New Delhi: Every step of the way, the BJP’s campaign seemed to focus as much on rival Congress as itself. It was not just countering the ruling party’s ‘Jai ho’ call with a ‘Bhay ho’ cry, it was also hitting out hard at the Prime Minister, calling him weak and trying to portray L K Advani as a determined and a decisive leader by contrast.
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“We ran a positive campaign. We campaigned against the mismanagement of the economy, the mismanagement of national security and the need for a strong leadership”, says Arun Jaitley, general secretary, BJP.
Advani was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. But this was his first chance at the post and perhaps his last. He is the man who is responsible for the phenomenal rise of the saffron party in the Indian polity in the early nineties when Babri Masjid was demolished. But in the process, he earned himself the image of a hardliner.
This may have interfered with his efforts at steering the party to power at center. It was the moderate A B Vajpayee who struck a chord with other parties and the BJP-led NDA came to power.
At his peak, he reached the post of deputy Prime Minister. After the debacle in the 2004 elections, and the exit of Vajpayee from active politics, Advani’s way to the top post seemed to have become clear.
But although he was at the centre of BJP’s campaign, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi caused an equal flutter at the national level. So did this harm the party?
Jaitley says, ”Advaniji was unquestionably National Democratic Alliance’s leader. No second name came up during this election. The media has been speculating about the names. But I do not think it affected the elections”
The iron man of BJP has declined to become the leader of Opposition. Though he plans to remain active in politics, this decision signals perhaps the end of an era.