BJP: Introspect and quit
by Sandhya Jain on 26 May 2009 13 Comments

When Mr. S.M. Krishna lost the Karnataka elections in 2004, the media naturally asked him what factors he held responsible for Congress’ defeat. He raised his right hand to stop speculation and said as leader he took full responsibility; there was no need for scapegoats.

In 2009, Mr. L.K. Advani was nowhere to be seen when it became clear the people had rejected his quest to be prime minister. Aides told the media he was quitting as Leader of the Opposition; squabbling for the post began. Mr. Rajnath Singh, constantly humiliated and undermined by Mr. Advani and his coterie since taking charge in December 2005 following the Jinnah-is-secular fiasco, was left to face the public alone, without a coherent line being evolved collectively. The RSS top brass had to step in to ensure Mr. Advani continued till a replacement was found.

The danger now is that, as in 2004, the BJP power elite may dodge honest introspection over the successive debacles and cling to the commanding heights. Key campaign strategist Arun Jaitley refused to look inwards, blamed the Third and Fourth Fronts, and primly announced the need for BJP to function as a “responsible Opposition.” Certainly; but under whose leadership? The sooner this is decided the better.

A thorough introspection is imperative, with all senior and important Parivar persons present, so that non-entities elevated to the top do not kill the debate. So-called candid admissions in the media cannot substitute for inner party deliberations. It was extremely vacuous of Mr. Jaitley to say that terrorism, economic meltdown and price rise did not impress voters who opted for “political stability;” these issues are critical components of political stability!

BJP was expecting to float into South Block on the basis of anti-incumbency, and did not raise any issue seriously before the electorate; hence to claim that an issue failed is the worst kind of intellectual chicanery. Had BJP discussed terrorism and national security seriously, offering concrete steps to protect the nation, voters desiring political stability would have turned to it.

Voters booted out parties wanting to carve out fiefdoms to blackmail the next administration, but this explains the fall of the Third and Fourth Fronts only. Still, their rout is truly impressive. The Indian voter, supposedly illiterate and ignorant, always grasps the substantive issues involved in an election. Psephologists and analysts are wise after the event; the voter displays wisdom at the ballot box.

It will be the height of foolishness if BJP, as Arun Jaitley suggests, banks upon the Third and Fourth Fronts to gang up and take “revenge” on Congress for its legitimate hard bargaining over portfolios with Farooq Abdullah and M. Karunanidhi. One sincerely hopes BJP is not banking upon astrologers predicting an early fall of the government; this false hope averted honest introspection in 2004 and prevented the much-needed exit of political and intellectual dinosaurs who led the party to doom in 2009 as well.

Actually, Dr. Manmohan Singh was not perceived as a strong man by the electorate, but he was seen as decent and clean, not given to back-stabbing or undermining colleagues or political foes. Mr. Advani’s attack on him was seen as cheap and desperate, and as his own record as ‘Iron Man’ was laughable, it only earned him public odium. 

BJP’s defeat was a foregone conclusion once Mr. Advani was projected as prime ministerial candidate; Hindus rejected BJP in 2004 for renouncing the Hindu basis of Indian nationalism. But having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, BJP persisted with the renunciation of Hindu identity and relied upon some gibberish about good governance and development to sweep it to power. If governance is devoid of ideology, the country only needs a municipal commissioner!

BJP approached the elections without addressing any concern of the Indian voter. It also failed to keep track of the tactics and dynamics of rivals; hence a Navin Patnaik-style ‘deal’ awaits it in Bihar if it does not quickly replace the effete Sushil Modi with a native Bihari as party leader.

In Orissa, the Biju Janata Dal did so well because Congress did not put up a serious challenge so that BJP could be routed and Navin Patnaik wooed in case Congress needed a good chunk of MPs at the Centre. Congress will wait till the next elections and then give BJD a run for its money. The good vibes sent to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar were part of similar calculations for post-election block votes. BJP is rapidly declining in Bihar because of a legacy of poor leaders and a non-native state unit chief who subordinates the party to the whims of the chief minister.

The BJP leadership is intellectually lethargic. The middle class and the poor, both equally affected by price rise and rising unemployment, did not find the party addressing their concerns. The party manifesto promised to raise income tax ceilings to an attractive Rs. 3.5 lakhs per annum, but never took the promise to the millions who would benefit from this move. It spoke of farmers’ suicides, and promised cheap loans and other benefits, but did not speak against the foreign multinationals ruining farmers with ugly monopoly practices. 

The BJP failed to win over Muslims despite giving them costly sops like enhanced Hajj subsidy and increased salaries for imams; Hajj terminals in major cities; non-action against Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators; refusal to treat persecuted Bangladeshi Hindus as refugees; refusal to speak up for Kashmiri Pandits evicted from home and hearth; refusal to integrate Jammu & Kashmir fully with India; and failure to adopt a uniform civil code.

Still, this election promised to be different because Muslim leaders seemed to have decided not to be blindly anti-BJP. Then, always on the lookout for a quick-fix, BJP decided to field the controversial Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit after initially distancing itself from his unspeakable remarks. This polarised Muslims nation-wide against the BJP, and arrested its expected revival in UP.

There was no reciprocal Hindu votebank to offset this as BJP had systematically alienated Hindus over five years in office and five in opposition. And despite an overall negative campaign, BJP did not even think of promising not to implement the Sachar Committee recommendations of reservations for Muslims – now a real threat to the nation.

The author is Editor,

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