BJP stalwart LK Advani is conferred with India's highest honour 'Bharat Ratna': A look at his political journey!

BJP stalwart and former Deputy Prime Minister of India, LK Advani would be conferred with India's highest civilian honour, the 'Bharat Ratna' award. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Advani has become the second recipient of the prestigious honour in a month as recently, the Indian government has announced that former Bihar Chief Minister and social reformer late Karpoori Thakur would be awarded with Bharat Ratna posthumously.  

96-year-old LK Advani has scripted a rare history through receiving this highest milestone as he is the only living politician in recent years to become a Bharat Ratna laureate. With Advani, the Narendra Modi government has awarded Bharat Ratna to seven people since coming to power in 2014 and of these seven, only three were alive when they were conferred with the nation's highest honour - former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former President Pranab Mukherjee and LK Advani. 

Vajpayee received the award in 2015 and Mukherjee was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2019. Interestingly, LK Advani has become the 50th recipient of Bharat Ratna and making an official announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Advani for his contribution to the country. Taking to social media, Modi wrote, "I am very happy to share that Shri LK Advani Ji will be conferred the Bharat Ratna. I also spoke to him and congratulated him on being conferred this honour. One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental. His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister. He distinguished himself as our Home Minister and I&B Minister as well. His Parliamentary interventions have always been exemplary, full of rich insights." 

"Advani Ji's decades-long service in public life has been marked by an unwavering commitment to transparency and integrity, setting an exemplary standard in political ethics. He has made unparalleled efforts towards furthering national unity and cultural resurgence. The conferring of the Bharat Ratna on him is a very emotional moment for me. I will always consider it my privilege that I got countless opportunities to interact with him and learn from him", the Prime Minister added. 

Advani has a historical career as a politician and BJP's stalwart. So far, Advani is the first and only person to serve as the Deputy Prime Minister of India. He served this post when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. Advani has had a long association with Vajpayee and he is one of the co-founders of the BJP. Moreover, he holds a history as the longest serving Home Minister of India from 1998 to 2004. 

Advani was also the longest serving Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. As the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2009 general elections, Advani has been regarded as one of the architects of the party and was instrumental in strengthening the party across the country. As Narendra Modi has announced that Bharat Ratna would be conferred on Advani, the national and grassroots BJP leaders are welcoming the move and congratulating the veteran leader. 

A look at Advani's political journey - From peak to bleak

Born in Karachi in present day Pakistan in 1927, Advani joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1942 and he also had served as a teacher in Model High School in Karachi. During the partition, Advani left Karachi in September 1947 and came to Delhi. For the next four years, Advani had organised RSS work in several places and in 1957, Advani began assisting Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

From 1958 to 1963, Advani served as the Secretary of Delhi State Jana Sangh and in April 1970, Advani entered Rajya Sabha for the first time and two years later, he was elected as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) president. During the emergency that was imposed during the Indira Gandhi regime in 1973, Advani got arrested in Bangalore and taken to the Bangalore Central Jail. 

After Indira Gandhi's government was collapsed, Jana Sangh merged into the Janata Party and after the victory in the 1977 general elections, Advani became the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Within three years, he went on to become BJP's general secretary and during these periods, Advani became a popular politician across the country and was seen as a future of the BJP. He became the national president of BJP in May 1986 and had served as the Home Minister for the first time in 1988 in the BJP government. 

The early 1990s became peak and crucial to his political career as he built a Hindutva campaign and it was when the 'Jai Shri Ram' trend gained momentum nationally. In 1990, Advani began the nationwide Ram Rath Yatra with the view of mobilising volunteers for constructing Ram temple in Ayodhya, in a place that carried Babri Masjid. His procession began from Somnath in Gujarat and had culminated to demolishing the Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. 

A year ahead, in 1991, BJP became the second largest party after the Congress and Advani won his second term as an MP from Gandhinagar. He then became the Leader of the Opposition and led a campaign that ultimately grounded the Masjid in Ayodhya. Advani was accused of delivering a provocative speech before the demolition and he was one of the accused in the demolition case. However, nearly three decades later, in September 2020, a CBI special court had acquitted Advani from the case by declaring that he was trying to stop the mob and not incite them. 

In 1996, BJP had become the single largest party and was invited by the then President to form a government. However, that government led by Vajpayee was collapsed in just thirteen days and two years later, Vajpayee returned as the Prime Minister and Advani was appointed as the Home Minister. Nevertheless, with Jayalalithaa-led ADMK withdrew its support from the government, it got collapsed in thirteen months. In the 1999 general elections, BJP won a majority and when Vajpayee became the Prime Minister again, Advani was made the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. 

Five years later, BJP had suffered a debacle in the 2004 general elections and Advani became the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, after winning from Gandhinagar for the fifth term. Following the party's defeat in 2004, Vajpayee retired from politics and promoted Advani to lead the BJP. In December 2005, amid the dissents against him over his controversial remark of stating the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a secular leader, Advani stepped down as the BJP president and he was replaced by Rajnath Singh. 

However, Advani stayed in politics despite his graph declined in the following years, in the wake of the rise of leaders like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. In December 2006, Advani claimed that as the leader of the opposition, he should be the party's Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2009 general elections. Vajpayee was the only veteran leader to support Advani's candidacy and in December 2007, the BJP officially announced Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2009 polls. 

However, the BJP lost the 2009 general elections and Advani remained as an MP. Advani has served as a Lok Sabha MP for seven terms including the term which he secured after winning the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Following the rise of Narendra Modi, who was once Advani's aide, the influence of the veteran leaders of the party including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Vajpayee was diminished and they were made the members of the BJP's vision committee. 

Advani, who once dreamt of becoming Prime Minister, was pushed to endorse Narendra Modi for the top role and a decade after coming to power, Modi has now honoured his political guru with the country's highest civilian award. The announcement has come ten days after Narendra Modi had consecreted the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which was a campaign spearheaded by Advani three decades ago. 

The Narendra Modi government had conferred Bharat Ratna on Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2015 and now, it has honoured another BJP stalwart LK Advani with the award. Notably, there were controversies that the BJP under Modi has been shunning away the political influence of Advani and other veteran leaders and when Advani wasn't invited to the Ram temple consecretation initially, it fueled the controversies. The supporters of Modi claim that he had responded to such events by conferring Bharat Ratna to Advani.