End of an era: No Advani speech at BJP national executive

Bengaluru: In what may be the end of an era in the BJP, the national executive culminated on Saturday without a speech from party patriarch L.K. Advani, even as party leaders repeatedly referred to him as a “margdarshak” or one who shows the path.

This is the second time Advani has not spoken at the national executive of the party which he helped found in 1980.

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Advani, one of the BJP’s main founding members, has attended and addressed all national executive meetings of the party since 1980 when the party was founded, except the one at Goa in 2013 which he did not attend.

This time, even as Advani was present throughout the two-day meet, and also at a public rally held in Bengaluru, the veteran leader did not make any speech on a single occasion.

Senior party leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while confirming that Advani did not make any speech, refused to say what was the reason behind it.

“Whatever arrangements (for the meeting) are done, they are done after consultation with the whole party,” Jaitley said when asked who decided to keep Advani out of the list of speakers.

Asked whether the party did not feel the need for the veteran to speak, or he himself opted out, Jaitley said: “what transpires in the decision making process of the party cannot be shared.”

“Advani ji is our senior leader. He can address us whenever he wants,” he added.

A party leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was Advani who decided not to speak.

The 87-year-old political stalwart, who served as the deputy prime minister during the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and was the prime ministerial candidate for the party in the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, was eased out of important roles including the parliamentary board after Amit Shah took over.

Advani had a falling out with the party when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat, was announced as the head of the campaign committee for the 2014 general election. This happened during the national executive meet at Goa in June 2013.

Not only did Advani skip the meet, but he resigned from all party posts a day after the national executive ended.

The issues were reconciled later and since then Advani has praised Modi for leading the party to victory more than once.

However, soon after Amit Shah took over as BJP president, Advani was shunted out of the top decision making body – parliamentary board of the party and a new “Margdarshak Mandal” (guidance committee) was formed. It has Advani, Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi, the three seniormost members, along with Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.