Senior Bharatiya Jananta Party (BJP) leaders L K Advani and Jaswant Singh have skipped the first day of the party's national executive meeting in Goa, citing health reasons.
The executive meet is being held in less than a year so as to discuss the party's poll strategy ahead of the 2014 general elections. It was expected that the party would likely take a decision to elevate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the party's election committee chief for the general elections.
Advani is reportedly against the proposed elevation of Modi during the meet. The BJP patriarch had also skipped the party's Parliamentary Board meet on Friday citing health issues. This is the first time that Advani had stayed away from the party's executive meet since BJP's inception in 1980.
The absence of Advani has raised doubts on whether the party would go ahead and announce Modi as the election committee chief. According to sources, the party would reportedly take a decision on Modi on Sunday, a private news channel reported. Advani's presence at Sunday's meeting is also said to be doubtful. The sources said that Advani would decide on Sunday if he would be attending the final day of the meet.
While RSS and the BJP leadership have backed the move to elevate Modi's role, a section of leaders supporting Advani are said to be opposing the decision. Several leaders affiliated to Advani including Jaswant Singh, Uma Bharti, former Uttarakhand CMs BC Khanduri and BS Koshiyari, and Shatrughan Sinha would also be skipping the executive meet in Goa.
On Friday, senior party leader and member of the parliamentary board, Sushma Swaraj, travelled to Goa but refused to leave her hotel to attend the parliamentary board meet as she was reportedly upset over the BJP leadership for ignoring Advani's point of view. Sources said that BJP President Rajnath Singh had to convince Sushma on phone to change her mind and attend the meet.
Advani had earlier proposed to set up two election committees for the state and the national polls, in an attempt to signal that Modi is just one of the party's top leaders rather than the tallest, according to a private new channel.
The senior leader suggested that Modi could lead the team focusing on national polls, while former BJP president Nitin Gadkari could lead the team to spearhead the party's electoral battle in the assembly polls to be held in five states this year. However, the BJP leadership reportedly rejected the proposal citing that it might cause confusion for the voters. Gadkari too refused to lead the election committee for the state polls.