The BJP national executive ended Saturday without a speech from LK Advani — the first time a founding leader didn’t address such a gathering despite being present. It also exposed the uneasy relationship between the patriarch and its current leadership.
The cause of Advani’s unhappiness is said have been the non-inclusion of his name in the list of speakers, apparently because the BJP wanted to vet his speech to avoid possible embarrassment and to keep a “positive” tone at the meet. The 87-year-old was sulking all through the two-day event and even took a break on Saturday, a source told HT. It took some persuasion from Union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar to get him back.
In a bid to salvage the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid respect to his “seniors” who guided him and helped him get a foothold in Delhi. He even referred to his former mentor’s contribution to the BJP, saying the party should implement his concept of ‘training session’ for workers.
The political resolution adopted by the party also hailed the contributions of Advani and former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Asked to comment, finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “We do not discuss such matters with the press.” But he sought to play down the issue, saying Advani was a senior leader and free to advise the party any time.
“He is with us and remains our most respected margdarshak (mentor),” added his cabinet colleague Nirmala Sitharaman.
However, party leaders admitted this marked the end of the Advani era — a process set in motion before last year’s general election with Modi’s elevation and cemented by the veteran’s subsequent removal from the parliamentary board, the party’s top decision making body.
Advani, along with fellow founding members Vajpayee and MM Joshi, has since been moved to the Margdarshak Mandal, which hasn’t held a single meeting since its inception.
With the exception of the 2013 national council meet, Advani always made the concluding remarks at BJP conclaves when the party was in the opposition. “This is the first time that Advani was present at such a meeting and did not speak or, rather, was not allowed to speak,” said a senior BJP functionary.