Dear Mr Advani
When I started reporting in India in the early eighties, I had the same ideas as most western journalists : secularism, as practiced by Jawarlahal Nehru, was the best policy for India, given its caste and religion differences; Islam was a peaceful religion; and there were also Hindu fanatics.
But, dear Mr Advani, I had been given three boons by the Lord: I spent the first seven years of my life in India far from Delhi (in Pondicherry); I read Sri Aurobindo extensively and discovered that he had a towering mind, educated in the West, but Himalayan in its breadth; & I started freelancing in the South, which is much softer, much more attuned to its culture and spirituality than northern India.
Thus, when in 1988I interviewed K.R. Malkani, then one of your BJP spokespersons, I went there thinking I would get a Hindu ‘nationalist’ spiel. I was surprised Sir, to find a very cultured man, who spoke softly and courteously. And funniest of all, most of the things he said made sense and reminded me of what Sri Aurobindo had written nearly a hundred years before. Thus I became, probably the only ever western correspondent sympathetic to your BJP (Mark Tully, who has an intuition of Hinduism, always remained too British and too Christian to cross that threshold).
Remember: I met you in Jaipur in 1989 and took an instant liking to your forthrightness, Spartan simplicity and forceful thoughts. As you know, in these days, there were only 3 pillars of the BJP: yourself, MM Joshi and Vajpayee. As I told once or twice, I was never very impressed by Mr Vajpayee, though no doubt he was a consensus man and an able statesman: but both the times I interviewed him one to one, I found that he had no knowledge about the world and nothing much of interest to say. But I had a lot of admiration for you and Murli Manohar Joshi. Both of you demonstrated that you had guts: MM Joshi by raising the Indian flag in Srinagar in 1992, which at that time was made fun by the entire Indian media; and yourself by breaking a jinx : Muslims destroyed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of temples in india, but you were the one who had the guts to destroy that one mosque, abandoned as it was. It was a symbolic message of the Hindu renaissance.
The pity is that the three of you kept each other neutralized: you and MM Joshi have hated each other for the last 20 years and Vajpayee made sure that you always remained N°2 in the BJP.
I however always thought that your reputation as a fanatic hardliner and a hawk was misplaced: I have spent many moments in your home and I have never heard you raise your voice. In fact, I doubt Sir, that you ever hit someone in your life: you ares very much a family man, dedicated to your wife Kamla and your darling daughter Pratibha, both of them remarkably intelligent. In fact, it often struck me that these two women were the two biggest influences in your life.
Wen the BJP again lost the last elections in 2009, I met you shortly thereafter alone in your office. Remember what you told me: “it’s time for me to retire from politics”. I believed you then: you are a quiet man, whatever the press says, you like to read, think, watch films and spend quality time with your family.
Yet, you clearly positioned yourself as the BJP PM candidate for 2014 before resigning – an then taking back your resignation – and that was wrong, Sir. For one, you will be 87 at the beginning of your mandate if you get elected and 92 at the end of it, when most of the leaders in other parts of the world are in their fifties or even forties. Secondly, you are wrecking the chances of the BJP, because, whether it is fair or not, you do not have a good image with the electorate. Thirdly, as usual, in the true tradition of Hindu disunity, you are stabbing in the back Narendra Modi, the only man can beat Rahul Gandhi and bring the BJP back to power. Fourthly, however much I like you, dear Mr Advani, when you were Home minister and deputy PM, you did not do better than the Congress: neither did you help the poor Tibetans as you had promised, nor did you show any iron hand in Kashmir, nor did you stand up to the Chinese. In fact you did nothing except trying to project a goody image of yourself and the BJP.
For all these reasons, I, who have been the one and only western correspondent friend of the BJP in all these years, say unto you:
DEAR MR ADVANI, PLEASE BE TRUE TO YOUR WORD AND FULLY STEP DOWN FROM THE BJP, SO AS TO LEAVE THE PLACE TO NARENDRA MODI, WHO NOT ONLY SHOWED THAT HE DOES THINGS BY MAKING OF GUJARAT A MODEL FOR ALL OTHER INDIAN STATES, BUT ALSO IS THE ONLY CHANCE OF THE BJP IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS
Francois Gautier/ Editor in chief La Revue de l’Inde, Paris, France
PS It does not help that you refused point blank to help the Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, Pune. If there ever was a Museum dedicated to the Hindus, it is this one…