Using the idiom of war, BJP national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan Friday said Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was the "best commando" the party could have in its political battle.
"There is no doubt Modi is the best commando we have. And in a war, we use our best weapons and commandos," Pradhan said, before going into a meeting of the party's national office bearers at a city resort in Panaji.
However, amid growing clamour in the BJP for Narendra Modi to spearhead the party's challenge in the next Lok Sabha elections, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday likened the Gujarat strongman to an "inflated balloon" that would "burst" soon.
"In my political career spanning 40-50 years I have found that more a balloon is inflated the sooner it bursts," he said.
Pawar, also Union agriculture minister, was asked to comment on the buzz in the BJP over Modi becoming chairman of its campaign committee for the general elections that would firmly pitch him as party's prime ministerial candidate.
The BJP's office bearers' Friday meeting is expected to set the tone for the Bharatiya Janata Party's two-day national executive and council meetings, which are expected to decide on the BJP strategy for the Lok Sabha polls of 2014.
Pradhan, who was recently appointed the party's in-charge for Bihar, said that while a final decision on the party's campaign strategy would be taken by its parliamentary board, a "decisive message" would be sent from this national executive meet.
"The party workers and the common people are filled with excitement at his (Modi's) name. As the party president (Rajnath Singh) has always said, he is the most popular leader," Pradhan said.
Asked about the absence of LK Advani and some other leaders, Pradhan did not respond directly, but insisted that there was no division within the party.
"There are no differences in the party," he said, adding: "This meet will chart out the strategy to uproot the Congress. People are tired of the Congress."
In another development, Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has rejected BJP national general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy's offer to use Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for brightening the NDA's prospects in the 2014 general elections.
"We don't need Modi. There is no need to outsource leaders in Bihar. (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar is charismatic, popular and capable to handle everything," JD-U spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told reporters here, e reacting to Rudy's offer made Thursday.
Neeraj, who is considered close to Nitish Kumar, said the JD-U enjoys support of people in the state.
JD-U MP Ali Anwar Ansari said: "Bihar does not need Modi at all. We won two assembly polls in 2005 and 2010 and one Lok Sabha elections in 2009 under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, minus Modi."
Rudy had claimed that most JD-U workers and leaders in Bihar privately admit that they need Modi. "JD-U workers admit openly that they require Modi to improve the party's poll prospects in the elections," he said.
"There is little doubt that Modi's service is required by the BJP and by the JD-U in Bihar," the BJP general secretary added.
Nitish Kumar had earlier raised objection to his photographs being published alongside Modi's in newspaper advertisements during the BJP's national executive.
The Bihar chief minister had also persuaded the BJP leadership agaist inviting Modi to campaign in the 2009 Bihar assembly polls and in the 2010 Lok Sabha polls.
The JD-U is one of the oldest ally of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance. Nitish Kumar has repeatedly made it clear that he would not accept the BJP's leadership in a national coalition if Modi was chosen as its prime ministerial candidate.
Modi, who is being touted as the BJP's possible prime ministerial candidate and the one who will lead the party's 2014 general election campaign, was given a rousing welcome by BJP supporters and leaders soon after his arrival in Goa on Friday.
He was received by Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar and other senior party leaders.
Soon after his arrival, Modi offered his condolences to finance minister P Chidambaram and his family on hearing the news of the death of the latter's mother in Chennai.
He prayed for the peace of the departed soul and for the almighty to give strength to the Chidambaram family in their hour of bereavement.
BJP veteran LK Advani and many senior leaders will be missing from the meeting of the office bearers of the party in Goa ahead of the two-day national executive meeting over the weekend.
The meeting is seen as significant as the matter of who will lead the Bharatiya Janata Party's campaign committee for the 2014 general elections is likely to feature in it.
Sources from the party say Advani will not attend the office-bearers' meeting, seen as a preparatory one.
Advani, however, is expected to reach Goa Saturday morning, in time for the national executive conference.
The 85-year-old party veteran has cited health reasons for skipping the meeting.
Another senior party leader, 75-year-old Jaswant Singh, told reporters in New Delhi that he was "going to hospital" and may not be in Goa.
Some other faces missing are Uma Bharati, who wrote to party president Rajnath Singh expressing inability to attend, on grounds of poor health. Party general secretary Varun Gandhi is travelling abroad, and will remain absent too.
Deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha Ravishankar Prasad, who is in Sri Lanka, will also miss the Goa session.
Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha, aclose supporter of party veteran L K Advani, will not be attending the crucial BJP national executive meeting at Goa today on health grounds.
"Sinha who is in Mumbai is down with cold, cough and flu for the past one week and will not be going to Goa," sources close to Sinha told PTI.
The office bearers' meeting Friday was scheduled to begin 3 pm. Members of the BJP's parliamentary board, the highest decision making body of the party, general secretaries, and state chiefs of the party are set to attend.
Modi's role in the next Lok Sabha elections is expected to be the dominant theme of the BJP meet, amid a strong demand from some sections of the party for declaring him the campaign committee head.
(With inputs from PTI, IANS)