Divided BJP to decide Modi's fate Sunday

Panaji, June 8 (IANS) A clearly divided BJP will wait until Sunday to take a call on appointing Narendra Modi as the head of a crucial 2014 general election campaign committee, even as his potential ascent has created a sharp rift within the party.

Modi, who has emerged as a strong contender for bring prime ministerial candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party, was supposed to be announced the head of party's campaign committee for 2014.

The decision, which was to be taken in a meeting of party leaders Friday, was however put off after strong resistance from senior party leader L.K. Advani and his camp.

The BJP veteran reportedly ill, skipped the BJP national executive meet, for the first time in his entire political career, casting a long shadow on Modi's prime ministerial aspirations.

The party was at pains to explain the absence of 85-year-old Advani, with a spokesperson insisting that his "health is really bad".

The absence of Advani and his reported reluctance to endorse Modi's credentials just yet, has forced the party to delay, even if temporarily, the move to make Modi the face of the Lok Sabha polls.

Modi, who arrived in confidence at the three-day conclave and had a string of leaders clamouring to anoint him as the party's prime ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, now has until Sunday to swing the tide to his favour as BJP leaders continue to indicate towards a "big announcement" to be made by the end of the meet.

Party President Rajnath Singh, who has appeared to be on Modi's side, in his inaugural address to the meet said all would go home "happy and enthusiastic". This could be interpreted as an indication towards a major announcement, even as the BJP leaders remain tight lipped on record.

Insiders suggested that BJP president Rajnath Singh had offered Modi a compromise formula where the latter would be appointed as the convenor of the campaign committee for the general elections.

Modi is, however, learnt to have rejected the offer for now.

Sources also say leaders of party's parliamentary board will have an informal meeting late Saturday to decide on the issue.

Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman toed the party line, saying Advani was being briefed about all the developments.

"Rajnathji has talked to Advaniji yesterday and today. He is being briefed about all developments here," Sitharaman said.

The Goa developments led to alleged supporters of Modi protest outside Advani's home in New Delhi. They demanded that he clear the way for Modi to become BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

Sitharaman was quick to condemn the protest.

"Party workers don't protest against party leaders. BJP has nothing to do with the protest. We condemn it," she said.

Interestingly, part spokesperson Prakash Javadekar described the absence of Advani and other senior leaders as "nothing unusual".

At the national executive meeting Rajnath Singh spoke on various issues ranging from internal and external security, corruption, politicisation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the need for creating strong and confident relations with neighbouring countries.

The party also took strong exception to both Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party leaders taking what it called "cheap" potshots at the euphoria within the party in anticipation of Modi's ascent.

"The Congress should stop making such unbecoming remarks. We never speak in similar vein about Sonia Gandhi," Javadekar said, after Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury suggested that an epidemic of "NaMonia" was spreading in Goa and taking a toll on the party leaders who are camping in the resort state for the conclave.

The outspoken Yashwant Sinha, in a comment to media in Delhi said: "I don't have 'NaMonia'. I am in perfect health. There can be other reasons for not going to Goa."

'NaMonia' is a term being used widely on social media to refer to the virus causing illness for several BJP leaders, who have given the meet a miss.

Apart from Advani, other important leaders missing from the meeting were Jaswant Singh, Uma Bharti, Shatrughan Sinha, Varun Gandhi, and Maneka Gandhi.

If day one of the three day BJP meet was all about Modi's charisma and Advani's sulk, day two showed that an "ill" Advani was still good enough to baulk a steamrolling Modi juggernaut. At least for a while.

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