Is there a Bal Apte report analysing the reasons behind the BJP’s poll poor performance, indicting the leadership for flagging the slogan ‘Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is weak’ while ignoring the party agenda of Rs. 2 a kg rice for each Below Poverty Line family?

Several party leaders here are angry and astonished that the very existence of the report has been denied by the top leadership when in fact it has been circulated widely in the media and its contents have been confirmed as authentic. Reports also suggest that even at the Shimla conclave some leaders expressed unhappiness that the very existence of the report of the Apte committee, duly constituted and announced several months earlier, was denied.

Some party leaders here, who were not part of the group of 25 invited for the chintan baithak in Shimla have asserted that they have spoken to leaders there who “confirmed” that notes from the Bal Apte report were given to each participant “in a sealed cover” and this report was discussed.

Then why the denial? Several insiders said the denial was to save the leadership embarrassment and avoid accountability. On condition of anonymity, one leader said: “Those who have no stake in the future of the party are fighting and leaking internal party documents. We, who have been committed to the party and whose future depends on the party returning to health, are the ones suffering.”

The authenticity of the report can also be gauged from the fact that party president Rajnath Singh, at his press conference in Shimla, emphasised the very areas of concern mentioned in the report that is circulating. He talked about expanding the party’s presence in States where it has a minimal presence. The report talked about “zero presence of the BJP/NDA in four States that account for 144 Lok Sabha seats [Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal].”

The report noted the party’s “failure to connect with the youth,” whereas Mr. Singh said the BJP decided to actively engage women, youth and farmers. The report mentioned “poor alliance management.” Mr. Singh said there was need to strengthen the NDA.

The report talked about “popular schemes” of the United Progressive Alliance such as the NREGA and loan waiver for farmers. Mr. Singh said the BJP-run State governments should be role models of governance. The report praised the higher minimum support price for cereals announced by the UPA. Mr. Singh said the party must pay attention to the needs of farmers.

As far the “lack of enthusiasm and involvement of cadres” noted by the report, Mr. Singh said the party’s ideology of Hindutva was “not negotiable.”

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