Party spokespersons said leaders in Uttar Pradesh would react to the defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections, in what appeared to be an attempt to insure Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party boss Amit Shah against blame.
"Our leaders in UP will react. From here there is nothing," one spokesperson said, offering sweets to journalists.
"This (the sweets) is from someone who has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha," the leader added with a smile.
Shah - master strategist for every election - reached the headquarters in the afternoon and headed straight to his fifth-floor office. He remained indoors through the day.
There was silence on Twitter too. Both Modi and Shah tweeted on the passing of Stephen Hawking but there was no word on the bypoll blow.
"Deeply saddened by the loss of a great mind and human being Stephen Hawking. He was an intellectual giant who held out hope for the future of humanity...," Shah tweeted.
Off the record, party leaders said neither Modi nor Shah had campaigned in the two seats, confident that the state's two most popular leaders - chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya - would ensure a comfortable victory in the seats they had represented.
"It is a big setback for us. But primarily it is the defeat of the state leadership. Modiji and Amitbhai cannot be expected to campaign and chalk out the strategy of even by-elections," a BJP leader said.
Leaders close to Adityanath sought to put the blame on the central leadership, saying the chief minister was not allowed to pick a candidate of his choice in Gorakhpur.
In fact, the candidate selected by the central leadership was known to be from a camp opposed to Adityanath, they said.
Many BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders acknowledged in private that the by-election results would send a chill down the spine of the central leadership.
"We are winning in new areas but there seems to be trouble brewing for us in our core regions and we have to take corrective measures," said a BJP leader with strong RSS roots.
This leader pointed out that Mandal politics was still pulsating on the ground despite the best efforts of the RSS and the BJP to counter it with Hindutva.
"The results show that if the so-called Mandal parties like the Samajwadi Party, BSP and the RJD come together, then they can stop our victory march. We need to have a counter strategy," the leader said.
According to this leader, the choice of Adityanath as chief minister had sent the message among the backward castes and Dalits that upper-caste domination was back.
Some RSS leaders said they had already alerted the BJP to the churning on the ground, primarily because of the farm crisis and lack of jobs.
Modi and Shah, they added, cannot hope to win every election only on the basis of a high-voltage campaign.
-The Telegraph Calcutta
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