Knives were out in BJP tonight with veteran leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and two others raising a banner of revolt against the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of Bihar debacle saying that the party has been “emasculated” in the last one year and was being “forced to kow-tow to a handful”.
In the first challenge to Modi since he emerged the undisputed leader of the party and the government in May last year, the veterans including Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha issued a brief but strongly-worded statement that demanded a thorough review of the debacle.
“The principal reason for the latest defeat is the way the party has been emasculated in the last year.
“A through review must be done of the reasons for the defeat as well as of the way the party is being forced to kow-tow to a handful, and how its consensual character has been destroyed,” the statement said. Before the statement was released from the residence of Joshi, a former BJP president, former union minister Arun Shourie and former RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya were closeted with Joshi.
The statement said the results of the Bihar election showed that no lesson has been learnt from the fiasco in Delhi, where the Aam Aadmi Party trounced BJP by securing 67 of the 70 assembly seats.
“To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible. It shows those who would have appropriated credit if the party had won are bent on shrugging off responsibility for the disastrous showing in Bihar,” it said.
The statement is an apparent dig at the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s defence of the leadership yesterday after the Parliamentary Board’s review of the performance in which he had said “as far as accountability is concerned the party wins collectively and loses collectively”.
He was reacting to a query whether party chief Amit Shah would be held responsible for the defeat. The leaders demanded that a thorough review must not be done by the very persons who have managed and have been responsible for the campaign in Bihar.
After Modi became the Prime Minister and Shah BJP chief last year, Advani, who had served as the party president for the longest period, and Joshi were made members of the “margadarshak mandal” (guiding group). Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh are part of the group, besides ailing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Adding to the revolt, a former union minister and a senior leader from Bihar C P Thakur also attacked the leadership saying after serving the party for so long, he was pained to see that the relationship between the central leadership and the grassroot workers now has become one of master and the servant.
He was also severely critical of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s “one remark” on reservation that “cost us the entire election”.
“BJP was winning the election before this remark was made. But once the remark was made and the way Lalu and Nitish made it an issue, The party became helpless,” Thakur said.
Earlier in the day, Bhola Singh, two time MP from Begusarai in Bihar, had brought Modi and Shah in the line of fire, saying they injected communalism in the campaign.
“People went to Modi looking for a Prime Minister but they found a Lalu in him,” he said.
“Prime Minister fell to Lalu’s googly and left his ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ pitch. He started speaking in Lalu’s language. He began using undignified language while Nitish Kumar did not forget decorum even in the battle field,” he said.
Late in the night, Bhola Singh welcomed the statement of party veterans, saying “those who gave birth to the party are trying to save it from demise”.
He said the statement serves as lighting a lamp in the soul on the eve of Diwali.
Ever since the rout in Bihar, three MPs from the state –Shatrughan Sinha, Hukumdev Narayan Yadav and R K Singh–had severely critcised the party’s approach and campaign in the election which they said contributed to the debacle.