Two days after its humiliating performance in Bihar, the BJP’s troubles got bigger with veteran leader LK Advani and three other seniors lashing out against the party’s “emasculation” in the past year and demanding a thorough review of the electoral defeat and for responsibility to be fixed.
Virtually raising the banner of revolt, a statement signed by Advani, MM Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar released on Tuesday said, “A thorough review must be done of the reasons for the defeat and of the way the party is being forced to kow-tow to a handful, and how its consensual character has been destroyed.”
While the statement didn’t name either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP president Amit Shah, it left little to the imagination as it targeted those who “managed” and were “responsible for the campaign” in Bihar — where the JD(U)-RJD-Congress’ grand alliance walked away with 178 of the 243 seats, leaving the BJP-led NDA with just 58 despite the PM addressing 30-plus rallies.
“The Bihar results show no lesson has been learnt from the fiasco in Delhi. To say everyone is responsible for the defeat is to ensure no one is held responsible. It shows that those who would have appropriated credit if the party had won are bent on shrugging off responsibility for the disastrous showing in Bihar,” the statement said.
It was a direct counter to the BJP parliamentary board’s declaration just a day ago of “collective responsibility”.
In a subdued response to the joint statement, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and M Venkaiah Naidu said they welcomed any guidance and suggestion from party seniors while also crediting the veterans with setting “a healthy precedent of the party collectively taking responsibility for victories and defeats”.
“We have read the statement… Obviously, all party members are concerned with the results in Bihar,” they said in a statement.
The statement by the three former party presidents went on to say the BJP had won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and subsequent elections in Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and J&K under Modi’s leadership.
The veterans’ statement surfaced within hours of a bruised NDA government announcing major reforms to push its economic agenda in the form of relaxed FDI norms in 15 sectors. It also preceded the PM’s five-day visit to the UK and Turkey that starts Thursday.
It was not immediately clear whether the veterans could rally other voices of discontent against the leadership of Modi and Shah.
The four veterans have been sidelined in the party since Modi’s ascension in the run-up to last year’s general elections. Advani and Joshi were removed from all important party positions and made part of a ‘Margdarshak Mandal’, which also includes former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar had been critical of the party leadership even before the Bihar elections.
A source claimed the statement was the outcome of a series of meeting between the veterans over the past two days. They were reportedly joined by former Union minister Arun Shourie and former party ideologue Govindacharya at a meeting on Tuesday hours before the statement was released.