The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani shakes off feel-good

New Delhi, May 28: The signature slogan of Elections 2004 was given a formal burial by its creator today.

“Feel good” and “India Shining” cost the BJP dear, Lal Krishna Advani admitted, coming out of the shell the BJP’s top leadership had retreated into after the stunning defeat.

The former deputy Prime Minister confessed that “feel good” was a phrase he picked up for the election campaign, having heard it at a function hosted by a business daily in Mumbai. “India Shining” was coined by “some advertising agency”, he said.

“These phrases, though valid in themselves, were inappropriate for our election campaign…. By making them verbal icons of our election campaign, we gave an opportunity to our political opponents to highlight other aspects of India’s contemporary reality — poverty and uneven development, unemployment among the youth, problems faced by the farmers — which questioned our claim.”

But the BJP leader insisted that the results — the most dramatic since Indira Gandhi’s defeat in 1977 — were not the “people’s national verdict”. Describing the outcome as an “aggregate of state verdicts”, he said no single factor accounted for the party’s defeat.

Advani claimed Sonia Gandhi’s abdication had come as a “big relief” to the country. Asked if the BJP’s foreign origin plank had backfired, he said the party believed a person of foreign origin should not occupy the top post. “It is a political issue, not a personal one.” Whatever has happened subsequently has brought relief in the country, he said, referring to Sonia declining the Prime Minister’s office.

Unapologetic about Hindutva and cultural nationalism, Advani told a news conference: “We shall continue to wage an ideological battle against those who portray Hindutva as communal for their narrow political ends.”

“We shall return” to power, vowed Advani, who is tipped to be the leader of the Opposition.

The party’s national executive would meet some time in the middle of next month to review the “unexpected results”.

Advani blamed the defeat on anti-incumbency against state governments and party candidates, besides the caste factor. Ninety sitting MPs had lost, he pointed out.“In some states, we suffered along with our allies. In others, we suffered because we did not forge proper alliances. In urban constituencies, where we fared poorly, the turnout of our supporters was low. In some states, our organisational weakness contributed to our setback,” he said.

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