BJP chief Rajnath Singh found himself in the dock for the first time -- at the concluding session of the party's national executive -- as his predecessor LK Advani mounted a veiled attack on his handling of the UP elections.
Calling it a serious setback, Advani called for "honest introspection" and "self-critical" analysis on the debacle.
Hitherto, Rajnath has avoided a threadbare discussion on the issue, calling the results an opportunity to make the party more alert and stable. He has refused to take personal blame, and instead invoked the principle of collective responsibility.
But on Tuesday, Advani advised Rajnath to consult his seniors and come out with urgent corrective measures. He wanted a "task sheet" detailing corrective actions that need to be taken on an urgent basis – both at the Centre and at the state level.
Advani also cautioned Rajnath against drift, saying that "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 hurriedly present a report, which blamed the party's poor showing to Mayawati-led BSP's ability to project itself as an alternative to Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajawadi Party.
During that session, senior leader Kalyan Singh, who was projected as BJP's chief ministerial candidate in the polls, turned out invitation to speak, prompting Jaswant Singh to remark that the issue was "serious".
Advani put up five questions related to the party's crushing defeat in the home state of the BJP chief. "Why did the BJP fail to project itself as the most credible and winnable alternative to the incumbent government of the Samajwadi Party? 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 Bahujan Samaj Party?" Advani asked, apparently in reference to the BJP's losing its support-base among Brahmins to the BSP -- a phemonenon blamed on Rajnath's selection of candidates.
Advani said, "This introspective analysis should lead to suitable corrective action soon. Needless to add, many of the lessons that we need to learn from the setback in UP have relevance for the party in most other states."
Significantly, Rajnath did not get support from former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the first time. In his brief address, Vajpayee merely said, "The party is not an election-oriented machine that functions once in five years but one that works all the 12 months in a year."
Many BJP leaders have blamed Rajnath for being too friendly with the SP leaders and for selecting his team of office-bearers and allocating responsibilities, which they said lead to a major botch-up. The BJP had finished third, with a tally less than in the previous House.
On Monday, Rajnath had highlighted the polls results.