THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite having around 30 lakh primary members in the state, why could the BJP poll only 23.5 lakh votes in the recent assembly election? Where did the 6.5 lakh party votes go?
Why could BJP's main ally BDJS, which polled 8 lakh votes in 2016, retain only half of these votes in 2021? These were the tough questions that the saffron party’s state leadership faced as it took stock of the assembly election results.
The district-level meetings to analyse election results, which came to a close on Friday, also witnessed fierce opposition to the alleged 'one-upmanship' of the V Muraleedharan-K Surendran axis in the party. Some district units even demanded a thorough leadership change to salvage the party from the present plight, much to the displeasure of the official faction.
"Crucial grassroots-level work such as house visits have happened only in around 1,500 of the 20,000 booths where the party has influence. Many of the workers were reluctant to even distribute one-fourth of the notices and campaign leaflets due to their differences with the state leadership," said a senior BJP leader who was privy to the various district-level leadership meetings.
The leadership meetings concluded that booth-level organisational work was totally ineffective this time around. There was also stiff opposition to the norm of fixing an upper age limit of 45 years for mandalam presidents. This led to experienced elderly leaders, who could connect well with the people, being totally sidelined from election work.
'Neutral voters alienated'
A chopper-hopping state president contesting in two seats, a negative campaign strategy, claims of forming the next government with even 35 seats and thereby signalling possible horse-trading after the election, were some of the factors that alienated neutral voters from the party this time, according to the district committees.
The party couldn’t cash in on the candidature of eminent personalities like E Sreedharan or the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Mod and other top national leaders to key constituencies. At the organisational level, the factional war playing out in the open and selection of candidates who are loyal only to the official faction led to the alienation of a large number of party workers, it was pointed out.
The district-level leadership meetings were also of the view that though the party could not make significant gains in the local body polls, such a shocking defeat that questioned the very relevance of the party was least expected and sought urgent corrective measures including a revamp of the party’s state top brass.