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.
“When I called on Kalam Sahib a few days ago to give him a copy of the book, the former President had just one observation to make. He said it would have been appropriate if instead of him the book was released by Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” said Mr. Advani to a packed Siri Fort auditorium here.
Attributing all his ideological beliefs to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the veteran leader said he had joined the organisation when he was not quite 15 and from that day on his life acquired a new meaning.
“Right from the day I joined the RSS, it has continued to exert a profound influence on me. All the positives in my personality and work can be accredited to the RSS. I won’t delve much on the book here, but just allow it to speak for itself,” he added.
Mr. Kalam — who incidentally had to walk the last 100 yards or so leading to the auditorium due to a severe traffic jam — said the book acquired great significance because Mr. Advani’s life has been intertwined with several historical events of the country.
“He combines an incisive analytical ability with a panoramic view of India. The book is mandatory reading for the young as it does not only reveal the personality of the writer, but also the tumultuous ambience of the times that he witnessed,” added Mr. Kalam.
The former Union Minister, Jaswant Singh, the former Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, RSS general secretary Mohan Rao Bhagwat and eminent journalist Cho Ramaswamy were present.
“A white lie”
In the book, Mr. Advani recalled a meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in July 2001, just before the Agra summit. Mr. Advani said he had told General Musharraf that handing over underworld don Dawood Ibrahim to India would generate enormous amount of trust in him and his country.
General Musharraf, his unease palpable, replied assertively, “Mr. Advani, let me tell you emphatically that Dawood is not in Pakistan.’
Several years later, a Pakistani official who was present during the meeting told him “what our President said about Dawood on that day was a white lie.”