BJP national executive meeting got off to a stormy start here on Saturday after party president Rajnath Singh's inaugural speech owning responsibility for party's defeat, giving a call for discipline and scotching any scope for a rethink on party's ideology of Hindutva or link with RSS.
BJP's chief strategist for the Lok Sabha polls Arun Jaitley appeared to be the main target of attacks while dissensions in state units also came to the fore. Nearly every leader had something to say against Jaitley and more is in store on Sunday when the party discusses its political resolution and also takes up the issue of its poll performance. BJP's top leader LK Advani did not speak and is scheduled to make the concluding speech on Sunday.
BJP's Aonla MP Maneka Gandhi was particularly critical of Jaitley, saying that the party's "incharge for Uttar Prtadesh" would not even pick up the phone and while he had lots of time to talk to journalists, he did not speak to party candidates. Jaitley has preferred to skip the party's crucial national executive meet and is holidaying in Europe.
"Many, including several senior leaders, intervened during the reporting by state unit chiefs on party's performance in their states," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told journalists during the evening briefing on the meet. The party also announced appointment of Bal Apte as chief of BJP membership campaign beginning July 6 and of Thavar Chand Gahlot as returning officer for the organisational elections taking place this year.
The BJP leadership decided to set up a committee to analyse the reports from states and go into the reasons for the party's poor show. Curiously, the names of committee's members have been kept "secret". This follows engineered leaks of critical and protesting letters of leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie starkly revealing the rift and resentment in party ranks over the handling of party campaign in Lok Sabha elections.
The session saw several leaders speaking their mind and pointing fingers at others. Rudy said some of the reasons cited for party's debacle "cannot be disclosed" and some "internal issues were also raised at the meet".
Comments by party's Uttar Pradesh leader Vinay Katiyar on how senior leader Jaswant Singh's letter was leaked has hurt the latter, provoking him to say no one had dared point a finger at him in his 44 years of political career. He also said he would not contest elections again.
The irrepressible Arun Shourie also spoke out, demanding a debate on party's poor show in elections. Endorsing the decision to set up a committee to go into this, Shourie said its report be made public and also stressed the need for a mechanism for ensuring accountability. Seeking accountability on the part of leaders for the defeat, he said it was not enough for Rajnath Singh alone to own up responsibility and there were others who were responsible for the debacle. Without naming Arun Jaitley, Shourie said those responsible for the defeat have skipped the executive meeting but they would be the ones who would do the 'chintan baithak' (brain storming) on the defeat.
Shourie asked for an inquiry into how their letters were being leaked and blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the party interest.
In his speech earlier, Rajnath Singh maintained that there would be no compromise on ideology. He said that the party does not regret raising issues like communal reservation during campaigning as they were in the "country's welfare". "Perhaps we need to present our views in a better and more contemporary context."