Just as BJP president Nitin Gadkari seemed to have managed to bring together all discordant pieces - the Modi crisis over, BS Yeddyurappa arriving in Mumbai - his party's show of unity has come undone again.
Mr Gadkari and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi shared stage at a key rally in Mumbai, attended by all BJP chief ministers in a show of strength, but the party's senior-most leader L K Advani was not present. Neither was top leader Sushma Swaraj.
The BJP played down their absence saying both had prior engagements. Ms Swaraj also tweeted, "I respect and honour all decisions of the Party. Please do not draw any other conclusions...I must reach Delhi tonight because I have to leave early morning for an important party function in UP tomorrow."
Both Mr Advani and Ms Swaraj are reportedly among several top BJP leaders who are opposed to a second term as BJP president for Mr Gadkari. Mr Gadkari, with the staunch support of the RSS, was assured of a second term yesterday when the party amended its rules and passed a resolution to that effect. Mr Advani, though in Mumbai for the two-day meet, was not present when a party core group passed that resolution. The BJP said he was visiting an ailing relative.
Mr Advani had reportedly made it known earlier that he would not stay for today's rally as he had other plans, but with the party struggling with dissent within several pockets and desperate to present a unified face as it preps to make a comeback bid at the Centre in 2014, many in the party are asking why he could not re-prioritise and stay back in Mumbai for a few hours more.
Mr Advani has been a core part of the BJP's political strategy for the last 60 years and has never missed a meeting yet. There is disquiet thus at his decision to not attend the rally, amid talk that he is upset at the dissent in the party spilling out and upstaging the meet's agenda.
Some partymen also point out that Mr Advani did not want to share stage with former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who has openly criticised the senior leader. A sulking Mr Yeddyurappa had planned to skip the meeting but seemed to change his mind after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi decided to attend. Mr Modi had planned a boycott because of the presence of an old rival Sanjay Joshi and agreed to attend the Mumbai meet only after Mr Joshi resigned from the party executive.
These dramatic events have dominated what was meant to have been a resurgent, united party's strategy meet. Yesterday the BJP president handed his partymen three mantras: Expand the National Democratic Alliance, increase the BJP's vote share by 10 per cent, and concentrate efforts on building a base among the poor, the minorities and Dalits.
It had planned a sedate Day 2 with strategy-making on the agenda. The BJP has on its plate strategising for the July elections that will decide who becomes the next President of India. Also, with general elections just two years away, it has to blueprint its plan of attack against the Congress-led government at the Centre. And most importantly, it has to prepare for Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year. The BJP rules both those states and must retain them in the run-up to the 2014 General Elections.