Advani, Lal Krishna

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ADVANI, LAL KRISHNA (1927–), Indian politician. Former deputy prime minister of India and in 2004 the leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament), Lal Krishna Advani was born on 8 November 1927 in Karachi (now in Pakistan). Advani came to the center stage of Indian politics with the Ram Rath Yatra (Chariot Procession) he led from Somnath to Ayodhya as the leader of the Hindutva movement.

Advani began his political career as secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Karachi in 1942. After independence, he migrated to India and joined the Bharatiya Janata Sangh (BJS) Party as the joint secretary of Rajasthan province. In 1958 he was promoted to party secretary in Delhi. Since then, he has remained a central figure in the party, along with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During the "National Emergency" imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, Advani fought for the restoration of democratic rights, and as a result, he was jailed for eighteen months. Subsequently, when the Janata Party came to power (1977–1979), Advani was made the cabinet minister for information and broadcasting. During his tenure, he worked to ensure freedom of the press. When the BJP was born out of the BJS, Advani was made its general secretary. As president of the organization from 1986 to 1989, he brought the debate on communalism to the center of Indian politics with his Rath Yatra. Following the Rath Yatra, BJP's representation in Parliament jumped from two members in 1984 to 181 members by 1999. Advani was instrumental in striking strategic alliances at the state level, then in the formation of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the BJP, in 1998. He was appointed as the minister for home affairs in 1998 and was promoted to the post of deputy prime minister in July 2002. Following BJP's defeat in the 2004 general elections and Vajpayee's withdrawal from active politics, Advani was made leader of the opposition in India's Parliament.

According to Advani, all Indians are bound by a single religion—Hinduism—irrespective of their personal religious practices. Advani was always convinced about his Hindutva ("Hindu first") stand, even though this ideological position may have deprived him of the post of prime minister, and even while it intensified the debate over secularism. As a constitutional reformist, he called for an overhaul of the electoral system. His initiatives on curbing defection and criminalization are noteworthy in this regard. Restricting the number of ministers in both union and state cabinets is one of the most evident steps in realizing his vision of Indian politics. Advani has remained a controversial figure, but his contribution to India's polity will be remembered for his clarity of thought and his capacity to build alliances for forming coalitions, including the National Democratic Alliance, which governed India from 1999 to 2004.

Prafulla Ketkar

See alsoBharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ; Hindutva and Politics


Advani, Lal Krishna. The People Betrayed. New Delhi: Vision Books, 1979.

——. A Prisoner's Scrap-Book. New Delhi: Prabhat Prakashan, 2003.

Bhushan, K., and G. Katyal. Lal Krishna Advani: Deputy Prime Minister. New Delhi: A P H Publishing, 2002.

Gaba, Daljit Kaur, et al., eds. Today's "Iron Man": Life and Times of Lal Krishna Advani. New Delhi: Pentagon, 2002.

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Advani, Lal Krishna