The BJP's success in forming its first government in south India may have prompted it to hold its conclave of leaders in Bangalore. But if the discussions among party leaders were any indication, the BJP has realised that the Lok Sabha polls will not be a cakewalk. Also, it may be the last election for veterans such as L.K. Advani.
In fact, the conclusion was that the polls look tougher than they have ever been. With new players and spoilers like Mayawati, the game has become more complicated than just a battle between the BJP and the Congress and others ranged on one side or the other.
True, many BJP leaders, including Advani believe that never before had an incumbent government provided the people so many reasons to throw it out of power. But there is a distinct fear that a repeat of 2004 is possible — when the NDA, which was expected to win, ended up as a loser.
With the mood of the BJP cadres anything but upbeat, there was great emphasis on sewing up the right alliances, picking the right candidates and dropping those who have high anti-incumbency ratings.
As the bloody blasts in Delhi once again brought legitimacy to the BJP's cry against terrorism, Advani chose to reiterate that the party was opposed to equating terrorism with Muslims and respected all faiths.
But the irony was that even before BJP leaders had packed their bags to leave Bangalore, the news of attacks on churches by suspected Bajrang Dal activists in Mangalore mocked at the party's claims to be following genuine secularism.
More importantly, the conclave showed a newly emerging pecking order. For all practical purposes, Advani and his team showed they are in charge. Along with Rajnath Singh as the BJP's ideological pointman, Venkaiah Naidu as the top election manager and Arun Jaitley as a key strategist, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was made to feel that he is in the reckoning.
Advani signaled that dissidence beyond a point is unacceptable.