Rajnath takes onus for BJP poll debacle, swears by Hindutva (Roundup)

June 20th, 2009 - 9:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Amid dissent and blame game, a soul-searching meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began here Saturday with its president Rajnath Singh owning up the humiliating election defeat and reiterating the party’s commitment to Hindutva ideology.
After days of intra-party wranglings when senior leaders demanded that heads should roll and the poll debacle must be analysed, Rajnath Singh attempted to cool off tempers by accepting the onus for the results while also underlining collective responsibility.

Speaking at the BJP’s two-day national executive meeting, the first since the Lok Sabha election results, he also sought to allay concerns of the party’s ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that Hindutva had been put on the backburner.

“The people’s verdict in the election was not according to our expectations, but I take blame for the poor results. But it is not right to say that is a nationwide defeat,” Rajnath Singh said in his opening remarks.

Deflecting allegations against the party’s key poll strategist Arun Jaitley, who was absent from the crucial meet as he is vacationing abroad, Rajnath Singh maintained: “The BJP believes in collective responsibility for victory and defeat, and there is no need to single out one person for the poor showing.”

He was tacitly referring to criticism from party seniors Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie who have all called for fixing the blame for the poor Lok Sabha poll results. Without naming Jaitley, they have held him responsible for the debacle since he was the party’s chief poll manager.

The BJP’s tally came down crashing to 116 seats from the 138 it won in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

Participating in the meeting, former minister Arun Shourie said there should be a committee to analyse the poll results and anyone found involved in anti-party activities should be punished.

He demanded a “system of accountability”, party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy later told reporters. “Steps should be taken to ensure the mistakes that we made during the elections are not repeated,” he quoted Shourie as saying.

While there were no fireworks at the meeting, sparks did fly.

Former minister Maneka Gandhi said her son and Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi was being targeted by party leaders for the poll debacle.

She was responding to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain, the party’s Muslim faces, who said that the party was practising a “Pilibhit brand of Hindutva.” They were citing Varun Gandhi’s alleged hate speeches during the election campaign.

Upset by the poll results, senior leader Jaswant Singh said in the meeting that he would not contest any election in future. However, other leaders advised him against making such remarks.

Rajnath Singh, in his speech, acknowledged that the party was “surprised” by the results, but asserted it was “certainly not demoralised”.

“Why have such results come? This is definitely a subject of serious introspection and analysis for us. At every step we will undertake introspection and analysis,” he said.

Rajnath Singh maintained that there would be no compromise on ideology, and added that the party does not regret raising issues like communal reservation during campaigning as they were in the “country’s welfare”.

He said the party’s commitment to building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and implementing a uniform civil code was reiterated in the party manifesto, and in the coming years it would need to more effectively convince people about these issues.

“Perhaps we need to present our views in a better and more contemporary context. For this, it is necessary that we evaluate our organisational structure, campaign and strategy,” Rajnath Singh added.

The BJP chief said the outcome of the elections indicated that the country was clearly shifting towards “bipolar politics” and if the party expanded its organisation and took effective steps, “tomorrow will definitely be ours”.

Rudy said the meeting also undertook a state-wise analysis of the party’s performance wherein both the state unit heads and senior leaders expressed their views.

He said the party was also launching July 6 a fresh countrywide membership drive headed by BJP vice-president Bal Apte.

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