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Walking into the sunset
In his party, Advani was always highly respected. So should he not have walked into the sunset when people asked ‘Why’ and not when they asked, ‘Why not’?

I must concede that I have never been a fan of L K Advani. Right or wrong, I have held that his role in 1992 was responsible for bringing terrorism closer home in India. His eternal folded hands, his “saddest day in my life,” his talk on being hard on terrorism when his own party escorted terrorists out of India in 1999 and his constant name calling of the Prime Minister as a puppet have never gone well with me. Yet, his public humiliation recently in the story of the elevation of candidate Modi made me feel sad for the eternal yatri.

Advani has a number of things to his credit. He has been in Indian politics for over 50 years. He has been responsible for the rise of the BJP, which now provides the nation with an alternative. He is not known to be corrupt. In his party, he was always highly respected. So should he not have hung his boots instead of letting this mess happen to him. Should he not have walked into the sunset at a time when people asked ‘Why’ and not when they were asking  ‘Why not’? Should he not have read the writing on the wall? Or is it that his ambition to become prime minister is so overpowering that he cannot see it?

His action has history on his side. In a party of rabble-rousers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a tall leader. But he made the cardinal sin of leading the BJP in the 2004 hustings.  For an octogenarian that would have meant he would be prime minister till 86. And that too while he was ailing. When the Congress surprisingly won the national elections and his party bayed for Sonia Gandhi’s blood, he kept his own counsel letting the aura around him diminish. How nice it would have been if he had retired after his innings as prime minister! Oh would it not have enhanced his position as a statesman?

Or take Manmohan Singh. The brilliant economist, who was instrumental in turning the economy around in 1991, and who was India’s first brush with a technocrat CEO would have gone down in history as a champion following his first stint as prime minister. Perhaps the fact that he was named as the prime ministerial candidate and won the war against Advani made him feel that the office owed it to him to stay on. Even if he had left, say in the first year of his second term, it would have been great. He would not have been subjected to the kind of rebuke and ridicule that is associated with his name today.  Today people are willing to embrace a politician, rather than a technocrat, for the country’s top governance job.  Sad, but true.

May be there is something in the archlight of power, that holds people back. That makes it hard for them to walk into the sunset. May be they look at someone like Martina Navratilova as an inspiration. For over two decades, the grandma of world tennis had ruled the game like a colossus.  When she gave it up circa 1995 she had the world at her feet.  Then, some eight years later, in 2003, at age 47 she came out of retirement to compete at the professional circuit; teaming up with Leander Paes, she won the Australian Open in a game where girls, half her age, retire. Or perhaps they think of the Big B. A brand in his own right, he gets all hearts, from the seven year-olds’ to the septuagenarians’, skip a beat. The 70 plus former angry young man came out of the brink of bankruptcy and magically rebuilt his career, in a field where you are considered an oldie at forty.

Those perhaps are exceptions rather than the rule. In the world of business Jack Welch continued to stay on the job even as the search for the ‘Next-Guy’ was on. And the return of Murthy to head Infosys has raised the noise levels.

Succession planning is always a tough call to take. Ask Advani.

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