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Poll defeats set BJP thinking about the road ahead

india Updated: Oct 22, 2009 17:26 IST

The defeat of BJP on Thursday, especially in Maharashtra and Haryana where it had been part of coalition governments earlier, has come as a severe blow to the party that is already reeling under the Lok Sabha debacle and serious internal discord.

While BJP did not have much hope in Haryana, where its dumped its ally INLD and failed to cobble up an alliance with with Bhajan Lal's party HJC, the third consecutive assembly election loss in Maharashtra has thoroughly demoralised the party.

In alliance with its oldest saffron friend, Shiv Sena, the party had hoped to retrieve some ground after the Lok Sabha debacle by capturing power in Maharashtra, pinning on anti-incumbency factor.

But the Raj Thackerary-led MNS, the splinter group of Shiv Sena, again played the spoilsport for the Sena-BJP combine handing over victory to the Congress-NCP combine for a third consecutive term.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad admitted as much when he said that MNS, which was poised to get 12 seats, had affected the alliance in over 40 seats. This, he said, had made the difference between victory and defeat.

One of the top leaders of BJP in Maharashtra, Gopinath Munde, appeared despondent when he said the party was badly in need of a morale-booster but what happened in the state would come as a further dampner.

"Nationally the party needs a young leadership," he said, a view that may find immediate resonance in several of his partymen.

"The victory would have had a major effect on the party at the national level but we lost. The party needs a morale booster and a young leadership," he said.

Prasad said "We will have to think about our weaknesses... We will have to carry out an honest analysis. We need to address these issues."

"I feel that the most important is that we need to speak in one voice," he said, hinting that discord within the party could have been one of the factors for its poor performance.

While a change of guard is in the offing with party president Rajnath Singh completing his term in December, this defeat is likely to raise the clamour for senior leader L K Advani shedding whatever posts he has like the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha.

The RSS, which had told Advani to choose his successor as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, is likely to assert itself further and play a more prominent role in BJP affairs.

This may lead to more pressure on Advani to quit active politics sooner, say party sources.

The dent in BJP-Shiv Sena votes by Raj Thackeray-led MNS may set the party thinking on future alliance partners.

"MNS appears set to win about 13 seats after garnering around 5-6 per cent votes. After all, these were our votes," Munde said.

The snapping of ties with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD has also proved to be an erroneous decision for the BJP. While Chautala was keen on an alliance, a section within the BJP felt there was no point in continuing the alliance after the two failed to win a single seat in Lok Sabha polls.

"INLD has won 31 seats in Haryana assembly polls. Had the alliance continued, we would have gained considerably," said a BJP leader.

BJP General Secretary in-charge of Haryana, Vijay Goel said discussing which alliance would have reaped better results is now an "after-thought". But he did concede that Congress had gained from the confusion in the opposition camp.

"Congress has benefitted from the division of votes of opposition parties," he said, adding, "If these parties (like MNS, INLD or HJC) fight together, we can defeat the Congress".

The BJP also seems to be at a loss for issues as price rise, corruption, terrorism and accusations of misrule against Congress did not cut ice with the electorate.