Even as the BJP began efforts to contain the fallout of the public criticism against its leadership by party veterans, more MPs spoke out Friday against its Bihar poll strategy and demanded a review.
Leading the efforts to douse the fire was Union Minister Nitin Gadkari who clarified that he had not demanded any disciplinary action against the veterans for publicly targeting the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
However, the tension continued to simmer with Gadkari’s Cabinet colleague M Venkaiah Naidu suggesting that the veterans could have raised their concerns within the party.
At the same time, BJP’s Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari, who had campaigned in Bihar extensively, blamed the party’s strategy for the defeat and Ara MP R K Singh echoed the demand that accountability had to be fixed.
Two days after the humiliating defeat in Bihar, the BJP was stunned by a joint statement from four party veterans — L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar — claiming that the party was being “forced to kow-tow to a handful” and that its “consensual character had been destroyed”.
They also ridiculed the BJP parliamentary board’s conclusion that the party would take collective responsibility for the defeat and said that “to say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible”.
Following that, Gadkari, Naidu and Home Minister Rajnath Singh had issued a statement, reminding the veterans that the party had only followed the precedent set by them.
However, In a statement issued from Nagpur Friday, Gadkari said: “Party elders including Advani and Joshi are our highly respected leaders and neither I nor any other party functionary has ever shown any disrespect to them and there was absolutely no question of anyone suggesting calling for an explanation from them and not the least demanding disciplinary action against them”.
Naidu, however, indirectly criticised the veterans while speaking to reporters in Bengaluru. “It would have been better if these issues were raised in the party forum rather than in public, but we take it seriously nevertheless,” said Naidu.
He also pointed out that the BJP had lost elections in the past, too. “Winning and losing happens, we never held any individual or for that matter group of individuals responsible for these defeats. It has never been the culture of the party to blame any individual for the failure of the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tiwari said that the BJP has failed to convince the people to vote for its candidates. “Undoubtedly, the strategy of the Grand Alliance (JDU-RJD-Congress) has been proved to be better than ours. We could have campaigned in a more strategic way to reach out to larger masses,” he said.
R K Singh said “accountability has to be fixed” for the defeat. “A review should be made of the election debacle. We need to find out what went wrong, who were responsible,” Singh, the Ara MP, told NDTV.