The Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, will be given to veteran BJP politician LK Advani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on X (previously Twitter). “One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental,” PM Modi said of Advani when making the announcement. Alongside these noteworthy accomplishments, PM Modi cited BJP stalwarts’ decades-long careers in public life.
LK Advani, who was raised in a Hindu immigrant household and emerged as the leader of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, was born in a united India. He presided over the Bharatiya Janata Party for the longest duration since the party’s founding in 1980.
This is a synopsis of his decades-long, significant influence on Indian politics.
RSS Swamsevak Lal Krishna Advani was born on November 8, 1927, into a Hindu Sindhi business family in Karachi, Sindh, which was then a British-controlled region of India that was separated into many states. He enrolled in Government College Hyderabad, Sindh, after completing his education at Saint Patrick’s High School in Karachi, Sindh.
Advani enrolled in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1941 at the age of 14, and he assiduously began visiting the Karachi shakha. As a pracharak of the RSS branch in Karachi, he gained prominence among the Sangh ranks. Later, in 1947, he was appointed Secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Karachi.
Following the split, his family relocated to Bombay, India, and he obtained his legal degree from the Government Law College of Bombay University.
He worked as a Pracharak at Alwar, Bharatpur, Kota, Bundi, and Jhalawar till 1952, following the partition. Advani began his political career as the general secretary of Jana Sangha, a party founded in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mookharjee in collaboration with the RSS, under the direction of SS Bhandari.
Advani relocated to Delhi in 1957, when he quickly rose from general secretary to president of the party’s Delhi branch. He was chosen to lead the First Delhi Metropolitan Council in 1967. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1970 and served there for six years.
He held a number of positions in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh before being elected as its president in 1973 during the party working committee meeting in Kanpur. Advani was elected from Delhi to the Rajya Sabha in 1970 and again in 1976, during Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency.
When the emergency was lifted in 1977 and elections were called, Jana Sangha joined up with the Janata Party and numerous other parties to run for the Lok Sabha. Advani had competed in the Lok Sabha elections alongside his colleague, the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The post-emergency elections were won by them. Following that, LK Advani was appointed Minister of Information and Broadcasting by the Janata Party. Vajpayee was appointed Foreign Minister, and Morarji Desai took over as Prime Minister at that point.
However, internal strife within Jana Sangh led to the split of several of the organization’s leaders. Along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other members, Advani also left the Janata Party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One of the eminent leaders of the recently established BJP, Advani was chosen to represent Madhya Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha for two terms beginning in 1982.
The Hindutva and Ram Janmabhoomi movements, spearheaded by LK Advani, are embraced by the BJP
The party allied itself with Hindutva philosophy under Advani’s leadership. It wholeheartedly supported the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi campaign.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) began a campaign in the early 1980s to build a mandir at the location of the disputed Babri building, dedicated to Lord Rama. In its election manifesto, the BJP included support for the movement. In 1989, the party had a significant surge in the Lok Sabha elections. Following the Congress and Janata Dal, the BJP rose from winning just two seats in the 1984 elections to a stunning 85 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections of 1989, making it the third-largest party in the Lok Sabha.
For a celebration that had only been around for ten years, the total was astounding. Congress refused to establish a government because of its upswing, which prevented it from reaching the majority threshold. Consequently, the BJP and external left parties backed the National Front Government headed by VP Singh in gaining power.
The Ram Mandir movement gathered steam during this period. The Ram Mandir campaign gained significant momentum in the late 1980s because of the efforts of numerous political figures and organisations, including the RSS and the VHP, as well as BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, and Pramod Mahajan. Advani emerged as the movement’s political spokesperson.
LK Advani’s Rath Yatra, which resulted in the contentious Ayodhya building being demolished
In order to gather karsevaks and garner support for the Ram Janmabhoomi cause, Advani organised a “Rath Yatra” in 1990 that began at the revered temple of Somnath in Gujarat and ended in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. His goal was to raise public awareness of the Ayodhya controversy and solicit support for the construction of a mandir at the previously contested Ayodhya site that the Indian Supreme Court awarded to Hindus in 2019.
Advani would further clarify in his memoir “My Country, My Life” that the selection of Somnath was deliberate, saying, “The intention was to contextualise Ayodhya in the historical lineage of Muslim aggression and then to seek legitimacy for the Mandir movement by drawing a parallel.”
LK Advani: The man who laid the foundation for the political right in India, Advani’s Rath Yatra, was suddenly put to an end, and in October 1990, the Lalu Yadav administration in Bihar had him jailed. The Uttar Pradesh government, under Mulayam Singh Yadav, then gave the police orders to open fire on the Karsevaks in order to prevent them from reaching the Janmabhoomi location. The BJP abandoned the VP Singh government as a result, and it fell in November 1990.
Nevertheless, these occurrences inspired Ram Bhakts, and two years later, the contentious building was demolished. On December 6, 1992, Hindu organisations’ protesting members climbed the building’s fencing and demolished the contentious structure.
Advani and additional BJP officials faced accusations of acting as provocateurs and instigating individuals to overthrow the contentious system. Unfortunately, on September 30, 2020, the CBI’s special court cleared Advani of all accusations following a nearly three-decade-long legal struggle. The accused were “trying to stop the mob and not incite them,” the court declared, adding that the demolition was not prearranged.
Advani, on his part, has always insisted that the Ram Temple movement was only an attempt to restore civilizational pride in a rich and ancient culture, not to destroy the building.
Advani was also instrumental in moving the Overton window to mainstream Hindutva politics and ushered the BJP into a period of power. Referring to the Congress party’s minority accommodation as “pseudo-secularism,” he exposed their betrayal. He is also recognised for creating the framework for India’s political rights, which PM Narendra Modi has expanded.
Advani was appointed home minister in 1998 and promoted to deputy prime minister in 2002 after the BJP-led NDA, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, formed the government. Following the 2004 election defeat, Vajpayee stepped down from active politics, and Advani emerged as the party’s highest leader. Advani was the party’s 2009 prime ministerial candidate, but the BJP lost to the Congress-led UPA; therefore, his ambition to lead India as prime minister was never realised. From 1990 to 1993 and again from 2004 to 2009, he led the opposition in the Lok Sabha.
In 2014, Gandhi lost the Lok Sabha elections against LK Advani for the seventh time in a row. But by now, the BJP had entered the Narendra Modi era. Later, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were members of the BJP’s Marg Darshak Mandal.
Advaniji has been an important element in the making of what BJP is today!