BJP veterans revolt against Modi, Amit Shah after Bihar election debacle
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New Delhi: n the first major political repercussion from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) debacle in the Bihar assembly election, a quartet of veteran party stalwarts came out openly against the BJP leadership on Tuesday, calling for a “thorough review” of the influence being wielded by what they called “a handful”.
Former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, former education minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar said the Bihar election result showed that no lesson has been learnt from the “fiasco in Delhi”—a reference to the February Delhi assembly election, where the BJP won only three out of 70 seats.
The statement, which named no names, was clearly directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah who led the party’s campaign in Bihar. Advani, Joshi and Sinha have in the past, too, been critical of the party leadership.
“To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible. It shows that those who would have appropriated credit if the Party had won are bent on shrugging off responsibility for the disastrous showing in Bihar,” the four leaders said in a letter circulated to the press.
The four leaders said the main reason for the Bihar drubbing “is the way the Party has been emasculated in the last year”.
“A thorough review must be done of the reasons for the defeat as well as of the way the Party is being forced to kow-tow to a handful, and how its consensual character has been destroyed.”
Without naming anyone, they said, “This review must not be done by the very persons who have managed and who have been responsible for the campaign in Bihar.”
Sinha signed the letter on behalf of the four.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance managed to win only 53 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly, as the Grand Alliance of the Janata Dal United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress party swept to a two-thirds majority. Following the defeat, Bihar BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha complained that the BJP’s election campaign sought to exclude local leaders like him.
Throughout the campaign, the BJP failed to name its chief ministerial candidate, leaving Prime Minister Modi to lead the campaign. The Prime Minister addressed no less than 30 election rallies and BJP president Amit Shah 76 in the course of the campaign.
The statement by Advani, Joshi, Sinha and Kumar is the first open sign of disaffection in the party since it stormed into power at the centre in May 2014 and comes ahead of Modi’s visit to the UK and Turkey this week.
Their open criticism of the state of affairs in the BJP may embolden the opposition led by the Congress and cast a shadow on the upcoming winter session of Parliament in which the NDA is seeking to win passage for key reforms legislation including a constitutional amendment to pave the way for a goods and services tax.
To be sure, all four have been sidelined in the party. They “hardly matter in the current set-up of the BJP. The rebellion has a certain academic value but in reality it hardly makes any difference”, said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a political science professor at Delhi University.