A 90-minute delay in the commencement of the BJP office-bearers meeting on Friday, on the eve of the two-day National Executive, only added to speculation on differences within the party over entrusting a bigger role to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the national level.
The meeting, scheduled to start at 3 p.m., began only at 4.30 p.m. as senior leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj arrived late. She had arrived here on the same commercial flight on which most of the senior leaders came.
Sudhanshu Trivedi, party spokesperson and political adviser to party chief Rajnath Singh, was at his wits’ end at a press briefing later in the evening when he tried to downplay both the issues in response to a flurry of questions.
When pressed for a reply to a question on visible differences in the party over “Modi issue” ahead of the National Executive, he said, “I want to make it clear that there is neither any pro nor anti-faction in the party.” He advised journalists “not to read too many things into everything.” On the delayed start of the meeting, he said, “In India such things happen.”
He said the National Executive would deliberate on national security, political situation and the party’s strategy for elections to the Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Assemblies and possibly Jharkhand.
Asked about Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement on Thursday admitting differences on the Modi issue and his demand that a decision on Mr. Modi must be taken within a time frame, Mr. Trivedi said, “Ours is a democratic party. Everybody, including Chief Ministers, has the freedom to express opinions, but they will have to abide by whatever the party decides.”
Earlier, Mr. Modi was given a rousing welcome by party activists and leaders soon after his arrival here.