Panaji, June 7 (IANS) Marred by the absence of several senior leaders, including party stalwart L.K. Advani, the BJP's key three-day conclave got underway in Goa Friday, where the party will evolve a strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and possibly discuss its prime ministerial candidate.
The absence of the leaders was made up by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose arrival in Goa resulted in a section of the BJP leadership playing cheerleaders for him, even as party spokespersons tried to play down reports of a rift between the leadership over who should lead the party into the general elections.
Reports of a rift in the BJP camp were further fuelled after a string of party leaders like Varun Gandhi, Jaswant Singh and Uma Bharati, expressed their inability to attend the meet, some citing ill-health.
Advani also failed to turn up at the national office bearers meeting due to ill-health. He is expected to arrive in Goa to attend the national executive meet Saturday.
Party leader Venkaiah Naidu advised the media not to "read too much" into Advani's absence, while party president Rajnath Singh said: "Due to Advaniji's ill-health, I told him not to attend the meet today. He will reach Goa tomorrow."
The non-arrival of key leaders did not appear to dampen the spirits of the BJP, especially after the arrival of Modi at Goa's Dabolim airport.
Insiders in the BJP camp, have tipped Modi to be appointed as the head of the party's campaign committee.
Asked if Modi's likely ascendance was one of the reasons why key leaders from the Advani camp had stayed away from the meet, party Sudhanshu Trivedi said: "There is neither a pro- nor an anti-Modi camp in the BJP."
This, even as several BJP leaders, including Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, BJP vice president Smriti Irani, general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan and Balbir Punj have expressed their open support for Modi.
Pradhan's support of Modi as a key leader for the polls was most emphatic.
"There is no doubt Modi is the best commando we have. In a war we use our best weapons and commandos," Trivedi told IANS.
While BJP leaders have been showering praise on Modi and his potential to lead the party on a national stage, the opposition has lashed out at their over-enthusiasm.
"We don't need Modi. There is no need to outsource leaders in Bihar. (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar is charismatic, popular and capable to handle everything," Janata Dal-United (JD-U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told reporters in Patna, after BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy claimed that JD-U cadres felt that Modi's charisma was needed to improve the party's poll prospects in the Lok Sabha polls.
In New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi also took at dig at BJP's Modi mania.
"If BJP leaders are falling ill because of Narendra Modi, then the BJP must think what impact would he have on the nation. My full sympathies with those BJP leaders who aren't well," he taunted.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said that Modi was all about hype.
"Experience shows that whenever a lot of hot air is created about something, that balloon always bursts," Pawar said.
At the three-day meet, the other items on the agenda Saturday are several resolutions which will be passed by the members ranging from issues related to national pride and security.
It will also pass resolutions on the manner in which corruption and malgovernance were eating into national polity and how constitutional bodies were being tampered with in order to protect corrupt leaders in power.