August 8, 2012. The Lok Sabha was debating an adjournment motion on the issue of illegal infiltration into Assam and large-scale ethnic violence in the state. Leading the debate for the Opposition was Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘Loh Purush’ (Iron Man), Lal Krishna Advani.
The text of the debate from the day suggests that it was a stormy affair. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA II government was hell-bent on defeating the adjournment motion. And so, there were disruptions from the treasury benches. But, LK Advani spoke. There were more disruptions, but Advani continued saying what he wanted to.
This wasn’t entirely new for the veteran politician whose decades-long political career had weathered many such storms. LK Advani’s speech that day spanned nearly 5,000 words (4,957 to be exact). The speech was punctured with at least 50 interruptions from the members sitting on the treasury benches. Ultimately, the motion was defeated but not without Advani speaking his mind.
Fast forward to January 8, 2019. The Lok Sabha was witnessing another stormy day. The Narendra Modi-led NDA government had introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the House.
If the Bill is passed by Parliament (it is yet to be introduced in Rajya Sabha), it will have far-reaching consequences on the socio-political life in Assam, the debate on illegal immigration in the state, and the state’s ethnic composition.
The day the Bill was introduced, debated and passed in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani was present in the House. But despite the Bill’s importance, he did not utter a single word.
This was the same LK Advani, who eight years ago, despite 50 interruptions, went on with his demand for an adjournment motion on the same issue.
2012 to 2018 — a gap of eight years. Things have changed, the government has changed, and changed also is the man — Lal Krishna Advani.
ADVANI’S DRAINING ORATORY
An analysis of the Lok Sabha records available on its website shows that in the past five years, LK Advani has uttered just 365 words in the House.
Compared to his performance in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014), this is a drop–rather a plunge–of 99 per cent. Between 2009 and 2014, LK Advani took part in 42 debates/proceedings in the Lok Sabha and uttered 35,926 words.
On the other hand, all the 365 words that Advani uttered in the present Lok Sabha were uttered in 2014. He hasn’t spoken in the Lok Sabha since December 19, 2014, show Lok Sabha records for the past five years.
You would be mistaken if you think Advani is a man of few words. His autobiography, My Country My Life, runs to more than 1,000 pages, suggesting he has lots to say.
Of these five occasions, two were during the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in Lok Sabha. The only words he spoke on these occasions were: I support the motion. (Contrast this with June 3, 2009, when in his felicitation speech after the election of Mira Kumar as Lok Sabha Speaker, Advani uttered 440 words–75 words more than what he spoke in past five years)
Two other occasions when Advani spoke in Parliament between 2014 and 2019 were when he presented reports of parliamentary committees he was heading or a member of. These times as well, he had nothing much to say beyond mere formality. Advani read the name of the report he was presenting and said, ‘I submit the report on the floor of the House’.
The fifth time LK Advani spoke in Parliament in the past five years was to comment on the issue of migrants in Kashmir. Here too, he just made references to an old report of a parliamentary committee and said the report should be revisited and there should be a deliberation on how its recommendations could be implemented.
In terms of the total time spent talking during debates or proceedings in the Lok Sabha, Lal Krishna Advani has spent less than three minutes uttering 365 words (considering the time taken to read 365 words, even at a slow speed).
Lal Krishna Advani’s sudden and complete withdrawal from public discourse is not conditioned by ill health or the inabilities associated with age (Advani is 91).
LK Advani’s attendance record in the Lok Sabha during the Narendra Modi government’s term is exemplary. Advani was present in Parliament on 92 per cent of the days it was in session.
Between June 4, 2014 and January 8, 2019, the Lok Sabha held 16 sessions, meeting for 321 days. Of these, LK Advani is marked ‘signed’ on 296 days (92.21 per cent).
This is far greater than ministers, leading speakers of today’s BJP or even key opposition leaders.