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Advani admits `India Shining' campaign failed to click

By Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI, MAY 28. Admitting that the "India Shining" and "Feel Good" catchphrases widely used by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha poll campaign failed to click, the former Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, said today that the phrases were used by the party's political opponents to highlight poverty, uneven development, unemployment and problems of farmers.

Breaking his silence after the debacle of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, Mr. Advani, who had crafted the party's poll strategy, appealed to BJP supporters and workers not to feel despondent because of the "temporary setback" but make sustained efforts to re-connect to the people and highlight their problems in the months to come.

At a press conference at the BJP headquarters here, Mr. Advani said the Congress-led coalition Government should not "misread the people's fractured verdict as a decisive mandate for any alliance, much less for any single party and certainly not for any individual."

He said the Congress had only seven seats more than the BJP. "The only unequivocal interpretation of the divided verdict of elections 2004 is that the people expect the new government to follow the path of maximum consensus, not only within the ruling alliance but also with the Opposition." He alleged that the Congress and the Communist parties carried out a "viciously negative campaign, replete with falsehood, to claim that India had actually suffered ruination under the NDA Government."

Admitting that the poll outcome had gone totally against the party's expectations, Mr. Advanisaid the situation called for introspection and firm corrective action. The party president would announce steps for review and it was for the BJP national executive to decide on the future course of action. As many as 90 sitting party MPs had suffered defeat. However, the BJP would continue to wage an ideological battle against those who portray Hindutva as "communal" for their narrow political ends. "As far as the BJP is concerned, Hindutva, Bharateeyata and Indianness are synonymous. We care for every Indian, irrespective of their caste or creed."

Mr. Advani said the poll results had triggered a debate in some quarters that the BJP lost because it had abandoned its Hindutva issues or that the defeat would now send the party back to those issues. "Both sides of the debate are rooted in a wrong understanding of the BJP, its core ideology of cultural nationalism and Hindutva."

Seeking to dub the poll outcome as an aggregate of State verdicts and not a national verdict, he said: "In States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where we suffered the most, the influence of caste identity and caste combinations proved more powerful than our promise of development and good governance."

Mr. Advani said the election results of each State would be studied and analysed. Asked if the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue was overplayed by the BJP, he said the party's view was that there was nothing personal in it and that it was a political issue. And when Ms. Gandhi's refused to accept the Prime Minister's post, the country heaved a sigh of relief. On "tainted Ministers" finding Cabinet berths in the Manmohan Singh Government, Mr. Advani said it was "sad" to see a clean person such as Dr. Singh making efforts to defend "tainted Ministers with criminal track record."

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