The Telegraph | 28 May 2016
New Delhi : After the Bihar rout in November 2015, BJP veterans demoted to a margdarshak mandal (advisory panel), a euphemism for a retirement home, had come out of their burrows, found their voices and fired at Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Led by L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, with heavy prodding from Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and backing from Shanta Kumar, they spoilt the Prime Minister and the BJP president's Diwali. On festival eve, they released a statement suggesting the duo had shrugged off responsibility for the debacle after "emasculating" the party.
But the BJP insulated Modi and Shah from culpability. In a counter-statement, it spoke of how all members were "concerned" with the Bihar outcome. Nothing happened since then, not even a hint of the "introspection" that Advani and the others had called for.
Cut to May 2016. Assam won and account opened in Kerala, the sulking seniors smiled, lauding Modi and Shah. Joshi was the first off the mark, congratulating the duo for the "historic success" in Assam a day after the results.
"The strategy and workers' hard work have brought a revolutionary change in the country's politics. For the first time, the BJP has established a strong presence from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Dwarka (Gujarat) to Kamrup (Assam). Workers in other states where elections are due, especially Uttar Pradesh, will be inspired by this victory," Joshi said in separate letters to Shah and Modi.
Advani - who had only grudgingly acknowledged Modi's success after his Lok Sabha victory in May 2014 - made it a point to attend Sarbananda Sonowal's swearing-in in Guwahati this week. He had not been seen at similar events that followed the BJP's successes in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir in 2014.
Advani has also decided to associate himself with the Modi-led NDA government's second anniversary jamborees, as part of which ruling coalition leaders are addressing rallies to spread the message of the Centre's " vikas parv" (festival of development).
In Ahmedabad today to attend one such "festival" organised by the Gujarat government, Advani was quoted by agencies as saying: "India has received an honest government at the Centre under PM Modi. The government is determined to fulfil all its promises and it is moving in the right direction to do so."
The veteran said he was in Ahmedabad as "part of my duty to inform people about the various pro-people works done by both these BJP governments (Centre and Gujarat) during these two years". He took a swipe at the Congress, slamming its repeated attacks on the Centre. "The people of India are still with the BJP and the NDA government."
Sinha, who piped up every now and then as the Centre's traducer and adviser, was mum. Shourie has not spoken after the Assam win. He had been closely engaged with Assam and its student politics for years.
The "truce" with the veterans, which could be transient, left Modi and Shah to cope with a single in-house opponent: the Shiv Sena. The Sena refused to celebrate the Assam win and the second anniversary, unlike the other allies. Asked about it today, Shah said: "It shows how much democracy there is in the NDA."
Privately, BJP sources alleged the Sena was in a "state of perpetual pique" after being beaten by their party to the first place in the 2014 Maharashtra polls. "Now, the Sena is trying to gain its pre-eminence before the Mumbai municipal polls (2017) by distancing itself from us," a source said.