Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani on Wednesday strongly endorsed Nitin Gadkari as one of the most meritorious party presidents the Bharatiya Janata Party has had.

This came as a surprise to some members of the party’s concluding session of the National Executive Committee here as several senior members known to be close to Mr. Advani had been stating publicly that no decision had been made and no consultations held on a new party president even weeks after the decision was made in favour of Mr. Gadkari.

Some party leaders had pointed out that the Advani camp in fact resisted the move of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat in favour of a generational change in the BJP’s leadership for, the signal was also about Mr. Advani leaving the position of Leader of the Opposition, which he did only months afterwards.

Party insiders have pointed out Mr. Advani’s immediate announcement of “resignation” after the Lok Sabha results came in May 2009 was in keeping with what the RSS had expected. But the camp close to Mr. Advani had then persuaded him to stay on, till the RSS finally made it clear that he would have to make way for younger leaders.

On Wednesday, Mr. Advani made the point that when he succeeded Atal Bihari Vajpayee as party president in the mid-eighties, he was not at all confident about speaking in public, but Mr. Gadkari had assumed his responsibility comfortably. Yet another point made by him was that in the BJP the smallest party worker could get the top position on merit.

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