The election and the verdict – I
by B R Haran on 19 May 2009 5 Comments

“This election is significant, more important than the 1977 general elections. Even during the emergency the situation was not so precarious as at present. The five-year UPA regime has brought the nation down and pushed it into peril. The voters must realize this sad truth and cast their votes in such a way that this government is not returned to power;” so said Arun Shourie at a meeting in Chennai convened by ‘Friends of BJP’. Those who listened to him that day must feel a sense of despair now.   

The verdict of Election-2009 was indeed shocking, not only for BJP and allied organizations, but also for nationalists who don’t belong to these bodies. The last five years of the Congress-led UPA proved the cardinal truth behind BJP’s 2004 Election Theme “India Shining”. A comparison of UPA’s five years with the previous tenure of the NDA affirms that India was indeed shining then. Despite that, BJP has suffered a terrible blow now. Why?

The 2004 results showed that the two southern states, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, played spoilsport then, voting in favour of the Congress/UPA. Though the difference between Congress and BJP was only eight seats, Congress and other so-called secular parties stitched up an opportunistic alliance in the name of “secularism,” and formed a government with outside support from the Left Front. Beginning with the first act of repealing POTA, the UPA, with several tainted ministers in the cabinet, has been a functional anarchy in every sector of governance. 

Assembly wins and Parliament losses

However, even after losing the 2004 parliamentary elections, the BJP performed extremely well in the assembly elections, winning Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, and doing better than Congress in Uttar Pradesh and fairly well in Rajasthan, although it could not win it for the second time. The only humiliating defeat was in Delhi, despite a resounding performance in the local body elections the previous year.

While the BJP’s loss in Delhi may be attributed to the good performance of the Sheila Dikshit government and its own lackadaisical attitude with regard to the day to day problems of Delhi-ites, the below par performance in Rajasthan was of its own making - the Gujjar-Meena controversy and internal bickering. Another good performance was in Jammu, where it captured a dozen seats in the assembly elections, thanks to the Amarnath controversy triggered by the Congress.   

The loss in Delhi and Rajasthan, despite the bomb blasts in Delhi and Jaipur and despite 26/11 in Mumbai, should have roused the BJP from slumber; but it did not. The internal bickering in Rajasthan was not resolved and the villain of the plot, Colonel Bainsla, was admitted into the party. Even if that could be tolerated, allowing him to contest the elections proved disastrous. The level of confidence in the BJP was so low in Delhi that Sushma Swaraj ran to Madhya Pradesh, wrestling a safe seat from veteran Kailash Joshi (who lost in his new seat); other bigwigs preferred not to contest.   

New infighting in Madhya Pradesh was not attended to immediately and caused a dent in the otherwise credible image of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. It was ditto in Uttarakhand and it still remains unsolved. 

In Maharashtra, no attempt was made to either resolve the feud within the Thackeray family or to study the impact of Raj Thackeray’s Navnirman Sena. The central leadership paid little attention to the state after the sad and sudden demise of Pramod Mahajan, and its weakness was exposed during the anti-North Indian violence and the presidential elections, when it could not dissuade the Shiv Sena from making common cause with the Congress in support of Pratibha Patil. The party’s handling of 26/11 left much to be desired; it allowed Pranab Mukherjee to steal the show in the aftermath of Mumbai attack. If the party really wants to improve its stature in Maharashtra, it must think of going it alone with a nationalistic agenda, rather than sink with the ‘Marathi chauvinist’ Sena and its outdated style of functioning. 

Playing one-upmanship in Jammu and not maintaining good relations with the local Amaranth Sangarshan Samiti has cost it dearly. The gains in the very recent assembly elections have been lost through sheer arrogance.  

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has failed to groom youngsters and is left with only old faces. It is rather unfortunate that it has not produced even one young face in the largest state of the country. Varun Gandhi cost the party dearly, though he won his seat and his mother also scraped through. The party did not reach out to the Brahmins, who felt let down by Mayawati.  

There have been no sustained long-term plans for the growth of the party in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. While AP has been under a grotesque spell of evangelization for the last five years after Samuel Reddy took charge, the BJP was found wanting. By staying away and not supporting the Devalaya Parirakshana Samithi, which was making great inroads across the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh, both the BJP and the RSS have sent a wrong message to the Hindu community. Though it was the Vajpayee government which ensured the development of Andhra Pradesh by sanctioning all that Chandrababu Naidu wanted between 1999 and 2004, the state unit of the party allowed TDP to take all credit. 

In Kerala too, internal bickering erupted and the party failed to make the most of the Communists’ hobnobbing with Jihadis, despite great sacrifices by scores of RSS/VHP/BJP activists at the hands of Jihadis and Communist goons. While a Hindu resurgence was clearly visible in certain parts of the state, the party failed to capitalize on it. It is regrettable that even before becoming a force to reckon with in places like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the party allowed bickering factions to mushroom.  

With regard to Tamil Nadu, BJP sadly failed to improve its support base, despite having four MPs and five MLAs during the late 1990s and early 2000. The BJP and RSS have not attempted to increase cadre strength. VHP was found wanting during the Rama Sethu struggle for fear of antagonizing the Chief Minister, who had earlier sanctioned the “Village Temple Priests Welfare Committee”. They joined the Rama Sethu Protection Movement only in the later part of the struggle and the state BJP did almost nothing for Rama Sethu and allowed AIADMK to hijack the issue.

The party didn’t support Dr .Subramanian Swamy either on his legal course against the Sethusamudram Project. The party and the Sangh also failed to rise against the “Tamil New Year” ordinance and government takeover of Chidambaram Natarajar Temple. When dozens of cows were slaughtered during Bakrid, none of the organizations bothered to take up the issue despite prior intimation. Another foolish talk was about implementing Sethusamudram project via an ‘alternative’ route, while it was proved unviable by experts. Moreover, this was not an issue at all for the people of the state, particularly coastal districts.

BJP made a great blunder of sharing the dais with pro-LTTE elements in the name of ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ and allowed separatist leader Nedumaran to campaign for it. A ‘nationalist’ party taking the help of a ‘separatist’ leader sent all the wrong signals to the electorate. The party even allowed a Sri Lankan MP to canvas for the party here, which was against the Constitution and VISA norms, and a dangerous precedent.  

But for Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and a few other states, the party could not have reached the 100 mark. There are many states where the loss of the Third and Fourth Fronts translated into gains by Congress as BJP had no presence in those states. Though the party was able to win more than half a dozen assembly elections in the last five years, its performance as the main opposition party in and outside parliament was not up to expectations.

On many occasions it allowed the Left Front to steal the thunder and many issues were not even taken up by the party. Even though the Congress-led UPA presented “issues” on a platter, one by one, the BJP leadership was unable to rise to the occasion and capitalize upon them. Its conduct inside Parliament was marked by repeated stalling and adjournments, which created a bad impression as it seemed as if the party had nothing to say on any issue.   
(To be continued…)

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