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Advani skips Goa conclave; BJP says 'wait till tomorrow' for a 'major announcement'

Amid reports of a rift within the BJP, especially after Advani's decision to skip the national executive meet in Goa, party chief Rajnath Singh said the conclave would end on a positive note and everyone will go back 'happy'. Not suffering from 'NaMonia': Yashwant | Cong takes potshot at BJP after Advani's no-show

india Updated: Jun 08, 2013 17:37 IST
Bharatiya Janata Party,LK Advani,BJP National Executive meet

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in a dilemma on Saturday over anointing Narendra Modi as campaign committee chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the absence of patriarch LK Advani and other senior leaders, who have not turned up for the ongoing National Executive meeting in Goa as they are said to be opposed to such a move.

Ill health was cited as the reason for Advani's decision to keep away from the two-day meeting of the National Executive that began on Saturday with leaders clamouring for Modi's elevation as campaign head for the elections.

Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar had a difficult time when newspersons plied him with questions on the absence of Advani and other leaders and reservations of some other leaders over the proposal to elevate Modi.

"Wait till tomorrow. In BJP we don't take decisions without consensus at the top level," he told the media when asked whether a decision is expected to be taken by tomorrow when the Executive meeting would conclude.

Amid reports of rift within the BJP, party president Rajnath Singh said the conclave would end on a positive note and every one will go back "happy".

In his inaugural address to the national executive meeting here, Rajnath Singh said everyone will go home "happy, energised and enthusiastic", party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters.

Advani not attending the Executive meeting is perhaps the first time in the party's history that he has kept away from crucial deliberations.

Party leaders sought to downplay the absence saying nothing much should be read into it or as if there were serious differences at the top level.

Soon after the two-day conclave kicked off, the party gave signals that there could be some decision by tomorrow with BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar saying the participants will go back "with new energy, new confidence and new enthusiasm".

However, he was evasive when asked repeatedly whether this statement meant that a bigger role for Modi will be announced.

"Wait till tomorrow," he kept saying.

Another leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is also the vice president, said the party is going to make a "major announcement" in Goa that will strengthen the organisation and project it as an alternative to the UPA government.

He was responding to a question on whether Modi will be appointed the campaign committee head at the conclave.

Regarding absence of other members like Uma Bharati and Yashwant Sinha, he said they must have informed the party president.

"There is nothing like whip in the party national executive which can force the members to come," he commented.

Asked whether a big decision can be taken without Advani's presence, Javadekar said the senior leader had conveyed his "blessings" for the meet as he was unable to attend due to ill-health.

At the same time, he said, "No decision is taken in our party without everybody's consent."

Insisting that Advani was "really unwell", Javadekar said that party president Rajnath Singh even talked to the senior leader's doctors.

After that he advised Advani to take rest even though the latter was keen on attending at least on the second day.

To a volley of questions on Advani, he said the senior leader does not usually fall ill but this time "the changing weather has affected him." He noted that in the last 50 years, this was the first time that Advani has not attended such a meeting.

Javadekar said though Advani was keen on attending the national conclave at least on the last day, Singh advised him not to do so due to his ill-health and the opinion of doctors that he should take rest.

"Our party president said you take rest. We will come to meet you," he added.

Singh had called Advani today to enquire about his health. He advised Advani not to strain himself, BJP leaders said.

BJP denied reports that Singh is in touch with NDA allies like JDU to discuss the appointment of Modi as head of the campaign coordination committee.

"JDU has already said this is an internal matter of the BJP," Javadekar said.

The party insisted there were no factions within the organisation.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh lights the lamp as BJP senior leader Arun Jaitley, Goa CM Manohar Parikar and leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj look on at the party's Meet in Goa on Friday (June 7, 2013). PTI Photo

'Protesters outside Advani's house not linked to BJP'

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain on Saturday expressed his displeasure at the demonstrations that took place outside Advani's residence in the national capital.

"The demonstration in front of Advani's residence (in the national capital) were by those who had no links with the BJP and Advani continues to be the supreme leader," he said.

"Advani is not coming for the meet due to bad health. One shouldn't draw any other inference out of it," said Hussain.

He, however, used the occasion to target the ruling Congress Party at the Centre.

"The Bharatiya Janata Party has organised the meet to devise strategy to oust the Congress Party from power, for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the upcoming elections in the five states," he said.

In an attempt to dismiss the signs of division within the party, BJP president Rajnath Singh on Friday said that he himself advised Advani to take rest as he was unwell, and insisted that his no-show should not be seen as an expression of protest.

I don't have 'NaMonia': Yahwant Sinha

Yashwant Sinha has said he chosen to stay away from the party's National Executive meeting in Goa not because of 'NaMonia', an oblique reference to aversion to Modi.

"I don't have 'NaMonia'. I am in perfect health. But there could be other reasons for not going to Goa because of which I have not gone there," Sinha told reporters.

'NaMonia' has emerged as a euphemism to refer to a group of BJP leaders, including senior party leaders L K Advani and Jaswant Singh, who have reported sick and skipped the party's national executive meeting which began in Goa today.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi waves to the crowd as he arrives in Goa to attend the BJP National Executive Meeting on Friday (June 7, 2013). PTI Photo

Sinha had earlier supported Modi, who is being talked about being projected as the head of the BJP campaign committee for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The former Union minister was also quoted as saying some day's back that Modi was unlikely to be appointed as in-charge of the BJP's campaign for the general elections.

Modi's elevation likely

Accortding to the sources, the BJP is keen to make the announcement about Modi at the National Executive and the RSS has given its go-ahead to it.

"Whether Advani is there at the meeting or not, the announcement about Modi is likely," at least two senior party leaders said.

Some sources said the announcement could come even as early as today.

There is a possibility of senior leader Sushma Swaraj, considered close to Advani, and others raising objections to announcement about Modi's role in the absence of Advani.

Even the RSS is now said to be of the view that the party should go ahead with the announcement without further delay.

Modi's role in the next general elections to be held in 2014 has divided BJP - some pushing for him, others close to Advani opposing him.

Senior BJP leaders not at meet

Apparently to show opposition, leaders like Uma Bharti, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Yogi Adityananth, also considered close to Advani, are also not attending the meeting.

The national executive is being held from Saturday and Sunday.

Advani's absence: what does it mean

Advani's absence from the extended office bearer's meeting in Goa is seen as an indication of his being upset with the proposal of making Modi the chief of the party's election campaign committee.

Before the BJP’s much-hyped Goa conclave got underway on Friday, it was widely expected to be the venue for Modi to be named central campaign coordinator for the general elections in 2014.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh with senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely addressing the party meeting on Friday (June 7, 2013). UNI Photo

But 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.

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 on Friday, 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.

(With inputs from HT, PTI)

First Published: Jun 08, 2013 08:27 IST