Congress candidate from Patna Sahib and former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shatrughan Sinha on Tuesday said veteran politician LK Advani was in tears when he quit the saffron party but had never asked him to not leave, NDTV reported. In April, Sinha concluded his 20-year-long association with the BJP and moved to the Congress.

“When I came and joined the new direction, the better direction, I took Advaniji’s blessings,” Sinha was quoted as saying. “He almost had tears in his eyes, but he didn’t say ‘mat jao [don’t go]’. He said ‘Okay, love you’.”

Sinha, who joined the BJP when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading the party, drew parallels between the leadership then and now. He claimed there was “Lok Sahi” or democracy in the past but only “Tana Sahi” or autocracy now.

Sinha, a two-term BJP MP from Patna Sahib, had often been critical of the BJP and even made appearances at public functions organised by Opposition leaders. On March 23, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance named Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as the candidate from Patna Sahib constituency. The same day, Sinha had reacted by saying he is “capable of paying back”.

He criticised the BJP for sidelining party veterans such as Advani and Jaswant Singh. “What treatment did they give to our father figure Atal Bihari Vajpayee?” Sinha said. “What treatment did they give to the great stalwart and one of the founders of BJP Jaswant Singh? Our intellectual par excellence, Arun Shourie, where is he today? What happened to our statesman Yashwant Sinha, that he had no option but to leave BJP?”

Sinha has in the past also criticised the BJP for its treatment of veterans. This year, the BJP leadership refused to give 91-year-old Advani or 85-year-old Murli Manohar Joshi tickets for the Lok Sabha elections. Advani has represented Gandhinagar in Parliament since 1991 (barring a two-year period) but the party this year selected BJP president Amit Shah as its candidate from the seat.

Similarly, it replaced Joshi, who had vacated his Varanasi seat for Modi and contested from Kanpur instead in 2014, was replaced with Uttar Pradesh state minister Satyadev Pachauri its candidate. The party has decided not to field anyone above the age of 75 this year, Amit Shah had reportedly said in an interview.

Sinha on Tuesday also claimed that Modi was deflecting questions on matters that people care about by talking about the Balakot air strikes instead. “Our honourable PM believes in the shoot-and-scoot policy,” he said. “When we ask him about employment, he talks about Pulwama...Why is he not answering the questions people want to know?”