Tongues wag over Advani 'no-show' at Goa
The BJP’s crucial strategic meet, which is likely to set the agenda for the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and send a “strong message” — with a possible elevation for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi — to the electorate, is starting on an uneasy note.
If Modi landed in the beach town with fanfare and expectancy over his likely anointment as head of the election campaign committee, senior BJP leader L K Advani’s absence on the eve of the two-day National Executive meeting set tongues wagging. Though no one was willing to talk on record about Modi’s elevation, many hinted that the decision may come before the conclave ends on Sunday.
Meanwhile, party leaders tried hard to play down the patriarch’s absence saying he was unwell and will certainly attend the meeting on Saturday.
“Advaniji was a bit unwell today. He will attend the National Executive meeting tomorrow,” Rajnath Singh tweeted. Later, he explained that it was he who advised Advani to come a day later because of health reasons.
However, it was not good enough to stop speculation around Advani’s absence. Another senior party leader interjected saying Advani was not even an office bearer in the party. He is our marg darshak (guiding spirit), thus hinting that the veteran’s role was limited to guidance.
But the claim — Advani not being an office bearer — only raised more doubts. The ‘extended’ office bearers’ meeting was attended by all members of the BJP’s parliamentary board, state presidents and general secretaries. “All the members of the parliamentary board present (in Goa) were there,” said party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi.
The extended office bearer’s meeting was attended by Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Modi, former party chief Nitin Gadkari, senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, general secretaries Ramlal, and Ananth Kumar, among others. Trivedi said other parliamentary board members were present since the agenda for the National Executive has to be decided and as elections were approaching important decisions were to be made.
Curiously, the meeting scheduled to start at 3 pm, started an hour late as Swaraj arrived late leading to more speculation about the rift among senior members over Modi’s role. Trivedi said, “The media was reading too much into this. Things do get late in India. There are no differences in the party.” He also downplayed questions that Swaraj had expressed unhappiness over Advani’s absence and had insisted that he be given due respect.