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Plate still full with jalebis and more

- Fit ‘father’ sends sugar-coated message

New Delhi, Feb. 22: L.K. Advani today took bites from dripping hot jalebis in the BJP office and warmed up for the campaign trail — just in case anyone thought that a mint-fresh honorific “father of the House” made him unfit for the heat and dust of the elections and what lies beyond.

“Campaign karenge... (will campaign),” Advani replied to a question as Sushma Swaraj, seated by the patriarch’s side, declared in a lighter vein: “Jalebi se hi campaign shuru hai, (The campaign has begun with jalebis).”

The occasion was a post-winter session lunch organised by the BJP. Advani was not expected to come to the party office but did so on the insistence of Sushma.

The 86-year-old veteran has kept himself free of age-related ailments through a disciplined lifestyle. Today, too, he had refused the offer of jalebis but gave in to Sushma’s request.

Several senior BJP leaders, such as Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari, are known to be diabetic but Advani continues to be hale and hearty. Just three years senior to Advani, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had retired long ago.

Most of the senior leaders had either left or were about to leave when Advani arrived. BJP president Rajnath Singh welcomed him, got him a seat and then left. Sushma was the only one by his side.

Advani referred to a sentimental trait that has often invited comment. “Some people are so emotionally susceptible that tears come to their eyes whether they are praised or attacked,” Advani said, referring to how he became misty-eyed in the Lok Sabha yesterday when curtains fell on the 15th House.

CPM leader Basudeb Acharia had termed Advani as the “father of the House”, pointing towards the fact that he was the oldest member in the Lok Sabha. Other leaders too praised Advani, and Mulayam Singh Yadav remarked how the veteran “had strengthened the BJP but the party had weakened him”.

If the generous words for Advani carried traces of an unofficial farewell, Advani’s schedule appeared to challenge such notions.

Those close to him said Advani would be in Ujjain on Tuesday to address a public meeting and the first list of BJP candidates would be out on Thursday, suggesting that he has not yet counted himself out of the picture. Advani represented the Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat in the 15th Lok Sabha.

Asked about the prospects of the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Advani struck a optimistic note but without committing whether the alliance would cross the half-way mark of 272.

“There has never been such a good atmosphere for the BJP. The BJP will get the maximum score”, Advani said.

The veteran, however, ruled out the possibility of a hung Lok Sabha. “There is no question of a hung Parliament,” he said, asked about potential additional allies if the elections failed to throw up a decisive verdict.

Narendra Modi did not figure in the brief interaction with reporters.

“I had come on the request of our leader Sushmaji to have jalebis. I will take leave now,” Advani said before walking away.

The father figure’s score: two jalebis and a voracious appetite for more than just sweets.