank. For the first time, A.I.R. and T.V. were thrown open to the Opposition. The Prime Minister’s address to the nation was followed by a speech by the Leaders of the Opposition. A similar practice was started in the States.
Shri Advani has only one regret : that he appointed the Vergese Committee to report on media autonomy and did not straight away implement the Chanda Committee recommendation for media autonomy, made a decade earlier. Had he done so, media autonomy would have become a reality before the Janata fell — and even Mrs. Gandhi would not have been able to put the clock back.
But overall, his was an outstanding performance. Wrote Janardhan Thakur in his ‘All the Janata Men’ : “The man who has really helped gain a greater respectability for the Jana Sangh constitutent of the Janata Party without ever projecting himself, is Lal Krishna Advani, by far the cleanest and straightest leader in Indian politics today. Clean, sophisticated, business-like, mild—looking but firm when needed, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting is almost a freak in today’s political world. Though never in the forefront, he stands bright as a candle of hope in an otherwise dark prospect.”
The rest is recent history remembered by all. Since those heroic times in the seventies, BJP and with it, L.K. Advani have seen many ups and downs. The Party won just two seats in 1984 even though its poll percentage was second only to Congress. And Advani had to go through the ‘Agni Pariksha’ of a false Hawala Case. But throuqh all these trials and tribulations, BJP has emerged stronger than ever — and Lal Krishna Advani pure as gold.
His Somnath to Ayodhya Yatra made history. And today Vajpayee-Advani Leadership reminds you of nothing so much as the great Nehru—Patel team in the formative years of Indian Independence. There is one difference: the old team was not always on the same wavelength, the new team always is.
Today thanks to his able handling of the internal scene, Advani has also emerged on the International scene. As Dick Cheney, U.S. Vice President, who is the real power behind President Bush told Advani during his U.S. trip, his reputation had reached America ahead of him.
The country has always seen proud of the veteran Vajpayee. Today it has reason to be proud of Advani also. And long suffering Sindhis in Pakistan occupied Sindh (P.O.S.) will draw sustenance from the fact that a son of the Sindh soil is no. 2 in Hind. All this augurs well for the Hindustan Peninsula from Khyber to Kanyakumari.