Amid the soul-searching within the BJP over its drubbing in the Delhi polls, a senior Union minister today said the controversial remarks made by Hindutva hardliners "damaged" the party's prospects.
In an interview to Karan Thapar in "To the Point" programme on Headlines Today, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also spoke of the limitation of BJP in a direct electoral contest and said the party needs to expand its base and work out a strategy to win even those elections, which are not three or four-cornered.
He refused to hold party's chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi responsible for the debacle saying there are "other factors" for this "embarrassing" defeat, which is a "big setback" to the party.
The AAP hurricane demolished both BJP and Congress in the Delhi Assembly polls bagging an unprecedented 67 of 70 seats leaving only three for BJP while Congress scored a duck.
"Some of the statements made by our so-called colleagues also damaged us. They drove away entire minorities to that side. That is also a lesson to be learnt," he said referring to remarks of leaders like party MP Sakshi Maharaj and Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
He admitted that it was a "tactical mistake" to delay the elections in Delhi that cost the BJP dear but insisted that it was a "decision taken collectively".
To a question on whether the controversy over 'ghar wapsi', conversion besides these controversial remarks antagonised some sections of Hindus, Naidu replied in affirmative.
"Definitely. Hindus always believed in peaceful co-existence. They have been living like this for ages. People were not happy with comments made by some of our colleagues. They did not go down well with people.
" Somebody was talking of Hindu women having four children, the other six children. Somebody talked of putting idols in all places of worship. That was very wrong," he said.
Naidu also recalled that Home Minister Rajnath Singh as well as he himself had disapproved of the remarks made by Jyoti. "It had vitiated the atmosphere. It also hurt us," he said.
Naidu's remarks came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for communal amity on Tuesday.
Breaking his silence on recent church attacks, Modi, who was accused by Opposition and Christian groups of turning a blind eye to a string of recent attacks on five churches and a Christian school in Delhi, said his government will not allow any religious group to incite hatred and will strongly act against any religious violence.
Naidu denied suggestions Modi was late in responding to the recent church attacks and other communal controversies.
"Is one statement by the Prime Minister going to stop all this? Is this happening for the first time? There is a phenomena, which is to be curbed.
"Prime Minister is the head of the government. Each minister has been given a responsibility. Home Minister had condemned it. I have condemned it," he said.
While ruing that "Hindu bashing has become a fashion", Naidu said it is for the states to act if there is any conversion or reconversion by force or allurements.
Naidu, who has been the national president of BJP in the past, also noted that votes of all other parties like Congress, BSP and SP shifted to Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party this time in Delhi.
He said that Kejriwal's party won the polls as people, after giving the mandate to Modi to rule the country, thought that the AAP leader with his promises should be given an opportunity to rule Delhi as he could do it better here.
According to Naidu, the BJP did not make promises like AAP as it knew the reality of the financial situation in Delhi. "It is impossible to fulfill those promises," he noted.
He downplayed questions about candidate selection and delay in election announcement as reasons for the BJP defeat, saying every poll gives a message and it has to be analysed.
He also denied suggestions that the Delhi polls were a Modi vs Kejriwal face-off saying the face-off had already happened during Lok Sabha polls in Varanasi where Modi trounced Kejriwal.
Naidu also expressed confidence that BJP-PDP talks for government formation in Jammu and Kashmir will fructify as "these two parties have been given comparatively more mandate".
"I am sure that there will be some meaningful conclusion... Efforts are on to form a coalition," he said without elaborating further on how the two parties are negotiating on the contentious issues like AFSPA.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister also expressed confidence that a way out will be found out through talks with Opposition parties for converting the six ordinances into legislations. Budget Session is commencing from February 23.
He parried questions on the possibility of the government calling for a joint sitting of Parliament to achieve this.
With the government under attack from RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh on the land acquisition law, Naidu said that he was "open to constructive suggestions" but asserted that there was "no question of going back" on it.