So near, yet so far. Coming at the time of an unprecedented fuel price hike, the BJP's national executive meet was an opportunity for the party to tear into the UPA. True, they did this in certain sessions and even announced a Bharat Bandh, but it was the party's inner power struggle that made news.
In 2011, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had skipped the BJP's last national executive meet in Delhi over his bête noire Sanjay Joshi being given a key role by party chief Nitin Gadkari in Uttar Pradesh. His absence became the news back then. This time, Gadkari bought peace with him by securing the resignation of Joshi from the national executive late at night. Modi came, but only after extracting his pound of flesh. Ironically, his presence also led to the same message as his absence - the internal power struggle.
"We had a problem in Karnataka, Gujarat, and Rajasthan but we succeeded in solving it by having Yeddyurappa, Modi and Vasundhara Raje at the venue. Gadkari and Modi also buried their differences," said a BJP leader. "The executive worked out fine in this sense, but the media didn't focus on that."
The BJP's problem now is that the mere presence of controversial leaders - coming after hard bargaining - is no longer seen as a sign that all is well. Its inner differences have become public common sense, just as its "discipline" during its rise in the 1990s.
While Modi appeared only after imposing his will, Yeddyurappa broke with the party line in demanding that Modi be made Prime Minister. The party has, till now, kept the option open so as to not ruffle any feathers.
What hit the party hardest was the perception that LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj had skipped the public rally because they were "sulking" over Modi's strong arm tactics and Gadkari's tenure extension. Most party leaders rubbished these reports, stating that the leaders had notified their absence beforehand. One delegate, however, wondered whether the absence was a signal of displeasure against decks being cleared in the recent office-bearers' meet for Gadkari's extension.