AHMEDABAD (TIP): In most photographs taken of L K Advani and Narendra Modi in the 1980s, the Gujarat chief minister is seen respectfully walking one step behind his mentor. In those days, Modi was an obedient RSS pracharak on loan to the BJP. When he was appointed chief minister in 2001, Modi took his first tentative steps out of Advani’s shadow and walked alongside him. Today, the ‘shishya’ has stolen a march ahead of his guru to the extent that Advani may now have to walk in Modi’s shadow. Flashback to 1975. At the height of the Emergency, when the RSS was opposing Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial ways, top Jan Sangh leader L K Advani first met Modi, a go-getter pracharak with exceptional organizational skills.
For the next 30 years, the two would be inseparable, watching each other’s back within and outside the party. Modi displayed his political acumen by orchestrating the BJP’s first-ever victory in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 1987. From choice of candidates to booth management, he oversaw it all, rising further in Advani’s eyes. As a result, when Modi suggested that Advani contest Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar instead of Delhi, the mentor readily agreed. Advani’s presence energized BJP’s grassroots workers, but also led to the sidelining of the other power centre of the BJP in Gujarat – Shankersinh Vaghela. Modi, along with Pramod Mahajan, was also involved in planning the Gujarat leg of Advani’s historydefining rathyatra from Somnath in 1990, which led to a saffron upsurge across the country and catapulted the BJP into a national force. The party gained the maximum in the political upheaval and came to power in Gujarat with two-thirds majority for the first time in 1995.
Keshubhai Patel was made chief minister, but Advani ensured that his man – Modi – was appointed general secretary in charge of organization. Six years later, in October 2001, Advani helped Modi become chief minister for the first time. The kingmaker had become king for the first time without winning a single election. When Modi was accused of mishandling the 2002 post-Godhra riots and clamour for his ouster grew, Advani, then Union home minister, stood by Modi like a rock. During BJP’s national executive in Goa in 2002, Vajpayee was keen to remove Modi but Advani, working along with young leaders, helped save Modi’s job. The Modi-Advani partnership ended in 2005 when Advani came under attack from the Sangh for praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah during a trip to Pakistan. Modi chose to remain quiet. The chasm had grown considerably by 2009 when many in the party felt the Gujarat CM would make a better PM candidate. But the last straw was Modi’s decision to prioritize his Sadbhavana fast at a time when Advani was planning to launch a nationwide yatra against UPA corruption. Instead of kicking off the yatra from Porbandar, Gandhi’s birthplace in Gujarat, Advani decided to roll it out from Sitab Diara in Bihar, a state ruled by Modi’s arch rival Nitish Kumar.