My Country My Life
My Country My Life is an extraordinary selfportrait of India’s leading political personality — L.K. Advani. As an immigrant who was forced to abandon his beloved Sindh, which became a part of Pakistan after India was partitioned at the time of Independence in 1947 on the basis of the communally inspired ‘Two Nation’ theory, Advani gives a poignant first-person account of that tragedy. With a career spanning six decades as a political activist in post-1947 India, during which he has been a ring-side viewer of, and participant in, almost all the major socio-political developments in India, Advani is uniquely qualified to offer a perspective on Independent India’s political evolution.
The apogee of Advani’s achievement was his seminal contribution, together with his senior colleague Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to ending the Congress party’s dominance over India’s polity by building the Bharatiya Janata Party as a viable alternative for governing India.
The book provides a riveting, insightful and assertive account of Advani’s fight for democracy during the Emergency, his Ram Rath Yatra for the reconstruction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya that resulted in the biggest mass movement in India since Independence and catalysed a nationwide debate on the true meaning of secularism, and his years as India’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in the Vajpayee-led government of the National Democratic Alliance between 1998-2004.
My Country My Life is a testimony to what Advani’s admirers as well as his critics have always known about him: he has the gift of clarity of thought, strong convictions and forceful articulation. This is a candid reflection on himself, his party and his nation that is likely to engage readers in a tour de force with India’s leading statesman. In a country where political memoirs, especially by those who are still active in politics, are rare, this book is a landmark.
Phase One (1927-47)
Phase One (1927-47) describes Advani’s early life in Sindh, narrating the heart-rending story of India’s blood-soaked partition into two separate countries — India and Pakistan — when Britain’s colonial rule came to an end. He was one of the millions of people who migrated from Pakistan to India — and also from India to Pakistan. After giving a fascinating socio-spiritual history of Sindh, Advani describes his life at home and school in Karachi (which he calls his ‘favourite city’). He also writes about two transformative influences on his life: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalist organization which he joined as a swayamsevak (volunteer) at the age of 14, and Swami Ranganathananda, head of the Ramakrishna Math in Karachi and an erudite exponent of the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda whom Advani first met in Karachi.
Phase Two (1947-57)
Phase Two (1947-57) deals with Advani’s life as an RSS pracharak (organiser) in Rajasthan and as an activist of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He says: “This phase gave me my grounding in public life and politics. It also steeled my resolve to live a spartan and disciplined life that is dedicated to the ideology and idealism of my organisation.” An important section in this phase deals with the mutually respectful relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS. Advani convincingly counters the vile propaganda by the Indian Left that the RSS was behind the assassination of the Mahatma in January 1948.
Phase Three (1957-77)
Phase Three (1957-77) deals with Advani’s evolution as a political leader in New Delhi. 'I was asked,' he writes, 'by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the main ideologue, guide and organiser of the Jana Sangh, to shift my base to Delhi and work as a political aide to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had just been elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. It is during these two decades that I gained advanced experience in political organisation, political strategy and leadership.' A particularly riveting section in this phase is the description of the imposition of the draconian Emergency Rule by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, in June 1975. Along with tens of thousands of pro-democracy leaders and activists belonging to Opposition parties, Advani spent nineteen months in jail. This phase describes, at considerable length, the sad saga of the Emergency and the thrilling tale of the triumph of democracy. It also demonstrates how the Congress leadership tried to destroy the basic structure of the Constitution, a wrongdoing which the party has never honestly debated or apologized for. ‘This is not surprising,’ Advani writes, ‘since the culture of dynastic rule in the Congress leaves no scope for introspection and self-correction on the many blunders committed by the Nehru-Gandhi family, for which India continues to pay a heavy price. Indeed, dynasticism is now a part of the “basic structure” of the Congress.’
