Before the BJP’s much-hyped Goa conclave got underway on Friday, it was widely expected to be the venue for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to be named central campaign coordinator for the general elections in 2014.
But party patriarch LK Advani, with his conspicuous absence from proceeding on Day 1, seems to have cast a shadow on the crucial meeting and Modi’s elevation here is no longer a given.
“It isn’t easy to bypass Advaniji and make the announcement,” said a BJP leader while another said the likelihood of such an announcement was 50:50.
Advani — down with a stomach bug — may not be present on Saturday too. “He will take a call on Saturday morning, depending on his health,” said an aide, adding that the 85-year-old hadn’t spoken to anyone in the party all day.
The BJP had earlier cold-shouldered Advani’s proposal for a parallel poll management committee under Nitin Gadkari for assembly polls — seen as an attempt to prevent Modi from running away with the limelight.
Several other senior leaders also gave the two-day conclave a miss, prompting the Congress to say ‘Namonitis’ had struck the BJP. On Twitter, they were calling it ‘NaMonia’.
The leaders had their reasons, generally ill health, but it escaped no one that the absentee list was largely made up of people not favourably disposed towards Modi — Uma Bharti, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi.
Adding to the controversy was Sushma Swaraj's “late” arrival for Friday's office bearers' meeting, with speculation rife that she too was displeased by talk of Modi's elevation.
As the day progressed, there was talk that the RSS and BJP president Rajnath Singh would bring Advani around, but many said this was easier said than done. In the end, the meeting apparently ended without any discussion on the campaign committee. "How could it be discussed in such negativity?" one BJP leader told HT.
At a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi faced a barrage of questions on the absences and delays. "You are sharing unbelievable reports with me. I can assure you it is not as you are interpreting," he said.