As someone who has been a longtime admirer of LK Advani (even if he regards me as a trenchant critic), I am dismayed and horrified by his recent miscalculations.
In the past six weeks, Advani has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
First, there was all the fuss over his disclaimer over Jaswant Singh's controversial Kandahar trip in December 1999. Brajesh Mishra, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha have said that Advani was fully in the know. Advani has not clarified matters and it has has been suggested in the media that his memory is playing tricks with him. Most people (even BJP loyalists) are sceptical of Advani's I-didn't-know claim.
Second, he now says that he was opposed to the silly decision to expel Jaswant from the party. The clarification comes weeks after Jaswant's tirades against him.
On both these controversies, Advani has given the impression that he is ill at ease with the principle of collective responsibility. This is not a happy position for someone who is still Leader of Opposition and the face of the BJP.
There were others who too were opposed to the expulsion. They have maintained silence because, at the end of the day, the principle of collective responsibility is applicable to them.
If Advani was opposed to Jaswant's expulsion--and I have no doubt that he was ill at ease with the decision--he should have used his authority to prevent such a precipitate action. He remained silent and, worse, didn't try to talk things over with Jaswant.
Many people have forgotten that Jaswant was one of the most ardent defenders of Advani during the first Jinnah crisis of 2005. Jaswant cut short a visit to Israel and flew back to Delhi to be by Advani's side. At that time Jaswant let it be known that if action was taken against Advani he would resign from the BJP.
Surely it was obligatory for Advani to do his utmost to prevent Jaswant's humiliation in Shimla. By remaining silent for so long and then choosing to speak up after public opinion tilted quite decisively against the expulsion, Advani has demeaned himself.
His disclaimer now seems like a belated act of self-preservation rather a principled stand.
Advani does not also realise that it is also a tacit admission that his opinions count for very little in the BJP.
Advani has not made any political interventions since the end of the Parliament session. His priorities seem centred on himself.
This was the miscalculation he (and many of us) made during the general election--believing that his individual stature would prevail in the minds of voters. The results showed that the assumption was wrong.
It's best to heed that message than repeat a folly.