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We expected at least 75 seats: BJP
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | May 11, 2007 15:17 IST
As news of Mayawati's march in Uttar Pradesh trickled in the mood at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in New Delhi began to change. The huge orders for mithai in anticipation of a good showing had to be cancelled.
The top leadership, like many occasions in the past, did the great disappearance trick as they sped out of the party head quarters.
"Our realistic assessment was that we will get 75 odd seats," Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had come to attend Parliament, was forced to admit by the media who mobbed the official spokesperson.
"But we will give our assessment later in the day after a meeting of the parliamentary board at former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpapyee's residence," he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party office in New Delhi is silent this Friday, as the vote count in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections showed the saffron party's decline in the key state.
The office at 11, Ashok Road, which usually bustles with supporters, leaders and party officials, was deserted as the Uttar Pradesh results sent the BJP crashing out of the race for power in the home state of its chief Rajnath Singh.
Except for senior leader Kalraj Mishra, no other prominent politician of the party visited its central office as late as noon.
Rather, they hopped from one television station to another to argue that voters did not find the BJP -- which had won 88 seats in the 2002 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh - an alternative to the Samajwadi Party of outgoing Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.
"The people identified the Bahujan Samaj Party as an alternative to the Mulayam Singh Yadav government. We also projected ourselves as an alternative but we were very late in doing so," senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said.
Swaraj, whose party launched a high-pitched Hindutva campaign much ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, denied that this issue was the BJP's poll plank in the state.
"Hindutva was never an election issue. It is a way of life. How can a way of life ever be an election issue?" she remarked, adding, "We could not feel the pulse of the people."
Swaraj's remarks on Hindutva virtually belied her party's back-to-basics moves under Sangh-backed Rajnath Singh, who replaced L K Advani in the wake of the former deputy prime minister's row with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for his comments on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
The saffron party, whose Hindutva card appeared to have failed in the face of BSP chief Mayawati's pre-poll moves aimed at garnering the support of both low and upper castes, did make an unprecedented rise in Punjab, where it was able to win back its core urban Hindu vote-block.
"Voters found the BJP as an alternative to the Congress in Punjab, Uttrakhand and in Delhi (municipal elections) and elected it to power there. This did not happen in Uttar Pradesh," party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.
The BJP received full support from all constituents of the Sangh, including its critic Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in Uttar Pradesh but suffered one crisis after another in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
In the thick of the campaign, its top leaders had their energy directed at striking reconciliation with rebel parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath, whose revolt over ticket distribution exposed chinks in the party and threatened to split saffron votes, especially in the Gorakhpur region.
Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu, who was in charge of the BJP's election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, was able to broker peace with the Yogi after Advani's intervention. But soon thereafter, the party's state unit courted another crisis as it was accused of releasing an anti-Muslim CD, virtually supplying ready-made material to its rivals to launch an attack against it.
Complete coverage: The battle for UP