Monday, March 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Infighting led to BJP ouster: Vajpayee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
The top brass of the BJP, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today singled out factionalism in the party’s state unit for its debacle in Himachal Pradesh.

“We should have fought unitedly. The people were angry with us and this was evident from the kind of response there was at the election meetings. Had we fought unitedly, the results would have been different”, Mr Vajpayee said speaking at the meeting of party’s office-bearers here at the BJP headquarters.

He said the lack of enthusiasm among crowds at the election meetings in Himachal Pradesh showed that “the infighting message had reached down to the grassroots level”, apparently referring to the differences between Union Minister Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal, and added this was a major cause of the party’s poll debacle in the state.

Mr Vajpayee said though there were problems in both major parties - the BJP and the Congress - but open criticism of each other by BJP leaders was the major factor behind the party’s defeat.

He took strong exception to the reported remarks by Mr Shanta Kumar that people were angry and unhappy with the performance of the state Government under the BJP and said that the party had sought an explanation from him.

Addressing office-bearers, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said the party could not overcome the anti-incumbency factor in Himachal Pradesh, which can be done only by strengthening the organisation.

“The reason for the setback is very clear. It was because of the organisational health of the party, with infighting being one of the major causes just as it happened in the Delhi Assembly elections. The lesson to be learnt is that we have to restructure the organisation so that it is toned up,” he added.

However, he observed that if it was anti-incumbency which had led to the defeat of the party in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress will be more severely affected in the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Chattisgarh, where it is the ruling party.

He also wanted the party cadre not to get demoralised over the Himachal Pradesh outcome and work unitedly for grand success in the coming polls.

The meeting passed a resolution that the government not only completed its five-years term successfully but also implemented unprecedented development activities in the state.

Party General Secretary Pramod Mahajan will be going to Shimla to oversee the election of the BJP legislature party leader.

During the post-meeting briefing, Mr Mahajan virtually ruled out disciplinary action against Mr Shanta Kumar.

“The party could not take disciplinary action on the basis of the statement,” Mr Mahajan told newspersons.

Mr Mahajan, without wanting to give out his assessment on the Himachal situation, said the party had obviously suffered because of the rebels.

“If seven or eight rebels are scoring more than the official nominees in such a small state, it only means that things were not alright in the party,” he said, adding that Himachal Pradesh was known for changing the governments alternately and the party’s poor showing fitted the logic.

Maintaining that today’s meeting did not discuss the poll reverses in Uttar Pradesh and other states, Mr Mahajan said though the party had lost in the Haidergarh Assembly seat, it was not a traditional stronghold of the party although it had returned former UP Chief Minister Rajnath Singh.

He said the party was happy that the BSP, the leader of the BJP-BSP coalition in the state had won the Gauriganj Assembly seat, where the BJP was also in the fray in a “friendly fight”.

Countering Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s claim that the BJP’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh was a defeat of Hindutva, party President Venkaiah Naidu asked, “If the Congress wants to interpret this as defeat of Hindutva forces, how will its interpret its defeat in Nagaland, where the BJP has won eight seats?” After all, it is not the so-called Hindutva then does it mean minorityism,” he questioned.

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