‘Poor health’ of leaders appears to be taking a toll on the three-day BJP conclave in Goa, with three senior leaders either choosing to skip the opening day of the meet or dropping out of the event altogether. After party vice-president Uma Bharti expressed her inability to attend the meet for health reasons on Thursday, BJP stalwart LK Advani appears to have followed suit yesterday.
Advani, who heads a diaspora within the BJP against Modi, called in sick yesterday. He skipped an important session of the 12 office-bearers of the party where the leadership is expected to carve out a strategic roadmap ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Other key decisions like who will head the campaign committee of the party for the general elections were also to be taken during the meeting. Advani, however, will reach Goa today. The party says there’s no reason to believe this telegraphs dissent. “Due to Advaniji’s ill-health, I told him not to attend the meet today. He will reach Goa tomorrow,” said BJP chief Rajnath Singh.
Another senior party leader, Jaswant Singh, meanwhile, told reporters in New Delhi that he was “going to hospital” and may not attend the national executive meet either. Senior leader Ravishankar Prasad, who is in Sri Lanka, will also be missing from the meet. So will Varun Gandhi, as he is out of the country.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has emerged as a strong probable for the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, is attending the meet. According to sources, BJP President Rajnath Singh and a group of leaders, backed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are in favour of making Modi the chief of party’s campaign committee.
This move, if it comes through, could set the tone for allowing Modi to be the party’s face for general elections, scheduled in 2014. According to party insiders, Advani, and some key leaders, are not in favour of this decision. Advani even suggested forming a separate committee for upcoming assembly elections, but the proposal was turned down, sources said.
Cong goes ad-mad
A string of ads released by the Goa government welcoming top party leaders to the conclave has irked Congress leaders. Congress MP Francisco Sardinha said he was “surprised” that the government has spent public money on ads promoting BJP leaders at a time when the state faced a cash crunch. “My party will take up the issue. It is public money, and does not belong to the BJP,” Sardinha said.