The party was at pains to explain the absence of its top leaders, LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, from the rally at the end of the meet, even as the arrival of former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurapa and his advocacy of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modis name as BJPs prime ministerial candidate created unwanted embarrassment. Advaniji was never expected to attend the rally and Sushma Swaraj had made it clear that she had a previously fixed programme in UP for which she would have to leave Mumbai early, said spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Amid all the noise, however, and what seemed like senior leaders enforcing their own agendas on the party meet, there were voices of worry and caution. Senior leader LK Advani, in his concluding remarks at the meet, exhorted partymen that they needed to be ready to be the alternative to the UPA. Nowadays, I hear people bemoaning the state of the government and asking whether the BJP is ready to be the alternative. It is a caution for us, he said. He added that just as Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal was able to uproot the Left Front government after 37 years and Mulayam Singh Yadav was able to get a large mandate in Uttar Pradesh because they were able to successfully project themselves as the only alternatives to the present arrangements, the BJP too had to prepare for the role of being a national alternative. This is the most corrupt, inefficient and indifferent government since independence, and we have to be ready to provide an alternative to the people, he said.
Leader of the Opposition in the RS, Arun Jaitley, too warned that we must avoid any kind of contradictory voices emerging from within. He said, we must prepare the BJP to be a cohesive and ethical party prepared to give direction to the nation.
Swaraj was more clear in where she saw the dangers to the party. We have managed to confront and corner the government in Parliament and on the streets, but we need to strengthen our organisation from within, she said.
Overshadowing all this talk was the drama of Sanjay Joshis removal on Thursday, without which Gujarat CM Narendra Modi threatened not to attend the meet. The party said it would be hitting the streets on May 31 to mobilise support for the NDA-sponsored bharat bandh. We have asked our workers to mobilise people on carts, camels, bullock carts, cycles and whatever vehicle which moves without petrol to drive home our point, said Prasad.
The BJP meet proved one thing beyond doubt that the tussle for turf and leadership stakes have taken over the rank and file of the party.
If it has any hope of providing a credible alternative to the Congress in 2014, this question of who leads the party needs to be settled now.