New Delhi: Terming the electoral outcome in Karnataka as no surprise, BJP leader LK Advani on Sunday said the party had erred in not taking immediate and firm action on allegations of corruption against former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and that its handling of the state had been "absolutely opportunistic".
In the latest post on his blog, Mr Advani said he felt sorry for the party's loss in Karnataka but he was not surprised.
"The surprise would have been if we had won," he said.
The veteran BJP leader said that had the party taken stern action when it became apparent that Yeddyurappa, its first chief minister in the south, was "unabashedly indulging in corruption", the course of events would have been quite different.
He said the results in Karnataka had a profound lesson for his party - as its tally came down to 40 seats from the 110 it won in 2008 - but also had one for the Congress.
"The common lesson for both of us is: let's not take the common man for granted... If corruption provokes indignation in Bangalore, why would it not cause the same feeling in New Delhi," he asked.
Advani claimed that the common man may occasionally deviate from the norms of ethical conduct, but does feel extremely angry when he sees those at the helm of national affairs behaving immorally.
He said it was a reason for intense allergy towards politicians generally witnessed nowadays.
Referring to media reports that the BJP lost Karnataka because it threw out Yeddyurappa, Advani said the former chief minister left the party on his own.
"Let me first point out that BJP did not throw out Yeddyurappa; it is he who broke away from the BJP and decided to form a factional party of his own, the KJP," he said, adding that the party had kept up frantic efforts for several months to keep placating the former chief minister.
"The justification given was that if the party did not adopt such a 'pragmatic' approach, we would lose the only government that we had in the south," he said.
He contrasted this with an example of Jan Sangh, the precursor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which faced the situation of having to expel six of eight legislators in Rajasthan after the elections in 1952 over their refusal to abide by the party line on the abolition of jagirdari system. Mr Advani said the then BJP chief Shyama Prasad Mookerji had told the party not to hesitate in taking disciplinary action.
He said while instances can be cited when other parties get away with gross misdemeanours, BJP should realise that the yardstick by which the people judge it was not the same by which they judge other parties.
He said BJP had aroused high expectations in people by its track record and even minor indiscretions could prove costly.
"And our response to the Karnataka crisis was not at all a minor indiscretion. I have consistently maintained that our handling of Karnataka has been absolutely opportunistic," he said.
Referring to reports in a newspaper that Congress president Sonia Gandhi will meet senior party leaders soon to discuss the cabinet reshuffle, Mr Advani asked if the prime minister "had abdicated his right even to decide about his own cabinet".
Citing news reports that it was Mrs Gandhi who was instrumental in sacking Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar, the "two PM's men", Mr Advani said that "sheer self-respect demands that the PM calls it a day, and orders an early general election".
'Let's not take the common man for granted'
On the removal of Union ministers — PK Bansal and Ashwani Kumar, Advani cited reports of Sonia Gandhi 'sacking' two 'PM's men' and questioned if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had "abdicated" his right to decide his own Cabinet.
"Sheer self-respect demands that the PM calls it a day, and orders an early general election," he said.
Congress has, however, dismissed reports that the action against the two was taken at the insistence of Gandhi and said it was a "joint decision" of the Prime Minister and Gandhi.
He said, "I think the Karnataka results have a profound lesson for the BJP. In a way it has a lesson also for the Congress. The common lesson for both of us is : let's not take the common man for granted."
The BJP leader felt the Karnataka results contributed to clinching action of sacking of ministers in connection with Coalgate and Railgate, as Congress "seemed determined not to do anything about the two scams even if it meant a total washout of the second half of the Budget Session."
On the party's handling of corruption during BS Yeddyurappa's regime, Advani said had BJP taken immediate firm action, "the course of events would have been quite different".
"But for several months, frantic efforts went on somehow to keep placating him by condoning his peccadiloes," the BJP veteran said, adding that the justification given was that if the party did not adopt a 'pragmatic' approach it would lose its only government in the south.
"Our response to the Karnataka crisis was not at all a minor indiscretion. I have consistently maintained that our handling of Karnataka has been absolutely opportunistic," Advani said.
He maintained that while the common man may occasionally deviate from the norms of ethical conduct, he does feel extremely angry when he sees those at the helm of national affairs behaving immorally.
"This is the principal reason why there is such intense allergy towards politicians generally nowadays," he said.
Advani said that BJP did not throw out Yeddyurappa but it was he who broke away to form his own party.
He referred to the reports that how Sonia Gandhi overlooked "shortcomings" in Virbhadra Singh and earned an advantage in Himachal Pradesh, but BJP took pride in taking a principled stand in Karnataka.
"The consequence is that BJP has lost even the toehold it had acquired in the south," he said.
He said while instances can be cited when other parties get away with gross misdemeanours, the yardstick by which people judge BJP is not the same and they have high expectations from the party.