Phase Four (1977-97)
Phase Four (1977-97) is the period when Advani emerged as an important national leader. It describes his sterling work in Parliament, and also as the Minister of Information & Broadcasting in the Janata Government (1977-79), in dismantling the legal edifice of dictatorship created during the Emergency. It also provides a penetrating account of the disintegration of the Janata Party and the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A particularly engaging section of this phase is a narration of the BJP’s active participation in the movement for the reconstruction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Advani writes: ‘(It) soon snowballed into the largest mass movement in the history of independent India. The spectacular public response to my Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in September-October 1990 far exceeded my own expectations. Just as the struggle against the Emergency opened my eyes to the Indian people’s unflinching faith in democracy, the Ayodhya movement opened my eyes to the deep-rooted influence of religion in the lives of Hindus of all castes and sects across the country. The Ayodhya movement also brought to the fore people’s revulsion for pseudo-secularism, as practiced by the Congress party, communists and some other parties, and projected my party, the BJP, as a spirited champion of genuine secularism.’ The phase ends with a captivating narration of another important political campaign in Advani’s life — the Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra, which marked the Golden Jubilee of India’s Independence.
Phase Five (1997-2007)
Phase Five (1997-2007) is a period of major accomplishments in Advani’s political career. The BJP’s spectacular rise, since 1989, culminated in the formation, in March 1998, of the first truly non-Congress coalition government at the Centre under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership. After a renewed mandate in 1999, the government of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) served the nation with great dedication and distinction for six years. Writes Advani: ‘My own role as Atalji’s deputy in this government, with the specific charge of the Home Ministry, was highly gratifying to me. I feel proud of the NDA government’s various achievements, especially in the fields of national security and national development. Some of them, such as the bold decision to make India a nuclear power and our sincere efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan in spite of the latter’s betrayal, will have a permanent place in our country’s history. History will record that India became a stronger nation, and a more self-confident nation, under Atalji’s visionary leadership.’
This phase also provides a candid and self-critical assessment of the unanticipated defeat of the NDA in the May 2004 parliamentary elections. ‘I have not the slightest doubt,’ Advani says, ‘that, as in the past, the BJP will bounce back again.’ The highlights of this part of the book are the Vajpayee government’s determined fight against Pakistan-supported cross-border terrorism fueled by religious extremism, India’s triumph in the Kargil War, the Vajpayee-Advani duo’s honest efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan, the hopes and frustrations at the Agra Summit between Vajpayee and General Pervez Musharraf, and Advani’s historic journey to Pakistan in June 2005. About the controversy generated by this visit, he says, ‘I have no regrets.’
A Pilgrim's Progress
Saturday, 31 May 2008 | Nimisha
The book qualifies to be one the most authoritative topical memoirs of contemporary political history. The author diligently gives due justice to the “Country” aspect of the book, while the “Life” aspect of the book largely centers around two basic tenets of Advaniji’s ideals –‘Conviction’ and ‘Credibility’. This underlying thrust on Conviction and Credibility as the fountain-heads of moral-authority of a Leader and a Statesman is the moral of this book.
An Ocean of Remembrance
Saturday, 19 April 2008 | Shri M.V. Kamath Organiser
Not many politicians are given to write about their life and times and those that do often evoke little interest and much less enthusiasm. But L.K. Advani’s My Country My Life stands apart. To say just that is to underestimate its essence and character. It is, simply put, more than an autobiography. It is history, philosophy, political commentary, personal observations of a passing scene, all put together in language felicitous that even Jawaharlal Nehru, a fastidious autobiographer himself would have happily applauded.
Mr Acceptable, At Last
Friday, 18 April 2008 | Swapan Dasgupta Tehelka Magazine
There are two ways in which LK Advani’s autobiography My Country, My Life can be read. The first is to approach it as a primary source of contemporary history by a person who was either an important decision- maker or had a ringside view of political developments from the early-1970s. The second is to read the 942-page tome as a road map to the mind of a man who has played a seminal role in reshaping the political contours of India.
Saturday, 12 April 2008 | Chandan Mitra Agenda (Sunday Pioneer)
It is a bit late in the day to review LK Advani's magnum opus, My Country, My Life, since at least 100 others have done so already. But having taken more than three weeks to actually read it, I am convinced that the reviewers, both in the print and electronic media, did no more than desperate rapid reading, culling out "juicy" parts with the primary intent of sensationalising its apparent flaws.
