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New Delhi: In a veiled criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, BJP veteran L.K. Advani on Thursday said his party never viewed those who disagreed with it politically as "anti-national" but only as "adversaries". "The essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression," Advani said in his blog post, writing after a gap of four years.

"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," said Advani, a founder member of both the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the later Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The BJP did not field Advani in this Lok Sabha election. He had been representing Gandhinagar in Gujarat since 1991.

"The guiding principle of my life has been 'Nation First, Party Next, Self Last'. And in all situations, I have tried to adhere to this principle and will continue to do so," he said.

Advani said that defence of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the party and in the larger national setting, have been the proud hallmark of the BJP.

"Therefore the BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions including the media," he said.

A former Deputy Prime Minister, Advani said that elections were a festival of democracy and "are also an occasion for honest introspection by all the stakeholders in Indian democracy.

"In short, the triad of Satya (truth), Rashtra Nishtha (dedication to nation) and Loktantra (democracy, within and outside the party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my party...

"It is my sincere desire that all of us should collectively strive to strengthen the democratic edifice of India," Advani added.

Advani conveyed his "sincere gratitude" to the people of Gandhinagar. "Their love and support has always overwhelmed me."

Both Advani and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi were not given ticket by the BJP in this Lok Sabha election.

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