The Bharatiya Janata Party lost the Lok Sabha elections due to absence of key allies who deserted the National Democratic Alliance feeling that the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat could cost them Muslim votes and the party did nothing about it, says a key BJP strategist.
In an article in the latest issue of the Tehelka newsmagazine, Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close aide to the BJP's prime ministerial candidate LK Advani, writes: "In the aftermath of the 2004 defeat, many of our allies left the NDA.
"The main reason for their leaving was not that the NDA had been defeated, but their perception that the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 was an important cause of the defeat and, hence, their conclusion that continuation of the alliance with the BJP would cost them Muslim votes."
At least 1,180 people, most of them Muslims, were killed during the communal violence in Gujarat. The BJP government in the state has been accused by many of having failed in controlling the violence early on.
Kulkarni, a key BJP strategist, rues: "Between 2004 and 2009, the BJP did nothing to address this factor. As a result, it failed to win back a single ally in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, or win a single ally in Kerala. Moreover, almost on the eve of the 2009 elections, the BJP actually lost an important ally in Orissa due to inept alliance management."
He writes that the chief reason the party could form a government in 1998 and 1999 "under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee was its ability to forge alliances" and cites four states where it had strong partners.
Kulkarni refers to Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, "and first AIADMK and later DMK in Tamil Nadu. Its alliance with the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa (21 Lok Sabha seats) also proved to be extremely useful."
The BJD, however, quit the BJP-led NDA just ahead of the April-May elections.
He says: "Although it (BJP) has succeeded in bi-polarising India's politics at the Centre, its geographical presence in the country is much narrower than that of the Congress.
"It won only one seat in four big states that together account for 143 out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha - West Bengal (42), Andhra Pradesh (42), Tamil Nadu (39) and Kerala (20). The Congress' tally: 60 seats.
"Unless the BJP overcomes this structural weakness by increasing its own political and electoral strength in these big states, it can never emerge as an equal and durable alternative to the Congress nationally," he says.
When IANS sought his further comments on Sunday, Kulkarni only said: "I have written what I had to, I don't wish to say anything more."