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New Delhi, Sept 13: Bhishma Pitamah flung a spoke into the wheels of Narendra Modi’s rath just as it formally set out to capture Delhi this evening. L.K. Advani, the man all of BJP, Modi included, pays obeisance to as singular mentor-guide, refused to sit among those who raised their hands to endorse the Gujarat chief minister’s candidacy. And on a day that high-decibel rapture erupted around the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road, the party’s senior-most active player and verily the architect of its occupation of the national stage, issued missives of pain and disappointment from behind closed doors.

“I had told you about my pain when you had come to inform me about the parliamentary board meeting this afternoon,” Advani wrote to BJP president Rajnath Singh, “And I had also told you a few things about my disappointment with your running of the party…I told you I will think about coming and expressing my sentiments to all (parliamentary board) members, but I have decided it will be better if I do not go to today’s meeting.”

Modi's rath arriving at Advani's residence

Modi’s rath arriving at Advani’s residence

This may have been as strong a dissenting note the loyal son of the Sangh could have drafted but, like his resignation after his party’s Goa meet in June, it moved nothing. When copies of its were handed out to frenzied media hands bivouacked at Advani’s shuttered doorstep, Modi had already been named the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee. It had the ring of a defeated man bleating and begging off — “It would be better if I do not go to today’s meeting…” 

Advani already had a good sense he had been pushed into a solitary corner, forsaken by people who he had nursed into positions they occupy today. He knew it would not matter that there was an empty seat close to the head of the parliamentary board table. He knew it would not matter that his absence made the party with a difference look too much like a party with differences. He knew he would not matter on the collective called the BJP parliamentary board; if he had to stick out like a sore thumb, he’d rather be sore and at home.

It had not mattered to anyone that he had been resisting all along, refusing to turn weary by repeated entreaty, refusing to be moved.

Modi’s rath moved, spoke or no spoke; or perhaps overrunning the spoke. Its first port of call after being flagged off by the party brass was the home of the man who hadn’t come to pat Modi on: Advani’s Prithviraj Road residence. Modi was, as usual, in the front seat of a souped-up SUV, beaming, waving a turbulent media scrum off, squelching in to demand what Advani has appeared reluctant all along to give: his blessings.

The attendance had swelled and ebbed all day at the approach to the partriarch’s home, an incessant scurry of VVIP cavalcades arriving and leaving, the traffic mostly stalled, the securitymen left hapless. By late afternoon, though, all Advani was left with was an armada of television OB vans, anchored outside; his army had all trickled off to anoint another king at another place. Coronation done, word arrived that the king was on his way, like raja to rishi, for consecrating rajyabhishek. “But will he even be welcome?” someone asked in the clamour. “Atithi devo bhava,” replied a voice from among the safari-suited men guarding the gates, guests are gods. Advani had ordered a bouquet post haste; a household retailer had slipped in with a cellophane-wrapped bunch minutes before Modi arrived. Nobody had opportunity to count the number of red roses ordered. Nor the thorns.

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