A Day in the Life of L K Advani


A Day in the Life of L K Advani

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Imagine being over 90 years old and waking up at 5 am to see headlines announcing that you have no friends and that you’re way past your political prime. You’d probably feel the urge to go back to bed. Maybe you’d have that recurring dream in which you are the Prime Minister, and the country looks to you to share some of the wisdom you’ve gathered over 50 years of political experience. Perhaps when you wake up, you’d be a healthy 70-year-old again. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

You’ve probably gathered by now that, in this situation, you’re not yourself, but BJP outcast and nonagenarian on a mission, L K Advani. Over the last few days, the still-aspiring PM has been going through a personal crisis. It started when he was left out of this year’s list of BJP candidates for the first time in recorded history, possibly because the passenger pigeon he sent to file his nomination never reached its destination. The matter escalated once “Shotgun” Sinha, better known to today’s youth as the father of Sonakshi Sinha, fired shots at the BJP leadership for leaving Advani out of the election. Sinha helpfully pointed out that this was a very embarrassing situation for Advani to be in, in case he wasn’t sure about how to feel. Later the pressure piled on when a senior BJP leader, Uma Bharti, said it was up to Advani to clear the “mist” around why he was dropped.

It’s hard enough to muster the courage to leave your bed when you’re 91, so one can only imagine the pressure having to “clear the mist” puts on the BJP stalwart. For now, it’s mid-morning, and time for the senior leader’s daily ritual – after checking his BP which shoots up each time he sees his chowkidar these days, he spends two hours reminiscing about his youth on his rocking chair, thinking about second fiddles, three words he now regrets the most (Bawal mach jayega), and listening to “Chariots of Fire” on loop.  

Advani was the dude (the exact word used back then) in his prime – if you’re the kind who considers aggressive mandir building a talent. He started his career in the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s predecessor, and went on to serve at a number of high posts, including Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister for the BJP. He was also awarded the Padma Vibushan, the second highest civilian honour, presumably for his sheer will to organise a mean yatra in the face of extreme adversity. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

A lot has changed since then. Today the veteran leader has trouble hearing the television, even on full volume. Plus he has to deal with the average internet troll calling him grandpa. At 4 pm Advani puts down a reminder that he has to at some point come up with an election strategy that’ll help restore his image in the public while also defeating his new nemeses – folks who lead the BJP.

Halfway through penning down his reminder, Advani is visited by his 85-year-0ld colleague, aka fellow mandir lover M M Joshi, the armchair in the BJP’s furniture set. Mr Joshi too has been informed that he won’t be permitted to fight in this year’s election and is absolutely outraged. This evening, he has a burning question that only Advani can answer: “What year is it again?”

The two old friends decide to start a Second Innings Home for snubbed netas. But before that they need to plot their individual comebacks for the next election. “I’ll only be 96,” Advani announces proudly. Just then a much younger person walks into the room and reminds them that they’re going to have to use the internet to their advantage if they ever want to win. “No problem, I have my Facebook right here,” Advani says, pulling out a giant photo album. The two old men then go on to spend a lovely evening together, leafing through pictures of their heyday in Ayodhya. At some point of the night at 6.30 pm, Advani realises that he might have forgotten something. “Someone remind me to come up with a brilliant election strategy that takes on the BJP tomorrow!”