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BJP humbled, to work as constructive opposition

May 16, 2009 22:50 IST
Humbled at the hustings, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday accepted the people's verdict in the Lok Sabha polls with "due respect" and promised to play the role of a "constructive opposition" even as it prepared to do soul-searching for the "collective" failure.

Senior leader L K Advani, who was projected as the National Democratic Alliance's prime ministerial candidate, virtually took responsibility for the defeat by insisting that he should not be the Leader of Opposition in the next Lok Sabha but the offer was turned down by the party which asked him to continue to "guide".

The party also congratulated the United Progressive Alliance for its victory, with Advani calling up Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and assuring cooperation as a "constructive opposition" for "strengthening India".

The analysis of the poll outcome began as soon as the results showed that the UPA had emerged as the largest coalition, with the BJP's highest policy-making body, the parliamentary board, meeting under the chairmanship of Advani. At the meeting, Advani said he does not want to be Leader of Opposition in the next Lok Sabha and some other person should be chosen for the post, BJP chief Rajnath Singh said, adding the board turned it down. As Advani insisted, the meeting authorised BJP chief Rajnath Singh to talk to the senior leader and persuade him to take up the post again. 

After the hour-long brainstorming at Advani's residence, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley told reporters that his party accepts the "people's verdict" with "due respect and humility".

He said the mandate had clearly been in favour of the UPA.

On the BJP's introspection, Jaitley said local issues combined with national factors could have been responsible for the party's dismal performance.

Asked repeatedly whether anyone in the party will take responsibility for the defeat, he maintained that it was a "collective" responsibility.

He said a detailed analysis will be conducted and "whatever corrective steps need to be taken, will be taken".

The analysis focussed on whether the alliances were proper, whether there was any failure at the organisational level and whether raking up issues like price rise and terrorism had failed to help.

To a question, Jaitley said, "We have to learn from every election verdict."

He, however, insisted that Modi's candidature for prime ministership was never discussed in the party and it was only confined to media speculation.

There is a feeling in the BJP that Varun Gandhi's hate speech in Pilibhit in March had cost the party dearly as Muslim votes got consolidated in favour of the Congress in several constituencies.

A key BJP strategist and Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra, meanwhile, stirred a hornet's nest by saying that the projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the future prime minister was a "serious error of judgement".

Accepting the party's defeat, Jaitley said, "Though no party or combination has got a clear majority, the BJP believes that the UPA has the best mandate to rule."

The BJP leader said, "India needs political stability. It needs to put the national economy on track. It needs to strengthen national security. For these challenges people have given a mandate to the UPA leadership to govern."

He said the BJP and its allies will act as a "constructive opposition" and "fully cooperate with the government in strengthening India. We shall do our utmost to honour the spirit of this mandate."

He, however, maintained that the election result was not an "outright rejection of the NDA's policies as we have done exceedingly well in some states while below expectations in others."

'Even though no party or alliance has got a clear majority, the BJP believes that the best mandate to rule is in favour of the UPA. The BJP is of the opinion that the logical culmination of this mandate is that the UPA should be invited to form the government,' a BJP statement said.

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