New Delhi, June 26: L.K. Advani today took Rajnath Singh to task over the BJP’s rout in the Uttar Pradesh elections as a red-faced party president tried unsuccessfully to cut in.
At the BJP’s national executive, the former party chief also seemed to try to clip the wings of his successor, who had staked his prestige on the April-May polls in his home state.
Advani asked Rajnath to draw up a “task sheet” detailing the “corrective actions” to be taken urgently at the Centre and the states, including Uttar Pradesh. The order came with a rider: the party chief must do this in consultation with “senior” colleagues.
Sources said a grim-faced Rajnath tried to interject as Advani began, arguing the issue needed deeper and more extended deliberations. But the veteran leader went on, underlining the importance of the state where the BJP is down to its lowest tally since 1989.
“UP is the most populous state. The size of its legislative assembly is the largest. The state sends as many as 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Therefore, our poor performance is a matter of serious concern,” Advani stressed.
Rajnath would have been hoping that the BJP would at least come second and give him something to show his party critics, especially Advani. The defeat, observers feel, has made him vulnerable.
Advani’s swipes would also have been aimed at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which had plunged into the elections to help Rajnath but got nowhere. The Sangh was instrumental in getting Advani replaced by Rajnath as BJP president.
Advani advocated the need for “honest introspection and self-critical analysis” on questions such as:
• Why did the BJP fail to project itself as the most credible and winnable alternative to the Samajwadi Party'
• Why did some of its core supporters shift to the Bahujan Samaj Party'
• Why did the BJP not receive the support of other groups'
• What were the flaws in the party organisation'
• What were the mistakes made during the campaign'
He added that the lessons of Uttar Pradesh must be used in the other states, too. “There should be no tolerance for anything that weakens unity and cohesion at any level.”
Rajnath had made some of the same points about discipline and integrity in his inaugural address yesterday, but they had sounded like woolly maxims, lacking the clarity, sharpness and immediate relevance of Advani’s comments.
Advani advised the party to start preparing for the parliamentary elections right away and hold a central-level chintan baithak (brain-storming session) followed by state-level conclaves.
The party must consolidate its traditional vote bank by getting in closer touch with supporters as well as expand its appeal geographically and socially, he said. The BJP, he suggested, should be “more aggregative and inclusive”.
Advani continued the attack on Pratibha Patil, comparing her to the late President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and suggesting she might endanger democracy by staying loyal “not to the Constitution but to an individual”.
He said the events of the Emergency had been possible because “there was a pliant President who signed on the dotted line”.
“I remember a cartoon by Abu Abraham during the Emergency that showed President Ahmed signing papers sent by the government while relaxing in the bathtub.”
Advani almost suggested that a victory for Patil might bring in another Emergency: “I can see dark clouds hovering in the sky that could dim the light of democracy once again.”
Rajnath, sceptical of the wisdom of the Advani camp’s all-out attack on the UPA-Left candidate, had avoided any mention of the presidential poll in his inaugural speech yesterday.