LK Advani takes oath as a Lok Sabha member on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi, June 5: L.K. Advani looked a forlorn man in the Lok Sabha today, without his own chamber in a House that was a picture of change after a decade.
He was the second to take the oath after Prime Minister Narendra Modi but that was more or less the only privilege the 86-year-old was treated to.
The veteran’s discomfiture was evident right from the moment he entered the House. Yesterday, he had sat beside Modi but today he tried to sit on the backbenches.
Two cabinet ministers, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar, noticed him doing so and rushed to urge the patriarch to come to the front row.
Advani looked reluctant but gave in after sometime. He sat down beside his acolyte and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
In the afternoon, Advani stepped out of the Central Hall of Parliament and walked towards the ground-floor room that he used to occupy as acting chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the previous Lok Sabha.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nameplate as NDA chairman was there but the one showing Advani as acting chairman had been removed.
Advani didn’t look surprised. He walked straight into the next room, which houses the BJP parliamentary party office, accompanied by power minister Piyush Goyal.
As he entered the room, many looked startled. The veteran rarely visited the party office during the tenure of the previous Lok Sabha.
Advani sat down in a chair quietly. Party officials and leaders lined up to touch his feet. After the show of respect was over — and Goyal too left — Advani sat alone.
A journalist sat down beside him and asked him who would become leader of the Opposition. Advani seemed to have misheard the question, perhaps unwittingly providing a window into his thoughts.
“Mujhko kuchh milna hota to pehle hi mil jaata (If I were to be given any post, I would have been given it by now),” he said.
Advani refused to speak any more, asking the journalist to talk to the party spokespersons instead.
In between, a party official walked up to him and seemed to be trying to whisper something about a “room” that had fallen vacant. Advani stopped him midway and said the matter had been discussed.
He stepped out after some time. A few more people touched his feet in the corridor. Then he was back in the Central Hall of Parliament.
Later in the afternoon, Advani was spotted in the fourth row from the back in the House. Union minister Santosh Gangwar walked up to him to try and get him to the front row. This time Advani didn’t budge, nor did anyone else cajole him to do so.
Sources said a BJP parliamentary party meeting tomorrow morning could provide an indication about Advani’s future role.
Modi has already been elected leader of the BJP as well as the NDA. Now it would be difficult to give Advani the NDA acting chairman’s post.
Change seemed to have been blazoned across the 16th Lok Sabha, some 315 of whose 543 members were not part of the previous House. The BJP and its allies spilled on to the fifth of the six rows.
The Congress, reduced to 44 seats, could not fill up the sixth and last row, usually occupied by members of the principal Opposition. Many Trinamul MPs sat in the sixth row along with Congress members.
Sonia Gandhi sat in the front row but son Rahul was seen on the backbenches, around the same place where his cousin Varun used to sit in the 15th Lok Sabha.