Overall, the BJP National Executive meeting concluded on the right, positive note.
There was justified fear on Day 1 that the recrimination process was spinning out of control. Arun Shourie's intervention in particular was excessively personalised and contained some pretty incredible charges. Maneka Gandhi too added some fanciful stuff about how funds were apportioned.
There were some other interventions which spoke of tactical follies. O.P. Kohli, in particular, was blunt in admitting that the attacks on Manmohan Singh proved horribly counter-productive.
Unexpectedly, it was Sunderlal Patwa's biting intervention that restored some sense of collegiate feeling into the gathering.
It would seem that after Patwa's speech a correct balance was struck between introspection and muck-raking. Many of the subsequent contributions stressed that when there are squabbles in Delhi, they impact adversely on the states. I fear that many speakers, including Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, came down very hard on the letter writers. The Pilibhit variety of Hindutva drew flak from many, particularly the representatives from Bihar.
Narendra Modi kept mum throughout the meet. However, his campaigning in Maharashtra won him praise from Gopinath Munde.
L.K. Advani's concluding speech was sober and reflective. He made the right noises about injecting new blood and the need to re-connect with party supporters. I, however, feel that he underestimated the scale of the defeat. Perhaps he didn't want to demoralise an already dejected party. That's understandable.
I thought Venkiah Naidu handled the final interaction with the media with the right mix of candour, firmness and humour.
In political terms, the debate on Hindutva dominated the meet. It was generally agreed that extremism does not pay and that the party needed to put across a liberal, enlightened, inclusive and civilisational view of Hindutva. The presidential address was too full of homilies (and the English version could do with the red pencil of a sub-editor) but the overall tone was unexceptionable.
It was also decided that some steps were needed to attract minority voters and reach out to the states of eastern and southern India where the BJP doesn't have a meaningful presence.
I believe that the BJP has responded very positively to the disquiet over the "ugly" Hindu face. It has met critics more than half-way. I still have some problems reconciling Hindutva "as a way of life" with political Hindutva but these can be addressed in theoretical terms elsewhere. From a political perspective, it is important to show that BJP is not a hate party.
I feel that the party ought to pursue a policy of zero tolerance towards those who step out of line. The BJP must be seen to practice what it preaches.
The loose formulations of commitment to a liberal variant of Hindutva will also help define relations between the BJP and RSS and put it on a n even keel. Advani cleverly used Balasaheb Deoras's speech to drive home this point. He subtly indicated that the RSS itself has to change.
The main issue now is how the shifts, changes and corrections are to be brought about. It is unrealistic to see change happening from next week onwards but the expectation is that the BJP will look more contemporary in about a year's time.
I think the provocative debate this blog hosted has yielded some returns. It is important to keep up this supportive but uninhibited watch-dog role.