The footsoldiers are deeply concerned about the weakening of the party's hold over traditional votebanks. But the party brass has been too preoccupied to notice the signals from the weaker sections among the electorate. The party's defeat in the tribal belts of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the loss of a chunk of SC seats—the BJP won 60 out of 77 SC and 77 out of 99 ST seats in the three states put together—is seen by many MPs as a grave concern. Likewise, the Congress debacle in the Jat belt of Rajasthan, once its greatest strength, has alarmed leaders from the community.
Although the party was in damage limitation rather than introspection mode last week, Sonia found time to set up yet another panel (headed by veteran Pranab Mukherjee) to probe the reasons for the rout. A move greeted with cynicism by second-rung leaders, who recalled how the Antony report, which analysed the 1999 Lok Sabha failure, had been junked.