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BJP's Electoral Prospects in 2014


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Analyzes the Bharatiya janata Party's current political imbroglio in the run up to the general elections in 2014

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BJP's Electoral Prospects in 2014

  1. 1. Elections 2014: The BJP: A Hero or a Zero? Barun Kumar Basu In the run-up to Elections 2012, I had addressed the Congress debacle in this column afew weeks back. These articles however, did not imply that there was no alternative. The problemis that alternatives are endless. However, such alternatives carry a steep price such as, but notlimited to, discounts on anti-corruption and income tax cases, preferential treatment for centraldevelopmental funds, et al. Nor are such alternatives the best by any stretch of imagination. Theprospect of Mamata, Amma and Naveen Patnaik on a single platform is as remote as Mulayam,Mayawati and Nitish Kumar on another platform. The Congress is decimated. Nor does it ruleeven a handful of large states that would help it become a force to reckon with in time forElections 2014. But does that imply the BJP has the upper hand? John Kenneth Galbraith, former US Ambassador in India and renowned economist stated,“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness toconfront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, isthe essence of leadership.” The BJP‟s fragmented leadership does not provide for any “essence ofleadership.” Hindutva, for one, hasn‟t exactly unified the party. If it had, LK Advani would havebeen out and Narendra Modi in, if media face-blackening of the latter is any indication. Hindutvano longer appeals, development does. For, as Edward Gibbon asserted, “The frequent repetitionof miracles serves to provoke, where it does not subdue, the reason of mankind....” Yet few in theBJP make a case for burning issues of governance and suggest workable alternatives. Energiesare instead expended in Parliament only upon criticizing UPA-II and building an impression thatthe UPA coalition is not a viable alternative. But the question that begs a reply is the BJP THEalternative? Riven by semi-fratricidal differences, the BJP matches Varun Gandhi‟s uncharitabledescription of his party having 55 PMs-in-waiting. Sushma and Jaitley on one side, NarendraModi Modi on another, Gadkari and his RSS lobby on yet another – the BJP is somewhat like amodern-day polyandric Draupadi. Add to these, more cracks are visible with Nitish Kumar inBihar and the errant Thackerays in Mumbai. Even within the party there is no more cohesion thanthat in UPA-II. The loss of his seat by an incumbent CM, the squeaky clean Khanduri, owing tointra-party dissensions was only a manifestation of power play in the party‟s upper echelons. Ingeneral, it is a given that the number of factions at the state level is exponentially proportionate tothe factions at the national level. After all, everyone wants to be CM and PM – that‟s humannature. Therefore any cohesion that the BJP seeks to portray is entirely fictive, like UPA-II‟s. Sushma Swaraj‟s interventions in Parliament in the chastest Hindi and Arun Jaitley‟selegant interventions in English are a delight to watch in Parliament. So are the eternallyresponsible Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha. However, they have only tiny constituencies thatwould not make much difference in Elections 2014. Gadkari is a good logistics manager whileNirmala Seetharaman is perhaps the best spokesperson that any major political party has on date.In stark contrast are senior BJP politicians of LK Advani‟s generation like Prof. VK Malhotrawho have become increasingly incoherent about their party‟s future with the efflux of time. YetBJP‟s CMs like Shivraj Chauhan, Prem Chand Dhumal and, of course, Narendra Modi are statesatraps, each one with a sizable constituency of their own and considerable financial andadministrative resources that add to their political muscle. Add to this Manohar Parikkar in Goawho carried out a relentless campaign against illegal mining to preserve Goa‟s environment. TheBJP also boasts young and dynamic elements like Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Ravi Shankar Prasad, andShahnawaz Husain. Yet none of them have a pan-India vision of the future. Of the 100 and oddMPs the BJP has, I have not heard more than ten, at any time, in the national media. I also do not 1
  2. 2. have much recollection of meaningful interventions by State Assembly members of the BJP. Willthe rest then make the leap to national government after Elections 2014? The answer is an unequivocal „No‟. Porn-watchers, land-grabbers, illegal mining barons,dubious NRI businessmen and the like are unlikely to make it happen. The BJP should insteadfollow youngsters like Sukhbir Badal and Akhilesh Yadav in their carefully filtered andcalibrated selection of winnable candidates. Undesirable elements that seek favors from allpolitical parties too are strict no-no. Anna Hazare‟s middle-class support base should not betrifled with or widespread revulsion against corruption, particularly amongst youth, who accountfor over a third of all votes in India. Perhaps the BJP should create a selection cell for picking upnew candidates, staffed in the backroom with the best hired professionals running demographicand statistical profiles. After all, as Mao Zedong stated, “The cardinal responsibility of leadershipis to identify the dominant contradiction at each point of the historical process and to work out acentral line to resolve it.” Since prospects of a snap poll depend on Mamata Bannerjee andKarunanidhi‟s whims and fancies, the BJP would do well to finalize their candidates for eachconstituency in the next 2-3 months. Selected candidates should also be closely familiarized withtheir constituents in a manner as scientific and logical as their selection. This however,presupposes support from BJP CMs who must necessarily be a member of the selection process,indeed the mentor to all such candidates. With a fractious leadership, there can be no “willingness to confront unequivocally themajor anxiety of their people in their time” as Galbraith said. Neither does the BJP have a visionfor the future nor are its present critiques of UPA-II geared to anything more than populistinterjections. This is when, as Winston Churchill famously asserted that “The empires of thefuture are empires of the mind.” Surprisingly, there is commonality of approach with theCongress on key issues of governance such as divestment in PSUs, anti-terrorism, nuclear policy,infrastructure, etc. Yet there is no firm workable roadmap for the future on issues relating toincreasing private sector participation in the economy and government, upgrading skills of ruralpopulations instead of body and soul politics of free grain and unskilled jobs, single-point subsidyon POL, consolidation of farm holdings, raising agricultural productivity, reforming highereducation and revamping R&D skills, public projects, etc. Indeed the BJP should pay heed toRalph Waldo Emerson, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is nopath and leave a trail.” As of now there is no trail. Edward Gibbon saw an era in ancient Rome when “the generality of princes, if they werestripped of their purple and cast naked into the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rankof society, without a hope of emerging from their obscurity.” Development, good governance andanti-corruption are a trident that would keep the BJP from irrelevance. A BJP leader, relativelyyoung, who answers all these three planks simultaneously, will lead the party into Elections 2014.And what if this fails? In his famous opening lines of The Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens wrote, “It was thebest of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, itwas the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was theseason of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everythingbefore us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going directthe other way.” Dickens obviously did not have India in mind then. But I certainly do. IfElections 2014 return a fractured verdict, is it possible that the Congress and the BJP may teamtogether to provide a stable national government? Or does historical irrelevance await the BJPeven as opportunistic coalitions take over this noble land?The author is a former Ambassador of India. The edited version of this article waspublished in The Statesman on 28th Apr, 2012 and is available online at 2