L K Advani himself sat alone in his study, remembering Khushwant Singh, the man who had openly loved to hate him on a day when the TV cameras converged again at the gates of 30, Prithviraj Road in the national capital as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) cloak-and-dagger drama around Advani’s candidature in this Lok Sabha election swirled into late evening,
“I had known Khushwant Singh since he was a member of the Rajya Sabha,” recalled L K Advani. The BJP leader made his parliamentary debut in the Rajya Sabha in 1970 and Singh was also in the House of Elders in the first half of the ’80s. “To the best of my recollection, our association was friendly,” Advani said. In fact, Khushwant Singh was Advani’s first proposer from New Delhi when he fought his first Lok Sabha election from that constituency in 1989.
In 1990, L K Advani went on the rath yatra to Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. A nation seemed convulsed by a new political current. Between the two men, things changed. “The rath yatra made Khushwant Singh very bitter, he became my severe critic,” said L K Advani.
The bitterness spilled into public view when during a book release function at the capital’s India International Centre, Khushwant Singh lashed out at L K Advani, then deputy PM, who was also releasing the book. He feared three types of men, began Singh, as he zestily launched into Advani: those who don’t take alcohol, don’t eat non-vegetarian food, and those who are not interested in women.
Singh, of course, had no way of knowing that on the evening of the day of his death, Advani would pull out to read aloud, with evident affection and twinkling enjoyment, the epitaph Singh had written long ago for himself: ‘Here lies one who spared neither man nor God/ Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod/ Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun/ Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun’.
In fact, many years would pass after the demolition of the Babri Masjid before the ice between the two men could break. It happened last year, when L K Advani read Khushwantnama: The Lessons of my Life.