Knives were out in BJP Tuesday night with veteran leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar raising a banner of revolt against the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah in the wake of Bihar debacle, saying that the party has been "emasculated" in the last one year and was being "forced to kow-tow to a handful".
The BJP veterans issued a brief but strongly-worded statement that demanded a thorough review of the debacle.
This is the first, direct and biggest internal challenge to Prime Minister Modi and his confidant Shah.
In Monday's parliamentary board meeting of the BJP held in Delhi, a regular review was done. Sources say it was a routine drill where in everybody said that the party had tried hard and fought hard in the Bihar election but it was beaten by the caste arithmetic conjured up by the Nitish-Lalu combine.
The parliamentary board also 'thanked' Shah for leading the campaign by literally camping in the state.
This is the normal drill when a political party loses elections and the BJP's 'review' was no different from say the Congress party's review after its full and complete decimation in 2014.
The Congress party had then said that the UPA party and government had done a fabulous job but had failed to communicate the same to the electorate.
Why, this has been the case whenever the BJP has lost elections before too. Election reviews are mostly tame, choreographed affairs where the members pat each other for the hard work and bad luck.
So what is different this time? It is apparent that this time the difference is Narendra Modi. Since his arrival on the national scene, he has taken complete control of the party. The elders have been sidelined or kicked upstairs to the Margadarshan Mandal as in the case of Advani.
This is the last battle that Advani and the other sidelined elders are doing in the war for political relevance. According to Ajay Singh, Executive Editor, Firstpost, this revolt was brewing even before results day.
Arun Shourie's open statements against the Prime Minister were a clear indication that something was brewing in the party. There was a foreboding of the Bihar defeat in the party and Modi and Shah were aware of the many meetings between Advani, Arun Shourie, MM Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha (whose son Jayant Sinha is minister of state for Finance).
It is because of the knowledge of these series of secret meetings that Modi made it a point to visit Advani's house on counting day, also the octogenarian's birthday, to wish him. Modi and Shah were clearly anticipating trouble if the results came out bad.
The results were not just bad, but terrible. So, even as the Advani revolt was in the works, a meeting of the Parliamentary Board was quickly called, even as counting was underway. The idea was to quickly organise a meeting of the parliamentary board to demonstrate unity of thought and to distribute discredit for the rout.
Once the parliamentary board said that it was the collective responsibility of every body, it was thought, the sting would be taken out of any moves to embarrass Modi and Shah.
That is why, the language of the letter released by the rebel group is very pertinent. It says that since only Modi and Shah would have cornered all credit if the party had won, they and only they, deserve to carry the cross of electoral humiliation in Bihar.
Meanwhile, sensing that the elders were in no mood for a climb down, desperate efforts were made to quell the revolt by reaching out to the parent body, the RSS.
While Amit Shah met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Rajnath Singh met Krishna Gopal, the RSS senior in charge of BJP. Obviously none of this bore fruit because Advani and the other elders, firmly pushed to the sidelines of the party, did not want to let go of their best chance to hit back.
Notably, none of these elders were the greatest of friends in the prime of their careers in the BJP. For example MM Joshi was always at loggerheads with Advani. Arun Shourie at one time said, when Advani was not yet quite the titular head that he is now, that the RSS should take over the party. Yashwant Sinha also openly questioned Advani many times. But all of them were united by their dislike for Modi and the way he had a stranglehold on the party and government.
It is thus clear that this is a fight to the finish. These elders are obviously going to the push things to the point of no return. It remains to be seen if Modi-Shah will be willing to negotiate or go for broke.
Bihar MPs fire from Advani's shoulder
Now that BJPs elder set has its swords out for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, it’s set the tone for partywide dissent cutting through heirarchy.
Seven BJP MPs from Bihar, fresh from a state election drubbing they won’t forget, have followed up Advani’s letter bomb with their own criticism of the Modi-Shah combine and how they lost the Bihar plot.
To recap what’s going on, the BJP old guard has delivered on Diwali eve its most sharp fanged challenge to Modi who became the prime minister in May 2014, former party presidents Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, former union minister Yashwant Sinha and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar said the Bihar defeat showed that the BJP had learnt nothing from its crushing defeat by the AAP in Delhi in February.
They gave no escape route to the BJP in a hard hitting letter. ”To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible," said the statement signed by Sinha.
And, what timing too. Modi promised Bihar a double Diwali, it bombed on him. Advani’s birthday fell exactly on the day the Bihar results embarrased Modi, BJP cancelled truckloads of sweet treats it has ordered in anticipation of a win in the cowbelt, the man who said he wanted to emasculate Modi is now sitting smug in Bihar and the foul language has come full circle to hit Modi from within the party.
Barely 24 hours ago, Narendra Modi tried to appease the coming storm by calling Advani his "guide" and "best teacher” he has had.
Advani turned 88 on the day the Bihar Election results were announced.
The BJP is shielding itself by alternating between complete submission to “advice from party elders” and A B Vajpayee’s poetry.
A hoarding has been put up near the party office, quoting the former prime minister: “Kya haar mein kya jeet mein/ kinchit nahin bhaybhit main/ kartavya path par jo bhi mile/ ye bhi sahi wo bhi sahi (Neither in victory nor defeat/ I am not afraid/ On the path of duty, everything is right.)”
The Indian Express reports that seven BJP MPs from Bihar took aim at Modi after the Advani story broke.
They were quoted as saying that the “Prime Minister should not have stooped to the level of Lalu Prasad” and instead focused on the development plank during the Bihar election campaign.
Why Modi got down to cow meat and offensive language is a question a lot of BJP folks are asking openly now.
The winner’s taken it all, one part of the BJP is licking its wounds and the larger bunch is firing from Advani’s shoulder after the almost official ‘go-on-the-offensive’ that the letter represents.
“Bhola Singh, in his second term as MP from Begusarai after eight terms as an MLA, blamed party president Amit Shah’s handling of the election and the Prime Minister’s “cheap and undignified language” for the defeat,” reports The Indian Express.
In a related aside, the Advani letter is dated 11 November but released a day earlier. Whether it is a typo or not, the Times of India reports that social media had a blast both with the letter and the date.
Below is the full text of the statement:
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Nov 12, 2015 08:17 AM