The BJP observed its 35th foundation day on Monday without party patriarch LK Advani who did not get a formal invite, said sources, days after he refused speak at the party’s national executive meet in Bengaluru.
Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, another senior BJP functionary who was conspicuous by his absence, were in 2014 included in the party’s Margdarshak Mandal— an advisory panel that also comprises former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Often credited with building the party into what it is today, Advani chose to sit back at his Prithiviraj Road bungalow in Delhi as there was no official invitation for the ceremony at the party’s Ashoka Road headquarters a few kilometres away.
Political observers see this as another snub for Advani as he has been steadily marginalised in the party with Modi leading a generational shift.
This was the first foundation day celebration of the BJP after it came to power last year with a thumping majority.
“On the BJP's ‘Sthapana Diwas’ my greetings to all the BJP Karyakartas and well-wishers,” Modi tweeted. “BJP's phenomenal growth is due to the efforts & hardwork of generations of selfless Karyakartas who devoted their lives to our Nation.”
The 87-year-old Advani is known to have mentored Modi, but expressed reservations when the BJP picked the former Gujarat CM as its campaign committee chief for the 2014 parliamentary polls.
In Advani and Joshi’s absence on Monday, BJP chief Amit Shah felicitated Vijay Kumar Malhotra – another founding member.
Shah, though, referred to Advani and other members of the party’s old guard like Vajpayee, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhai Mahavir Tyagi, Sundar Singh Bhandari, Kushabhau Thackeray, saying they sacrificed their lives for the BJP.
He told the party cadre to take pride in the fact that a booth-level worker like him could become the party president and former tea-seller Modi became the country’s Prime Minister.
The BJP chief also took a veiled dig at the Congress, saying the party that talks about “tyaag”, or sacrifice, should learn from the BJP and its precursor, the Jana Sangh, whose leaders often lived in the party office and treated the people like their family.
He also appealed to party members to vigorously confront the campaign of “disinformation and falsehood” launched by rivals.
“I appeal to you to work together to make this government successful and take its work to the people and counter disinformation and falsehood spread by the Opposition,” he said. “If the Opposition tries to create disinformation, then it is the responsibility of all party workers to tell the truth to the people.”