The break-up came on Sunday but was in the works for almost three months.
The BJP’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections not only ended L.K Advani’s prime ministerial dream, but also took a toll on his aide Sudheendra Kulkarni, who walked out of the party on Saturday.
Kulkarni, in charge of Advani’s campaign office and Internet push to make him the PM, was left with little to do.
He knew that Advani, who he owed his rise in the party to, would see his influence weaken, according to the BJP leaders. He didn’t try to hide his frustration over the election outcome even though he was part of the poll strategy team and seemed to have made up his mind to go.
In June, he publicly blamed the RSS, the party’s ideological parent, for making a “strong leader” like Advani look weak and helpless. It was the first step towards snapping ties with the BJP in search of other avenues.
Kulkarni announced his decision to end his association with the BJP in a newspaper for which he writes a column.
“From now on, I will be totally independent. I will work with like-minded members of other parties...,” he told TV channels.
Kulkarni could move to Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party. He shares a good equation with the agriculture minister.
BJP leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Balbir Punj shrugged off Kulkarni’s decision as of little consequence. But insiders say it will weaken Advani’s standing in the BJP vis a vis the RSS. It may even increase pressure on him to quit as the Leader of Opposition.
This year’s Lok Sabha elections were not the first time that Kulkarni was at odds with the party brass.
In 2005, when Advani was in trouble over his remarks on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Kulkarni, too, came under fire.
Party leaders said it was he who had suggested that Advani praise Jinnah as a secularist for effecting an image correction.
As the RSS insisted that Advani step down as the BJP chief, Kulkarni wrote that it must let go off the party, allowing it to win over minorities and appear secular.
Advani echoed the views when he addressed a party meet in September.
Kulkarni, however, has said his decision to leave the BJP has nothing to do with the expulsion of Jaswant Singh. He had decided to leave the party weeks ago and Advani knew of it. He, however, did say Singh’s book doesn’t praise Jinnah. “He has only given a political portrait of Jinnah."