The ruling BJP will launch its campaign for the May 5 Assembly elections in Karnataka on Monday with the party stalwarts L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to skip the event.

The two leaders’ absence seems to have taken some sheen off the rally, which would be addressed by party President Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.

Mr. Modi kept away from BJP’s Central Election Committee that met last Friday when the first batch of 140 candidates for the Karnataka polls was decided, with party leaders maintaining that he had prior engagements and hence could not make it.

Mr. Modi would be in Delhi on Monday to address a programme organised by FICCI’s ladies wing. The second round of the CEC meeting is expected to be held on April 9.

There is intense speculation over whether the Gujarat Chief Minister, being projected by a section of the BJP as a presumptive prime ministerial candidate of the party for the next Lok Sabha elections, would campaign in Karnataka poll but party leaders insist that he would address public meetings for sure. His poll programme is yet to be finalised.

The question is also being asked if Mr. Modi’s campaign programme would be full-fledged or it would be limited to a “minimum” in the background of the ruling BJP being saddled with anti-incumbency factor and desertion of some 30 MLAs and corruption charges against a few ministers during its tenure.

Mr. Advani’s absence on Monday has also not gone unnoticed.

Only last month, the BJP veteran had criticised “wavering and unprincipled handling” of the state during the tenure of B S Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister.

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