In the running
Friday, 11 April 2008 | Ashish Sharma LiveMint
Lal Krishna Advani has long been revered, and equally reviled, as a truer representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) than Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ever since he led the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1990, he has symbolized the party’s core beliefs, while Vajpayee played the malleable mascot suitable for latter-day coalition politics. Now, after Vajpayee’s retreat and his ascent as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, along comes My Country, My Life, a self-portrait that presents him as Vajpayee’s natural successor.
My Country My Life sends cash registers ringing
By RAJESH SINHA DNA India | Monday, 07 April 2008
The NDA’s prime minister-in-waiting LK Advani may not match the Clintons – who are reported to be earning more from book-writing and speeches than in White House – but his autobiography is still reported to be “doing very well”.
Advani sets agenda: Governance, development, Security
By India Syndicate MSN NEWS | Friday, 04 April 2008
Writing in the epilogue to his autobiography `My Country My Life’, Advani says India is weakened not only by financial corruption and misuse of power in politics and administration, but also by pseudo-secularism, minorityism, vote-bank politics, criminalisation, emasculation of institutions and insult to the sacred symbols of our nationalism.
BJP to launch website on Advani's book
By INDO-ASIAN NEWS SERVICE Hindustan Times | Friday, 04 April 2008
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will celebrate its 28th birth anniversary on Sunday with the launch of a website dedicated to party leader LK Advani's autobiography "My Country My Life".
The untold Advani story
By KARAN THAPAR Hindustan Times | Friday, 28 March 2008
Perhaps, this is self-indulgence, but I’m going to elaborate on a little footnote in history. Now that L. K. Advani has mentioned it in his memoirs and spoken of it in interviews, I feel I can tell the full story.
“I’d like to meet Mr. Advani,” Ashraf announced one day in early 2000. George Fernandes arranged the meeting and I was asked to drive Ashraf to Advani’s Pandara Road residence. It was fixed for 10:00 p.m. No one else was informed.
RSS has exerted a profound influence on me: Advani
By STAFF REPORTER The Hindu | Wednesday, 19 March 2008
NEW DELHI: On a day that saw the realisation of his literary dreams and the release of his book My Country My Life, senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani’s only regret was the absence of “Atalji” on stage.
Published by Rupa and Co. and released here on Wednesday by the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the rather thick volume traces the journey of political development in post-Independence India as observed by a young Mr. Advani. It takes the readers on a 60-year-long passage through an impeccable, albeit occasionally controversial political career.
Shri B.S. Shekhawat, Former Vice President of India
"Shri Advaniji has shown courage by writing this book. I hope that the book would be very much helpful for the society and the coming generation."
Shri Mohanraoji Bhagwat, General Secretary, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
"Shri Advaniji has written the book like a swayamsevak. A good RSS swayamsevak is a patriotic worker, who should be a role model in every field he works in. It is very difficult to maintain the life of a swayamsevak in the public sphere, but one has to do it. This book will definitely inspire the new generation to follow the path of honesty. Advaniji is a generation older than me, and there are many things that we can learn from his life. He taught us that one can be firm in one's beliefs, and yet do a whole lot of good things for the society."
Shri Jaswant Singh, Leader of the Opposition (Rajya Sabha)
“I believe Advaniji is one of the most misread and misrepresented leaders in today’s India’s politics. He is far removed from being a breaker of mosques or any such thing. This book is a path-breaker and a valuable addition to India’s political and social history over the past several decades."
Lata Jagtiani, Writer
"One may or may not agree with the BJP’s view of the direction that India should take in the future, but there are no two opinions, after reading the autobiography, that there are very few in Indian politics with the mettle and character of Advani. Perhaps this book will serve as an inspiration to many who are deeply for the nation but don’t know the high cost and also the high value of power."
Shri Cho Ramaswamy, editor of Tughlaq
"Shri Advaniji is known for his honesty, transparency and probity in public life. He is very objective in his assessment and his strength lies in the fact that he takes every crisis as an opportunity, and sees every opportunity as a responsibility, which he discharges diligently. I have a slight disagreement with the title of the book, since this country has been his life and his life has been this country. The book is also incomplete, insofar as another chapter needs to be added to it. That chapter will be written after Shri Advaniji becomes the Prime Minister."