Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje on Friday cancelled a trip to Punjab, which would have brought her on the same stage as BJP president Amit Shah, as speculation mounted the party was distancing itself from her over the controversy involving former IPL boss Lalit Modi.
A release from the chief minister's office said the visit was cancelled on health grounds as her doctor Dr Sudhir Bhandari has advised her rest for a back ache.
Raje was to join celebrations to mark 350 years of Anandpur Sahib, an important shrine for Sikhs, and share the stage with Shah and Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
The cancellation was a sudden development as her office had earlier confirmed that the trip was on.
This comes on the back of reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Shah on Thursday night to discuss ways to control the damage caused to the government's image by the Lalit Modi controversy, which involved both Raje and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
News channel NDTV quoting sources said the two leaders discussed strategy to counter the opposition attacks on Swaraj, who helped Lalit Modi obtain travel papers in Britain last year, and Raje, who is accused of secretly backing his bid for immigration in 2011.
Reports also said they also discussed whether to expedite cases against the former IPL commissioner who faces 16 enforcement directorate notices on charges of money laundering and forex violation.
The top leadership is apparently worried that the image of the government has taken a hit over the controversy and that the opposition might use it to stall key reform bills in the upcoming session of Parliament.
Though senior ministers and party leaders have come out in support of Swaraj, who claimed she helped Modi on "humanitarian" grounds, they have not backed Raje, saying "facts need to be ascertained" before they make any comment.
"Sushma Swaraj has been forthcoming in giving an explanation, which Vasundhara Raje has not done so far. There is an apprehension that there could be more to it than meets the eye. We are adopting a wait-and-watch approach," a Union minister told HT.
Raje faces charges of impropriety on two counts -- over allegedly backing Modi's immigration bid, and over an ED case that Lalit Modi bought shares in her son Dushyant Singh's hotel firm at highly inflated premium
Raje had called up Shah on Tuesday to claim there was no wrongdoing, but the party was not convinced with her explanation, reports said.
Sources said an immediate change in the party's strategy on Raje was unlikely but Rajasthan BJP leaders said they were waiting for a signal from the high command.
"Earlier, MLAs used to openly come out in support of Raje. In 2008, when she was removed as the leader of opposition, they even went to Delhi. But this time everyone is unsure and keeping quiet," a party leader in Jaipur said.
Read:BJP worried Lalit Modi-Swaraj row sullying its image, PM says 'people believe in what they see'