L K Advani kept the suspense alive about his Prime Ministerial ambitions today on his 85th birthday with an ambivalent comment which would have left other hopefuls like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his own proteges Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley guessing.
A sprightly Advani, accompanied by his wife and daughter, today received a host of visitors who thronged his residence to wish him on his birthday.
That President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses and others wished him left little doubt about Advani's continued relevance in today's politics.
Advani also sprang a surprise when he made a comment about Prime Ministership even though no pointed question was posed to him on the issue.
Asked what his party had gifted him on his birthday, he said, "Party has given me so much all my life that when somebody says you have to become the Prime Minister, I say becoming Prime Minister is not more than what I have got from the party."
Party leaders were also taken aback by this sudden raking up of the Prime Ministerial candidate issue by the veteran leader though it is well accepted within the BJP that he still harbours such ambitions.
BJP President Nitin Gadkari also paid a visit to Advani's Prithviraj Road residence and spent around 15 minutes. The two are not on the best of terms these days as Advani is unhappy about Gadkari continuing in office despite charges of dubious funding of his Purti Group.
Gadkari had avoided visiting Advani earlier this week when BJP MP Ram Jethmalani demanded that the party president step down. But realising the signifance of the occasion and repeated mentions in the media that the two leaders are avoiding each other led Gadkari to meet Advani.
Gadkari touched Advani's feet and sought his blessings. Interestingly, the media was kept out when the two leaders met.
While the President, the Vice President and the Prime wished Advani over the phone, Jaitley and Swaraj visited him to convey their greetings.
Swaraj told reporters that she and other BJP leaders have "learnt politics at Advani's feet."
"We wished him good health so that he can guide us in future," she said.
Union Ministers Sharad Pawar and Kamal Nath also wished Advani on the phone as did Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin broke away from diplomatic protocol to touch Advani's feet when he reach the latter's residence to wish him.
Such a gesture is virtually unheard of in diplomatic circles and many were surprised to hear about it. Most diplomats and heads of state or government only go to the extent of folding their hands in a "namaste" to wish an Indian leader. Shaking of hands is the norm in such meetings.
The two were engaged in an animated conversation in Advani's sitting room. The envoy also presented Advani a small Ganesh idol.
Kadakin, an Indophile, conversed in chaste Hindi with Advani throughout his visit at the Prithviraj Road-residence.
Former BJP President Rajnath Singh, Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, former Uttarakhand CM B C Khanduri and Janata Party Chief Subramanian Swamy, who is now a part of the NDA, also wished Advani.
Narendra Modi, who is busy with the electioneering in his state, also called up Advani to convey his wishes.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal wished Advani a long and healthy life and hoped that BJP would scale new heights through his experience and guidance.
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