BJP president Rajnath Singh on Tuesday found himself targeted for the first time since the party’s crushing defeat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. His predecessor LK Advani mounted a veiled but scathing attack on his handling of the campaign.
At the concluding session of the BJP’s national executive, Advani said the loss in UP was a serious setback, and called for “honest introspection” and a “self-critical” analysis of the debacle.
Singh had till then avoided a threadbare discussion on the issue at the executive, calling the results an opportunity for the party to make itself more alert and stable. He refused to take personal blame, and instead invoked the principle of collective responsibility.
Advani advised Singh to consult his seniors and come out with urgent corrective measures. He cautioned him against drift, saying “the inner party situation in many states needs urgent attention and corrective action. In some places, strict disciplinary action is also needed. There should be no tolerance for anything that weakens unity and cohesion in the party at any level”.
Advani’s criticism came a day after senior UP leaders presented a report blaming the party’s poor showing on the Mayawati-led BSP’s ability to project itself as an alternative to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP). During that session, senior leader Kalyan Singh, who was projected as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the polls, turned down an invitation to speak.
Advani put up key questions regarding the party’s crushing defeat. “Why did the BJP fail to project itself as the most credible and winnable alternative to the incumbent government of the SP? What were the weaknesses in our party organisation? What mistakes were committed in the management of our campaign? Why did a section of our core supporters shift to the BSP?” The last was clearly a reference to the BJP losing its support base among Brahmins to the BSP — a development blamed by many in the party on Rajnath’s selection of candidates.