Rajnath: In crisis
New Delhi, May 16: The fall for the BJP was a little more painful as it came with a frightening warning: the Congress is reviving.
Unlike the defeat in 2004, which was dismissed as an accident, the 2009 result has left in its wake doubts —about the future, about the BJPs own mettle and about peoples preferences.
The sense of disappointment has come laden with multiple worries as BJP leaders were convinced that they had got an ideal platform.
The gloom created by the economic slowdown was seen as a boon for the party, which presumed that price rise, terrorism and weak leadership were enough to sink the UPA.
Even after the exit polls, the dominant view in the party was that the NDA would emerge the single largest party and manage to squeeze through.
But todays results were worse than a sound thrashing: there are clear signs of Congress revival, not seen in the last two decades.
One BJP leader summed up the mood. It is definitely worse than 2004. We cant any more say the Congress has got it by fluke. What is more important, we reached nowhere despite the suitable conditions and the best possible campaign. We need to seriously introspect.
L.K. Advanis aides like Sudheendra Kulkarni took refuge in the most mundane excuse, blaming it on absence of the BJP in many big states and its inability to win allies there.
Others like Chandan Mitra felt throwing up Narendra Modis name in the middle of the campaign was a blunder.
Leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad gave even more commonplace reasons, like surprising Congress performance in Andhra and the BJPs rout in Rajasthan.
Arun Jaitley argued that the Congress gained primarily at the cost of third front parties. Sushma Swaraj called for serious introspection.
Among the issues bothering party workers at different levels are infighting among senior leaders, over-reliance on media management, ideological confusion, failure to tap peoples sentiments and the loud personality-centric campaign.
At Vijay Sankalp rallies organised in the past one year, Advani was hailed as future PM and the government-is-in-the-ICU became the theme song. This loud Advani-centric campaign continued despite feedback from the ground that voters trusted the Congress leadership more for solving economic problems, their prime concern.
The BJP also went to the extent of ridiculing even the farm-loan waiver and the rural employment guarantee scheme.
Its sign-off slogan — majboot neta, nirnayak sarkar — was conceptualised against Manmohan Singhs perceived weakness and rising incidents of terror attacks.
The party kept making personal attacks on Manmohan but repeated queries about demolishing the Babri mosque did not receive any comprehensive response. This more or less settled the leadership debate in Manmohans favour.
Advani couldnt resist the temptation of exploiting religious issues like Ram Setu, Amarnath and involvement of Hindus in the Malegaon blast. He spoke Vajpayees language of consensual politics in seminars, spoke of Muslims welfare but never hesitated in describing Narendra Modi as Indias best chief minister. By the time the elections came, he was disliked by hardcore Hindutva voters and still distrusted by moderates.
The BJP seems to have erred on the campaign theme, too. Having faced a strong rebuff from Delhi voters in the Assembly elections, key strategist Arun Jaitley developed a similar campaign theme for the Lok Sabha polls.
The negative campaign, based on fear and hopelessness, focused mainly on job losses and terror strikes. Both the content and the backdrop of the campaign materials were strictly urban and appealed to the elitist sections of society whereas the Congress campaign had a rural flavour.
The BJP has for now chosen not to react in panic. But the RSS is dazed and is thinking in terms of a complete overhaul.
Unconfirmed sources revealed that the RSS had already set up a committee to study the whole gamut of problems afflicting the party. The coming days are indeed fraught with grim possibilities for the BJP.