BJP on self introspection mode?

New Delhi: Jolted by its poor performance in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, BJP leaders are said to be in deep contemplation on what went wrong, with some already laying the blame on poor ticket distribution, the Kushwaha factor, anti-Mayawati wave and infighting.

With Hindutva leader Uma Bharti and former general secretary (Organisation) Sanjay Joshi at the helm of affairs in the state, BJP`s hopes had soared and it was expecting around 80 seats in these elections.

While Rahul Gandhi had made polls in this politically crucial state a prestige issue, even BJP President Nitin Gadkari was treating it as a test case. The latter wanted a stellar performance in UP to smoothen his ride into a second term as BJP chief.

However, things have gone horribly wrong for the right-wing party which hoped this would be a semi-final before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. UP is the most significant state politically as it sends 80 MPs to the Lower House of Parliament.

The poll debacle is likely to figure prominently in the forthcoming National Executive of the BJP, to be held tentatively in April. The other issue to rock the conclave would be the reported sabotage by former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in the hill state. Incumbent B C Khanduri lost from Kotdwar, which came as a huge embarrassment to the party that was ousted by a thin margin.

Induction of Babu Singh Kushwaha, Mayawati`s former cabinet colleague tainted in the NRHM scam, has cost the party dear with the upper caste shunning it in favour of Samajwadi Party. The decision – which was aimed at wooing the OBCs – came as a surprise as the BJP had been running a high-pitched campaign against corruption for several months.

BJP top brass had thought the gamble of having Kushwaha on its side would bring OBC votes and the upper caste would grin and bear it. However, results show that SP has pocketed the urban seats- where the upper castes are more in number- as well. In state capital Lucknow, known as BJP`s stronghold, SP has won three seats – a first for the party.

Following brouhaha over Kushwaha`s entry into the party, the BJP later made him write a letter stating his membership would be kept in abeyance till he was cleared of the charges. But he continued to campaign for the BJP, a fact that was not lost on the voters.

Ticket-distribution has also been a factor with some of the top brass prevailing over Gadkari and insisting that their supporters and followers be fielded. In the constituencies falling in Allahabad district, a senior BJP leader rubbished the party`s internal surveys and his candidates were fielded. The party has performed badly here.

A similar situation arose in Varanasi and other districts where senior leaders prevailed and this led to the defeat of the BJP candidates. Some of the candidates- put in the fray with the Machiavellian intention of winning the seat at any cost- also failed to perform. Sachidanand Sakshi, once incarcerated in Tihar in cases of rape and sexual assault, was fielded from Bhogaon but stood fourth.

Lallu Singh, who had been winning the Ayodhya seat since 1992 due to the Ram temple issue, lost this time. The party did not see the writing on the wall that the people wanted development of the constituency to be given priority.

BJP state unit chief Surya Pratap Shahi – who was one of the four leaders under whom the party contested the polls in UP – lost from Pathardeva, causing huge embarrassment to the party. He reportedly lost due to internal sabotage.

Other than Sakshi Maharaj, two controversial candidates – Daddan Mishra and Bhadshah Singh, both former tainted ministers in Mayawati cabinet – lost the elections. Mishra came third in Bhinga while Singh came fourth in Mahoba. BJP had staunchly defended Mishra`s and Singh`s inclusion in the party-fold despite their blemished record.

Senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon, who succeeded Atal Bihari Vajpayee as MP of Lucknow, could not help his son Ashutosh Tandon win the Lucknow North seat. He came third. Vidyasagar Gupta (Lucknow Central) and Suresh Srivastava (Lucknow West) – both sitting MLAs – too lost.

Party stalwarts like former Vidhan Sabha Speaker Keshari Nath Tripathi and ex-BJP UP unit chief Ramapati Ram Tripathi lost too. While Keshari Nath came third in Allahabad South, Ramapati lost in Siswa. BJP`s Legislature party chief in UP Om Prakash Singh lost his deposit as well. These instances show that BJP made huge blunders in ticket distribution.

Other factors for the decline in BJP strength from 51 in 2007 to 47 this time are lukewarm and late campaigning by central leaders and infighting among various factions. Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath had openly spoken against party leaders and especially targeted Shahi. Some others were unhappy with Uma Bharti – an outsider and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh – being given a ticket and so much prominence in the campaign.