New Delhi: Key state leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)— Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank"—stayed away from its national executive meeting that began on Friday. The party denied reports of infighting.

Downplaying the absence of its powerful state leaders, the party said Modi could not attend because of the navratri festival while Yeddyurappa was busy with by-elections in Karnataka. Both had sought the leadership’s permission to skip the meeting, it said.

BJP leaders during party’s National Executive Meeting in New Delhi. PTI Photo

A party leader, who did not want to be identified, said the BJP had tried to convince Modi to attend.

The national executive is the top policymaking body of the party and meets once every three months.

The meeting is being held at a time when the leadership issue in the BJP remains unresolved and various top leaders, including Advani and Modi, appear to be vying to become the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

“He (Modi) is no doubt a possible candidate for the post," party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “But who will actually be the candidate and when —that will be decided by the party’s parliamentary board."

He also denied that Modi’s absence was a signal of his disgruntlement.

At the national executive itself, senior BJP leaders stepped up the attack on the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, with party president Nitin Gadkari calling it the “most corrupt government of independent India".

“Engaged in loot and robbery of public exchequer, this government has brought a bad name to our country. UPA has become a liability. It has completely lost the moral authority to govern this country," Gadkari said in his opening address, adding that the government was suffering from a “crisis of credibility".

“If the Prime Minister is so indifferent and unaware of problems and crisis faced by the government, then why is he still in office? His hallmark reply to everything is that he did not know anything," Gadkari said.

On Friday, state BJP presidents presented report cards on the political situation in their respective states. The leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, presented an analysis of the economy.

“The current economic situation in India is quite worrisome as we watch helplessly the growth momentum slipping rapidly on account of high inflation and loss of business confidence because of failure of governance and corruption in high places," Jaitley said.

Saibal Gupta, a Bihar-based political analyst, said, “By attacking the UPA government continuously, the BJP is trying to rally its rank behind a particular cause, without which it will not have the killer instinct it needs. This is the weakest point of the UPA and if the BJP is unable to marginalize it now, it will never be in the reckoning for power."

The meeting also discussed the strategy for the polls in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year.

“We have to save UP. We will not align either with the BSP (Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party) or SP (Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party) under any circumstances," Gadkari said. “If we get power, we will provide good governance. We will sit in opposition if we do not get the numbers."

The party is expected to discuss internal and organizational issues on Saturday, the second and the last day of the national executive.

Meanwhile, commenting on the national executive meeting of the BJP, the Congress party on Friday said the BJP was “exposing" itself. “It is for the people to see that they are only discussing over the prime ministerial candidate and are not bothered to discuss the issues concerning the public, which shows their insensitiveness towards the electorate," Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said.

PTI contributed to this story.