A petal of the BJP’s lotus wilted today. Kamla bhabhi and Dada (L K Advani) were like Ram-Sita for many of us. Her death is a huge setback for him.
At dinner, Kamla bhabhi would often say, “Lal, ek roti le lo (take one more roti).” And Advaniji, who is a mitahari (someone who eats less) would obey her without arguing.
When the BJP was in the making, she took care not just of Advaniji, the house and the family, but also handled party leaders, workers and visitors with warmth and love.
Those were different days. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, wives of political leaders contributed silently in the making of the party and its ideology. Kamla bhabhi had a sharp political mind. She was on the same page as her husband and supported him in his ideology. In all six Lok Sabha election campaigns, she joined Dada on the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar campaign trail. She was a politically strong personality who helped navigate Advaniji through Indian politics.
I often saw Advaniji, Kamla bhabhi and Atalji talking in the drawing room or at the dining table. Atalji and Kamla bhabhi had a special relation — he loved her food and she talked to him like they were equals. They kept the party going even when our presence in Lok Sabha was negligible for many years.
During Advaniji’s Rath Yatra, which started from Somanth temple, she was present to lend support to her husband and our party. During the Emergency, she handled hundreds of workers and gave moral support to thousands of BJP men and women. When Advaniji was in jail during the Emergency, she would handle party members as well as take the children to the jail to meet their father. Her contribution to the BJP was immense.
In their drawing room, there are many photos of the two of them together. In one of them, Kamla bhabhi can be seen chiding Dada. Advaniji would often point to the photo and say, “You very well know who rules my home.”
I first met her in 1984, but became a member of their close-knit family in 1989. She was like a mother to me. In 1992, I had given my 89, South Avenue quarters to Kirti Azad to fight the elections in Delhi. When Kamla bhabhi came to know about it, she called me to say I should stay at their home. I was travelling abroad at the time. When I arrived with my baggage, she treated me like her own son Jayant. Some bottles of perfume that I had bought from abroad were broken; she cleaned up my bag and gave my clothes for washing. She also ensured I got food that would suit my Gujarati taste, complete with papad, rice and onion salad. I stayed for a month but she never got tired of guests.
Advaniji is fakir-like in real life. Kamla bhabhi had a knack for accounting, and would handle taxes and money matters.
I came to understand she was Advaniji’s moral force. She created a system that helped him provide leadership to the party. She was beside him at every step.