On the eve of BJP’s foundation day, the party’s founding father and senior leader L K Advani launched his campaign in Gandhinagar Saturday, backed by Narendra Modi and amid chants of “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar”.
With his children Pratibha and Jayant by his side, the six-time MP from Gandhinagar, who filed his nomination Saturday, chose the occasion to clarify Modi was not his “protege” and said that he saw him as a “brilliant events manager”.
Advani’s campaign was confined to three meetings with BJP workers between which the leader spoke to the media, focusing on his links with Gujarat and his perception of Modi. He did not comment on the Cobrapost sting that claimed the Babri Masjid demolition was pre-planned.
At the meetings, the stage backdrop had equal sized photos of Modi, Advani, Rajnath Singh and state BJP chief R C Faldu to maintain political correctness, but murmurs among workers during his first speech betrayed their restlessness to hear Modi. Every time Advani mentioned his name, they cheered.
By the end of the day, when Advani inaugurated his election office, he seemed reluctant to speak and made way for BJP’s campaign in-charge Purshottam Rupala. “I used to be speechless listening to Atalji and my party colleagues would ask, ‘Why can’t you speak like that?’ I told them I have a lot to learn from people like Atalji, and now Rupalaji,” said Advani, making no mention of Modi.
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In every meeting, Advani talked about how this election was different since there was a certainty of the BJP forming the government under Modi’s leadership.
To a media question that his “protege” was about to become the PM, Advani said, “First of all, I don’t see Narendra Modi as my protege. I have seen him function as a party general secretary.” He repeatedly emphasised he saw Modi as a “brilliant events manager” whose skills contributed to governance.
Asked whether he could compare Modi to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani said, “I would not compare… certainly not to Atalji. Atalji was a class by himself.” Later, he described Vajpayee as the only PM “whose entire career was without blemish”.
Modi, meanwhile, said, “Advaniji raised the party with his efforts and held our hands to lead us.” Advani, who had earlier voiced his preference to contest from Bhopal, said he was “rejoicing” the decision to contest from Gandhinagar.