NEW DELHI : New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had never considered people who disagree with the party politically as enemies or anti-nationals, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said days after being denied nomination by the party.

The defence of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the party and nationally, has been a proud hallmark of the BJP, Advani said on Thursday, just two days before the foundation day of the party. The party was formed on 6 April 1980. Advani, a former deputy prime minister, is one of the founders of the party and had represented the Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat six times since 1991.

“Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our enemies, but only as our adversaries. Similarly, in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national. The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at personal as well as political level," Advani said.

Advani’s comment comes amid a raging political debate on the idea of nationalism and anti-nationals. Senior leaders of the BJP have often said that the 2019 general elections should be contested on the idea of nationalism.

Another senior leader who was denied an election ticket is former Union minister Murli Manohar Joshi. The former BJP chief who represents Kanpur issued a statement in March that he would not contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Soon after coming to power after the 2014 general elections, the BJP leadership took a decision that leaders above the age of 75 years should not hold public office. Both Advani and Joshi were removed from the parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of the party after the BJP came to power in 2014. The two are now part of the Margdarshak Mandal which has not held a meeting in the last five years.

Advani further said in a statement that the BJP has always been at the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all democratic institutions, including the media.

“Electoral reforms, with special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding, which is so essential for a corruption-free polity, has been another priority for our party. In short, the triad of satya (truth), rashtra nishtha (dedication to the nation) and loktantra (democracy, both within and outside the party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my party," added Advani.

Responding to Advani’s blog, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, “Advaniji perfectly sums up the true essence of BJP, most notably the guiding Mantra of ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last.’ Proud to be a BJP karyakarta and proud that greats like L.K. Advaniji have strengthened it."

Advani further said while the coming Lok Sabha elections were a festival of democracy, they were also an occasion for honest introspection by political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the elections and the electorate.

“The sum total of all values (of BJP) constitutes sanskritik rashtravad (cultural nationalism) and Su-Raj (good governance), to which my party has always remained wedded. The heroic struggle against the Emergency rule was precisely to uphold the above values. It is my sincere desire that all of us should collectively strive to strengthen the democratic edifice of India," he said.