Top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders began a brainstorming session in Shimla over the state of affairs in the party against the backdrop of Lok Sabha defeat and internal bickerings that have marred its image with senior leader Jaswant Singh keeping away from the opening session. Singh, from whose book hailing Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the party has distanced itself totally, was in Shimla still staying put in his hotel room, away from the Peterhoff Hotel where the three-day 'Chintan Baithak' is being held.
It was not known whether Singh had chosen to stay away from the first session or would join it later. On the first of its three-day closed-door Chintan Baithak (introspection meeting), the party leadership is expected to discuss the Bal Apte committee report which has been prepared on the basis of inputs from states on the reasons for the poor performance of the party in the Lok Sabha polls. The next two days will discuss the future course of action of the party, learning from the lessons of the recent Lok Sabha elections. The party top brass will also strategise on the forthcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra andHaryana. The meeting, being attended by about 25 top BJP leaders including L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Some BJP leaders are expected to raise the issue of Jaswant Singh praising Jinnah at the conclave. The BJP has already distanced itself from Jaswant Singh's observations that Jinnah was not responsible for partition, with party chief Rajnath Singh saying the role played by Jinnah in division of India cannot be wished away.
The BJP is also faced with a rebellion by Vasundhara Raje, who has defied the high command and refuses to step down as
Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan assembly despite being asked to do so. Significantly, senior leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, who had openly raised questions over accountability for the poll drubbing, have been kept away from the meeting.
The focus of attention is expected to be on north Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where the
party could not perform up to expectations.However, the Chintan Baithak may bury the past and try to look at the road ahead to avoid a barrage of blame game for the poll debacle. Advani had earlier said the party would explore new avenues including looking at ways of expanding the party base in south India where it has no presence in 145 Lok Sabha
constituencies. The three-day meet will see four sessions everyday.