Even before a day had passed since Verdict 2009 dealt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a resounding defeat, the rumblings in the party began.
Depressed leaders blamed one another and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — a Hindu nationalist organisation of which the BJP is a part — for the drubbing.
Senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi (75), who headed the party’s manifesto panel but felt sidelined by Advani’s core team, said ticket distribution could have been “better” and included more Muslim candidates.
“The Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh went in favour of the Congress. If some tickets were given to Muslims, it would have been better,” he said.
“Our campaign could not reach the masses. We will discuss this in meetings with state-level leaders and scrutinise where we went wrong.”
Clearly targeting the team led by party general secretary Arun Jaitley (56), which handled strategy and publicity, Joshi said the campaign had “perhaps” failed to reach the grassroots level and common man.
As the final tally became clear, BJP leaders were stunned to know their star chief ministers — Gujarat’s Narendra Modi (58), Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan (50) and Uttarakhand’s B.C. Khanduri (64) — weren’t as influential with voters as they were thought to be after polls in their states.
Modi added just one seat to Gujarat’s tally to take it to 14, Chouhan’s tally dropped from 25 in 2004 to 16, and Khanduri lost all five seats.
Some BJP leaders also said this was one election the RSS couldn’t blame on the BJP nor vice-versa.
“The BJP gave tickets to candidates pushed by RSS people. Similarly, RSS workers went to the booth level to work for the BJP. Yet the tally came down,” said one leader on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t at liberty to speak to the media.
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convener Sharad Yadav (61) blamed the defeat on Varun Gandhi’s (29) “hate statement” and the projection of Modi as future PM candidate.
“It may be right or wrong or he (Varun) may have denied it but his statement caused immense damage. His statement was unconstitutional. It was against the country’s unity and must have affected the polls,” he said.
“When the issue of Modi as PM came up, it created confusion in people’s minds. Since the NDA had already declared a PM candidate (Advani) unanimously, the issue should have been dismissed immediately,” Yadav said.