New Delhi: At a time when Narendra Modi is being seen by some as BJP`s prime ministerial face, party leader LK Advani on Sunday chose to shower praise on Sushma Swaraj and equated her oratorial skills with that of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Addressing the concluding session of the three-day BJP conclave here, Advani said he regrets that he does not have oratorial skills like Vajpayee but Swaraj had such traits.
"Sushma gives me the same complex that Vajpayee used to give me. I tell Sushma that you create this complex in me," he said.
As he began his speech, Advani said he could not say anything better than what Sushma had said before him. "She has explained everything in such eloquently. She has even analysed why we lost in some states, where there was a hat-trick, where there is likely to be hat-trick and where we could not win," Advani noted to the party cadres.
His praise assumes significance as Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, as one of the front-runners for the BJP`s prime ministerial candidate even though some are pitching for Modi.
It comes against the backdrop of growing clamour for Modi, who got the spotlight at the conclave with party president Rajnath Singh singularly praising him and asking the cadres to give him a standing ovation.
At the same time, Advani also talked about Modi, describing him as the "most unfairly maligned politician in the history of independent India" and said that most foreign governments have changed their stand towards him.
Advani, the former deputy prime minister, cautioned against the urge among some workers to be in the limelight at the cost of the party and differences between leaders at the top level.
"We in the BJP take legitimate pride in the fact that we are a non-dynastic party that values and promotes internal democracy. But we must recognise that internal cohesion, especially at the top levels of the organisation, sustains internal democracy," Advani told the cadres.
"If internal cohesion is allowed to be weakened by lack of internal discipline, which has always been the hallmark of the BJP and earlier the Jan Sangh, the party begins to project an image of an organisation suffering from internal differences," the senior leader said.
He underlined the need for the BJP to emerge as a "strong, viable non-Congress alternative" to win over new alliance partners to the NDA fold and also to change the party`s "mutual equation" with minorities.
"The political situation in the country today is transmitting an unmistakable signal: The people want change," Advani said.
He said the BJP should go to the people ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and highlight the good governance and development in the BJP-NDA ruled states and the erstwhile Vajpayee government.
Doing some plain-talking, Advani said the party had shown some "slackness" in dealing with the corruption charges against the BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in Karnataka.
Referring to time when Nitin Gadkari was the party president and allegations against Yeddyurappa surfaced, Advani said, "Without mincing words let me admit that our wavering and unprincipled handling of the situation in Karnataka caused great damage to our image."
When the Yeddyurappa government was indicted by the Karnataka Lokayukta in a graft case, Advani was firm that he should resign. Advani had also put his foot down over giving a second term to Gadkari in January after there were allegations of financial irregularities against his Purti Group.