As most of the BJP ministers went incommunicado after the statement by party veterans, one of the four senior leaders recalled the resignation offer of then party president A B Vajpayee when the BJP was reduced to two seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “That election was fought under the leadership of Vajpayeeji. Immediately after the dismal showing, he offered to resign. It was other leaders who told him that the reasons for the defeat should first be looked into by a committee and then a call should be taken. Subsequently, a high-powered committee was formed with people like K L Sharma, Murli Manohar Joshi, V K Malhotra, Pramod Mahajan and Makrand Desai. It toured the country and submitted a report that was debated, first in the executive and then in the national council.”
The 1984 elections were held in the aftermath of the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, and the Congress swept the polls on a sympathy wave, winning 404 seats.
In today’s statement, the leaders called for a review of the poll debacle in Bihar, with the rider that the analysis could not be done by the “very persons who have managed and who have been responsible for the campaign in Bihar”. The senior leader added that the party had never faced such ignominy since 1984.
While he did not clarify whether the statement sought to target party president Amit Shah or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he made it clear that they had functioned as a team. “Some say Modi runs the party as its supreme leader so he should take responsibility. Others say when it comes to elections, be it Bihar or Delhi, he trusted Shah implicitly. The party president even decided where all he would campaign, so essentially it was Shah’s strategy that cost the party. Be that as it may, there is angst in the party about what is happening and how it is happening,” he said.
“There is a Hindi term for what happened to us in Bihar and Delhi — supra saaf ho gaya (a clean sweep). There is only one parallel in BJP’s history and that is 1984, which is why it is important to recall what happened then. But even the defeat of 2004, or when our government was defeated by one vote, were openly debated in the executive. It was not a closed party as it is now. Neither was our meeting today, where the statement was drafted, a closed affair. People kept walking in and out to wish Happy Diwali,” said the former minister in the Vajpayee government.
Among those who were in the room while the statement was drafted were former NDA minister Arun Shourie and RSS idealogue K N Govindacharya.
“People have been coming to meet all of us, very angry, unhappy at the way things were happening in the party. The polarising language of the campaign hurt people, but there was also serious disgruntlement about the way the party is being run for the last two years,” he said.