Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani will skip the party office-bearers meeting in Goa on Thursday, which will chart out the agenda for the party's national executive meet, due to "ill-health", triggering speculation over his reported reservations over projecting Narendra Modi as the next prime ministerial candidate.
Eight-five-year-old Advani, who is reportedly opposed to the declaration of Modi as head of the BJP campaign committee for Lok Sabha polls, may attend the two-day national executive meet starting on Saturday if his health permits, sources close to him said.
BJP President Rajnath Singh said, "I have only advised Advaniji not to attend today's meeting due to his ill health. But tomorrow (on Saturday) he is reaching Goa,"
Asked whether the name of the BJP's prime ministerial candidate will be announced at the national executive, he said, "We will see".
The news of Advani keeping away from the office-bearers meeting led to speculation that he is registering his opposition in the midst of clamour among some leaders to declare Modi's name at the Goa conclave.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said that media should not read too much into the absence of Advani from the meeting of office-bearers in Goa. "Don't try to read too much into his absence for today," he said in Panaji.
Amidst the controversy, BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said on Friday, "If someone is under the misconception that Advaniji is supporting or opposing someone then they should dispel it."
Modi's role in the next Lok Sabha election is expected to be the dominant theme of the BJP national executive, amid a strong demand from some sections of the party for declaring him the campaign committee head.
Ahead of the two-day conclave, central office-bearers of the party will meet to discuss the agenda for the national executive meet. Sources said some of the office-bearers are likely to press for declaring Modi as the campaign committee head during the conclave. But a consensus on the issue is eluding the party top brass. As a result, the proposal may not see the light of day at the national executive meet.
"There is expectation among the cadre that BJP President Rajnath Singh will give out a clear message to the party at the Goa conclave. He has been working on it and is in consultation with BJP top brass and members of the parliamentary board prior to the conclave," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap
Rudy had said when asked about the issue.
Asked if decks have been cleared for Modi to be announced as the campaign committee chief, Rudy had said that nothing has been firmed up yet. He refused to comment further on it. However, sources said Singh is still in consultation with the top leadership on the issue.
Several top leaders of the party are, however, likely to skip the national executive. Vice President Uma Bharti, General Secretary Varun Gandhi, Deputy Leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad, Jaswant Singh and Shatrughan Sinha are not likely to attend, party sources said.
While Bharati is unwell after a long tour for her Save Ganga project, Gandhi is away in Paris with his wife to spend some time after the demise of their newborn child. Prasad is leading a delegation to Sri Lanka.