Hours before the Indian Army announced on Thursday that it had carried out “surgical strikes on terror launchpads” across the Line of Control, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah was jeered at a rally for his silence on Pakistan and the party brass appeared to be at their wits’ end, trying to explain to BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh the “real meaning” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Kozhikode last week.

Anger among the BJP rank and file had been building since the prime minister’s address to the party’s national council in the Kerala city, where he had challenged Pakistan to “fight a war on who defeats unemployment, poverty, illiteracy first”.

The cadre – expecting harsher punishment for Pakistan after the terrorist attack on an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri sector that left 18 soldiers dead – were left red in the face by Modi’s remarks.

The BJP’s headache seemed to have grown when party sympathisers jeered Shah at a rally in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.

The crowd in Mathura was reportedly angry because of Shah’s silence on Pakistan. According to a news report, as Shah attacked his opponents in the poll-bound state, a large number of those in attendance kept shouting: “Pakistan par bhi to boliye. Ab sarkar kya karegi janata ko batao.” (Explain your position on Pakistan. Tell people what the government will do now).

The BJP president, however, did not give in to their demands and continued to urge the people to free UP from the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

But even before the Mathura rally, the BJP leadership, sensing the unease among the cadre, had launched an exercise to make its rank and file see wisdom in what it called the government’s “strategic restraint” on Pakistan.

Crisis meet in Gwalior 

All BJP state units were asked to convene meetings of their working committees to discuss ways to calm down the angry cadre.

The Madhya Pradesh unit was among the first to call a meeting of its working committee on Wednesday. On the first day of the two-day meeting, BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP Vice-President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Modi’s cabinet colleague Narendra Singh Tomar carried the central leadership’s message to the venue, Gwalior.

“But none of the central party emissaries could speak at the meeting as most of the participants were extremely agitated, partly because of Modi-ji’s Kozhikode speech and partly because of the assault on an RSS pracharak by police officers in Balaghat,” said a BJP leader present at the meeting.

“Only when news of our Army carrying out surgical strikes in Pakistan came on the second day of the meeting did the party leaders feel upbeat and their anger and demoralisation end,” he added.

The BJP’s units in other states will be holding such working committee meetings in the course of the next two weeks. However, most of the anger would probably have disappeared by then.