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Advani Refuses to Speak at BJP's National Executive Meet

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

While Advani has been away from top decision making processes of the party since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah came to the fore of affairs of the party, his silence at the meet, the first since BJP came to power in centre, sent out a clear statement that the Advani-Atal Bihar Vajpayee era has now ended.

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

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 give any reason behind it.

"Whatever arrangements (for the meeting) are done, they are done after consultation with the whole party," Jaitley said to queries about 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.

According to insiders, Advani was reached out to by both Amit Shah and Modi.

The 87-year-old political stalwart, who served as the deputy prime minister in the Vajpayee government, and the party's prime ministerial candidate 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 Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat, was announced as the head of the campaign committee for the 2014 general election at 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.

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