Advani celebrates his 91st birthday; the BJP has come a long way from two to 282 seats

Vinod Kumar Shukla

New Delhi, Nov 8: Construction of the Ram Temple is in news for long but the person who has taken the matter to the public glare is more or less forgotten from the public memory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished L K Advani on his 91st birthday remembering his contribution but there was a time when the BJP veteran mesmerized people with his words.

Once the most powerful man in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is now living in uncertainty whether he will contest next Lok Sabha elections or not. The BJP became political face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement under his leadership starting in early 1980s by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. As per a belief, Ayodhya is the place where Lord Ram was born but temple at his birth place was allegedly replaced by a mosque.

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So to built a temple on the lines of Somnath in Gujarat, Advani had undertaken a 'Rath Yatra' apparently to mobilise support so that construction of Ram Temple could be started. Rath Yatra starting from Somnath covered large portion of the Northern India until it was stopped by Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad on pretext that it might lead to communal violence. But the arrest of the then BJP president catapulted his party to become second largest party in Lok Sabha after the Congress.

Two years later in 1992, despite affidavit to the Supreme Court from the Kalyan Singh-led government in UP, the Babri Masjid was demolished allegedly due to complicity of the state government in which Advani is one of the main accused. Kalyan Singh served jail for contempt of court. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has supported the claim that a Hindu structure once stood at the site. The BJP threw its support behind this campaign, and made it a part of their election manifesto, which provided rich dividends in the general elections of 1989. Despite the fact that the Congress winning maximum seat, it declined to form a government. The National Front government of VP Singh was sworn in with the support of the BJP that had 86 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Deputy Prime Minister from 2002 to 2004 under Vajpayee. Advani served as Union home minister under NDA government from 1998 to 2004. He was Leader of the Opposition in the 10th Lok Sabha and 14th Lok Sabha. Advani began his political career as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist. He joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh a political party founded in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Advani became Jana Sangh president in 1973 at the Kanpur session of the party. After emergency, the Jana Sangh and many other opposition parties merged into the Janata Party. Advani and Vajpayee fought the Lok Sabha Elections of 1977 as members of the Janata Party.

Janata Party was formed by leaders, activists and parties after elections were called in 1977. The unpopularity and atrocities against political workers during emergency gave the Janata Party a landslide victory. Morarji Desai became Prime Minister of India, Advani became the Minister of Information and Broadcasting but due to dual membership Janata Party got split and Bharatiya Janata Party was born. Advani became a prominent leader of the newly founded BJP and represented the party in the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh for two terms beginning in 1982. But contribution of one of the tallest leader of the party cannot be forgotten.

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