But L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, two former party presidents who are now members of its Margdarshak Mandal, stayed away from the colourful ceremony attended by Union ministers, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and party office-bearers.
Sources said Advani and Joshi, who were always present whenever the party elected a new president, were not informed about the programme at the BJP headquarters. Along with Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar, the veterans stunned the BJP leadership on Diwali eve when they issued a statement targeting Shah and his team for the party’s rout in Bihar.
The BJP, the veteran leaders said, was being “forced to kowtow to a handful”, that its “consensual character” had been “destroyed” and it had been “emasculated” in the last year.
Although the BJP leadership said there would be more discussion in the party before decision-making and that members of the Margdarshak Mandal would be consulted, no meeting or talks have been held so far. A BJP leader, considered close to the veterans, said the party’s reluctance to invite them for the Sunday ceremony showed “there is not likely to be a change in Shah’s style of functioning”.
Incidentally, the Margdarshak Mandal, formed after the 2014 Lok Sabha victory, has never met. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh are its other members.
Shah’s predecessors Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, M Venkaiah Naidu — they are all Union ministers now — were the first to greet him after his election for a three-year term was announced. Narendra Modi, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and the party parliamentary board proposed 51-year-old Shah’s name for the post. Avinash Rai Khanna, the chief electoral officer, said 17 nominations were filed for Shah.
Modi, who was not present on the occasion since he was in Chandigarh with French President Francois Hollande, will attend the parliamentary board meeting likely to be held on January 28.