The rift in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the wake of its poll debacle has worsened. Amid the debate within the party on whether it should dump its aggressive ideology, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh raised the banner of protest against the new appointments in the BJP.
At a meeting of the BJP’s core group on Wednesday, Jaswant surprised everyone by questioning L.K. Advani’s post-poll decisions, alluding particularly to his continuation in office and the appointment of Arun Jaitley as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had praised Jaitley’s qualities as parliamentarian in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant asked, “Where’s the link between parinam (results) and puraskar (rewards)? Where’s the introspection?”
He also drew attention of other BJP leaders to the way the party had responded to the defeat in 2004 and in 2009. “What did we do in 2004 and now? Have we fixed the responsibility?”
Taken aback by his outburst, Advani asked Jaswant to take back a note he had circulated to core group members, saying all issues would be addressed.
Jaswant — like other BJP leaders including Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie – is upset Advani hasn’t quit and favours Jaitley at their cost – despite the 2009 outcome and was tipped to be the next BJP president too, according to BJP sources.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh said these issues would be taken up at a brainstorming session – though not necessarily at the party’s national executive meet on June 20 and 21.
While Jaitley kept his cool to Jaswant’s attack, Venkaiah Naidu said later, “We advise everyone to keep their views within the party forum.”
Jaswant told a TV channel later that he was not hankering after any post but a successor to Advani had to be “evolved.” He also said the BJP lacked clarity on Hindutva.
Echoing Joshi and Sinha, he was upset that, Jaitley though being the chief strategist who oversaw the BJP’s botched-up campaign, was picked by Advani for the post of Leader of Opposition, party sources said.
Soon after the results, Joshi and Sinha had said the BJP’s campaign did not reach the masses. BJP leader Pyarelal Khandelwal had written to Rajnath Singh, questioning the decision to authorise Advani to make fresh appointments.
Jaswant had held this post (that entails perks of a Cabinet Minister) till his election to the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling. It was Advani who had asked Jaswant to contest the polls. He thought he would become the successor if Advani quit.
“Now, he is only an MP and has to surrender even his room in Parliament. He is upset Jaitley is walking away with the post and is being talked about as the next BJP chief,” said a BJP functionary, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to address the media.
On Tuesday, at the MPs’ meet, Shourie had asked why Jaitley and functionaries like Sudheendra Kulkarni were penning newspaper articles on the defeat when they had to discuss it within the party. Agreeing with him, Rajnath Singh remarked, “Howsoever senior the leader may be, he should raise it in the party forum only.”
In his article, Jaitley had called for a modernist approach by the BJP for its revival, observing that shrillness doesn’t pay.