BJP Faces Internal Crisis

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Crisis within Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over its failure to return to power compounded by it remaining 90 seats behind the Congress in new Lok Sabha has raised many questions. It has incited a blame-game within the party with senior party leaders even going public in stating their views on who/what should be held responsible for the party’s poor performance. In Jaswant Singh’s opinion, the party’s failure in “conveying” its message “ended up with diminished electoral support.”

Suggesting tacitly that BJP should cease banking on its religious-Hindutva campaign to turn voters towards it, he said: “There is a need for ideological distillation of thought. The BJP has to be a current party. It cannot be a party of yesterday. I think there is lack of clarity on what Hindutva means.” Singh made these comments in a television interview.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close associate of veteran party leader L.K. Advani, accused second rung of party’s leadership for being a fractured lot and blamed the party extremists for having alienated the Muslim-vote. Some party members have also blamed hardliners for giving too much importance to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a future prime minister. The same leaders also hold excessive importance given to party-candidate Varun Gandhi’s “communal” speeches as having turned secular voters away from BJP. While this helped Varun win from his constituency- Pilibhit, it spelt loss for the party as a whole, according to them.
Senior party leader Yashwant Sinha has gone a step ahead of others in listing the reasons he holds responsible for the party’s defeat in the resignation letter he faxed last week to his party colleagues. Sinha shocked his party colleagues by resigning from all party posts, including that of vice-president, in-charge of Karnataka affairs and as head of foreign affairs cell. Hitting out at party leadership, Sinha demanded resignation of all office bearers of party and Parliamentary Party, as party owes “collective responsibility” for its defeat in Lok Sabha elections.

Describing his “little euphoria” over his victory, for which he had worked very hard, from Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) as “short-lived” as BJP failed to return to power, Sinha emphasized that party must analyze reasons of its performance. “One would like to understand voting behavior of minorities, first-time voters, women, scheduled castes and tribes, urban middle class, government employees and most importantly, farmers and industrial workers in this election. Which is the vote bank we have lost? Which is the vote bank we have gained? And finally, an analysis of factors which helped the Congress Party increase its tally from 145 seats in the last election to 206 in this,” Sinha stated.

Blaming party leaders for not deliberating over BJP’s defeat, Sinha said: “Our reluctance to introspect and introspect comprehensively and openly is unacceptable to a large number of people within the party. So is rat race for posts.” “If the responsibility is collective, as I have often heard you say, then all of us should jointly share responsibility for our defeat. Let the party implement its own Kamraj Plan under which all office bearers of party and Parliamentary Party should resign from their posts which then should be filled up through process of election laid down by our constitution,” Sinha said. 

Sinha credited Advani for having set a “fine example of accountability” by initially declining to accept post of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. Advani agreed only after being persuaded by party leaders. In an apparent attack on leaders like Arun Jaitley and Kulkarni (Advani’s close associate), who have “drawn their conclusions, apportioned blame and given themselves a clean chit,” Sinha said: “It appears as if some people in the party are determined to ensure that principle of accountability does not prevail so that their own little perch is not disturbed.”

“We failed to carry out a review after our defeat in last election,” he said. “I am getting a sinking feeling that once again there is a conspiracy of silence. We are shying away from pinpointing our weakness and fixing responsibility. We are hoping that time shall heal our wounds,” Sinha said.

Interestingly, “news” about Sinha’s resignation came in just when party President Rajnath Singh was addressing a press conference (June 13). When questioned on Sinha’s resignation, Singh said that he had not received the letter and had learnt about it through media. Later, however, party sources said that Sinha’s resignation received by fax had been accepted. Sinha has resigned only from the party posts he held and not from the party.

On “disarray” in party leadership, Singh said: “The media reports are far from truth. The leadership stands united and the party is united in analyzing outcome of elections that have not come up to its expectations.” BJP will hold brainstorming session on election performance in August after budget session, Singh said. “Henceforth all party leaders and functionaries should refrain from formally or informally sharing their views and inputs outside party forums such as media or any other platform about internal deliberations within the party” that “might negatively impact image of the party, failing which they will invite disciplinary proceedings against themselves,” Singh said.

Amid the backdrop of BJP’s internal crisis, it has also been suggested that party should change its name and also its constitution. There is, however, no doubt that the BJP leaders have been forced to finally accept that they erred in adding a communal touch to their campaign by the importance they gave to Varun and Modi. They have also silently come to terms that negative-campaign, blaming Manmohan Singh as a “weak” Prime Minister and use of communal card bears little relevance for today’s Indian voter. Besides, with more than three-dozen parties in the present Lok Sabha, it is time the BJP accepted that what appeals to the party and its hardliners should not be expected to hold the same importance for the voters. The voter’s decision would be based by what holds greater significance in his/her political calculations. If BJP’s political agenda does not appeal to the voter, he/she has other parties to turn to. The BJP leaders need to seriously reflect on why they failed to win votes and also what prompted the voters- perhaps deliberately- to support other parties!


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