Panaji: The BJP on Sunday declared that controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will head the party's election committee, a decision ringed by dissent from some of its most senior leaders led by LK Advani.
The BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, reportedly instructed the BJP to end its dithering and announce Mr Modi's new role on the final day of a party conclave in Goa despite Mr Advani's absence.
"I had no hesitation in making this decision," said party president Rajnath Singh, flanked by senior BJP leaders including a grim-looking Sushma Swaraj, who is seen as an Advani loyalist. (Track updates)
Mr Modi, in a concession to the controversy around his elevation, tweeted within minutes, "Spoke to Advani ji on the phone. He gave me his blessings." He is likely to soon announce a trip to Delhi to meet with Mr Advani, said sources. (Read: 10 developments)
Before the media announcement, the news of Mr Modi's promotion had been shared with party workers and leaders, prompting ten minutes of thundering applause according to sources.
Mr Advani, who is 85, has never before skipped a meeting of the national executive - a group of 300 leaders who shape the party's strategy on important issues.
The veteran is reportedly concerned that the new starring role for Mr Modi will force the BJP to expend its energy in the crucial next few months on defending the Chief Minister's secularism, a point of controversy on account of the riots in his home state in 2002 in which hundreds of Muslims were killed during his first term. Mr Modi will, he reportedly believes, neutralise the upper hand the BJP has been offered by the bevy of corruption scandals that have stained the ruling Congress.
The RSS's writ calling for Mr Modi's urgent elevation is meant to convey that the BJP respects the wishes of cadres who have been publicly calling for the chief minister to be recognised and rewarded for his irrefutable strength as a vote-getter.