Advani launches autobiography, BJP launches his campaign

March 20th, 2008 - 12:41 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) L.K. Advani, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, Wednesday launched his autobiography - “My Country My Life” - at a star-studded function, where his party and its allies tacitly launched his bid for India’s leadership. “Advani’s life should be an inspiration for any swayamsevak (volunteer),” said Mohan Bhagwat, general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Guests present on the podium - senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and journalist Cho Ramaswamy - unanimously said the book was timely.

And so it seemed from the cross-section of people who gathered for the event here.

From corporate tycoon Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mital to Bollywood celebrities like Sanjay Dutt, Sonu Nigam and Abhijeet, Advani managed to bring to the venue his admirers from all walks of life.

His entire party, friends and foes alike, put their weight behind him on this occasion.

BJP president Rajnath Singh was one of the first to show up, even though he sat in the shadows away from the media glare. In contrast, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who regards Advani as his patron, basked in the media’s riveted attention.

The book launch was seemingly a social occasion but it had all the trappings of the beginnings of a poll campaign.

Advani himself skirted any polemical political references when he addressed the gathering. Instead, he relied on his trusted friends like Jaswant Singh and Shekhawat to pitch in for him as the most qualified leader to rule the country.

“I will not talk on the book much. Let the book talk on my behalf,” said the veteran leader when it was his turn to speak.

But not forgetting diplomatic tact, Advani stressed that he had only one regret this evening.

“It would have been appropriate if Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) had released the book. If I personally have any regrets, it is that Atalji is not here this evening,” said Advani, whose differences with the former prime minister during the tenure of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, have been a talking point.

Vajpayee, who has written the foreword to the autobiography, could not attend the function because of poor health. The book was released by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The 1,040-page autobiography does deal with some ticklish issues like his stand on the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, his differences with Vajpayee on Modi’s continuance as chief minister in the aftermath of the communal violence of 2002, his quotes on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which sparked a furore in the RSS and the BJP as well.

“Advani has been one of the most misread and misrepresented figures. In reality, he is far removed from this prejudiced perception,” said Jaswant Singh.

If the NDA manages to put up a decent performance in the next Lok Sabha elections, Advani may come close to reaching his goalpost: the prime minister’s chair.

The heavy presence of all NDA constituents at the event pointed to the wide sweep of acceptability the former deputy prime minister today enjoys among the BJP allies.

George Fernandes, leader of Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and NDA convenor, Naveen Patnaik, president of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Manohar Joshi, former Lok Sabha Speaker and Shiv Sena leader - none of them missed the function.

Even Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, leader of the Nationalist Congress Party that is part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), showed up.

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