BJP patriarch LK Advani's nameplate was found missing from his usual room in the Parliament complex on Thursday, setting off rumours about the former deputy prime minister losing his privileges in the party.
The ground-floor room (number 4) had originally been allotted in 2004 to NDA chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2009, Advani had moved in the room - that carried nameplates of both Vajpayee and Advani - after being named the working chairman of the NDA. Vajpayee's nameplate, however, was intact on the room's entrance on Thursday.
The 86-year-old leader also set tongues wagging after he refused to sit next to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha. Advani had moved to the front row at the insistence of party leaders after having originally taken a seat in the second row behind cabinet ministers in the morning.
Read: Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi left in the cold for now
Upon returning in the afternoon, the Gandhinagar MP didn't resume his seat in the front row and chose to sit in the third row from the last. Though minister of state for parliamentary affairs Santosh Gangawar requested him to sit in the front row, Advani politely refused.
The developments come days after the veteran BJP leader failed to convince his party leadership to name him the Lok Sabha Speaker, a constitutional post.
His chances of replacing the ailing Vajpayee as the NDA chairman are still being discussed.
The BJP was quick to quash any possibility of insulting the 86-year-old leader, with sources saying that Advani's aides removed his nameplate after he did not move into the room on the first day of the Lok Sabha's inaugural session.
"Since the nameplates of BJP office bearers were removed from outside the party office (number 5B) next door, we thought Advani's nameplate should also be taken off. Once fresh allotment is made by authorities, he will get his room back. The media is reading too much into this," one of his aides told HT.
The emergence of Narendra Modi as the undisputed leader in the party after a thumping electoral victory has cast a shadow over the future of Advani - who had opposed Modi's elevation as the PM candidate -- in both the BJP and the NDA.
But joint office secretary at the BJP office in Parliament V Shanmukhnathan rubbished rumours of discontent in the party, saying, "The story is concocted. MPs are meeting Advani in the Central Hall on Friday. We have great respect for him. Things would be sorted out."
The issue of seating is also expected to be resolved after the formal election of the Speaker on Friday, when Sumitra Mahajan will officially allot seats to all MPs.