A day before the crucial BJP national executive meeting in Goa, party stalwart LK Advani’s non-arrival in the city triggered speculations over his reported reservations about projecting Narendra Modi as the next prime ministerial candidate.
Senior party leaders, however, played down the development. While BJP president Rajnath Singh said he had advised Advani to come a day later because of his poor health, party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the veteran leader was not angry about speculations favouring Modi as the chief of Lok Sabha election campaign.
Advani’s recent comments that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was a better prime ministerial candidate had reportedly annoyed the lobby advocating Modi for the top post. BJP president Rajnath Singh, and Chouhan himself, had promptly clarified that Modi was the “most popular" face of the party.
The party has been zealously evading questions about Modi’s possible prime ministerial candidature with a standard answer that the party’s parliamentary board will take a call on the issue.
However, BJP national vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there are “chances that elections can happen this year” and the party will discuss poll strategy at the three-day event. The strategy will possibly involve announcing the name of the leader who will head the campaign committee. Modi is the front runner for the post.
This was evident from the statements of a string of leaders who gave him thumbs up.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said, "Modi can catapult BJP to power. He will take us closer to government formation at the Centre."
BJP national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan used military analogy to explain Modi’s importance to the electoral fortunes of the party.
"There is no doubt Modi is the best commando we have. In war, we use our best weapons and commandos," Pradhan said.