'Poor health' forces BJP leaders to skip Goa conclave

Panaji, June 7 (IANS) 'Poor health' of leaders appears to be taking a toll on the three-day BJP conclave in Goa, with three senior leaders either choosing to skip the opening day of the meet or dropping out of the event altogether.

After party vice president Uma Bharti expressed her inability to attend the meet for health reasons Thursday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart L.K. Advani appear to have followed suit.

Party sources say that Advani will not attend the office bearers' meeting Friday but will reach Goa Saturday morning in time for the two-day national executive meet, where the party leadership is expected to carve out a strategic roadmap ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Other key decisions like who will head the campaign committee of the party for the general elections could also be taken during the meeting.

The 85-year-old BJP veteran has cited health reasons for not attending Friday's meet.

Another senior party leader, Jaswant Singh, meanwhile, told reporters in New Delhi that he was "going to hospital" and may not attend the national executive meet either.

Senior party leader Ravishankar Prasad, who is in Sri Lanka, will also be missing from the meet. So will Varun Gandhi, as he is out of the country.

Bharti has already written to the party president Rajnath Singh expressing inability to attend the meet.

The office bearers' meeting is scheduled to be held 3 p.m. Friday and will be attended by members of the BJP's parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body in the party, general secretaries, and state chiefs of the party.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has emerged as a strong probable for the party's prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, will be attending the meet through the three days.

According to sources, BJP President Rajnath Singh and a group of leaders, backed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are in favour of making Modi the chief of party's campaign committee.

This move, if it comes through, could set the tone for allowing Modi to be the party's face for general elections, scheduled in 2014.

According to party insiders, Advani, and some key leaders, are not in favour of this decision. Advani even suggested forming a separate committee for upcoming assembly elections, but the proposal was turned down, sources said.

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