Always take the middle of the road and you can’t
go wrong, an astute analyst of the Indian political scene
used to say. Leader of the Opposition and BJP prime-ministerial
candidate L K Advani seems to be scrupulously following
the middle path in his autobiography My Country, My Life,
released on Wednesday, some 13 months ahead of the next
Lok Sabha elections. It is unusual for an active national
political leader to come out with an autobiography a year
ahead of the general elections.
By putting the country first in the title, Advani is presumably
trying to deflect criticism of the timing of the book by
making the point that the nation takes precedence over the
individual. The title of the book itself sounds like “My
Country is My Life”! And it is a balancing act he
maintains throughout the book.
While talking about Karachi schooldays in St Patrick’s,
he also refers to his bonding with the RSS as a teenager.
While mentioning how he had not listened to those BJP colleagues
who had asked him to stake a claim to the party leadership
earlier, he makes the point that he saw himself as an ideologue
and that he felt it was Vajpayee who should lead since he
was more acceptable to the masses.
By mentioning instances where he did not agree with Vajpayee
— like Brajesh Mishra’s appointment to the dual
posts of principal secretary to the PM and National Security
Adviser, or the move to remove Modi as Gujarat CM in the
wake of the riots of early 2002 — Advani underlines
his own contribution to national events, like the 1990 Ram
While mentioning that what happened at Godhra could not
justify the riots that followed, Advani is again striking
a middle-of-the-road posture, as he does by defending the
comments he made in praise of Jinnah while visiting Pakistan
in 2005. In this coalition era, it is important to follow
the middle path, especially if the ultimate destination
is 7, Race Course Road, the PM’s official residence!