Saturday, February 14, 2015

BJP's excellent learning opportunity





The BJP's thundering defeat in Delhi was not due to any sudden merits of the Aam Aadmi Party, but to several problems inside the BJP itself. That much is not controversial. The debate is all about what exactly were the mistakes made.


1. Campaign strategy - We need not spend many words on the poor campaign strategy, contrasting with the campaign that brought Narendra Modi to power. It was disorganised and incoherent. It failed to excite the social media netizens, unlike the previous Prime Ministerial campaign where the netizens were gung ho about Modi being the PM and they watched each and every of his speeches. It also built on twenty years of neglect and confusion in the local BJP section.


2. Parachuting the CM Candidate - The parachuting of Kiran Bedi was not well received by the senior leaders of Delhi BJP as well as the volunteers who form the backbone of all BJP work. Kiran failed to excite them to work for her. Most of the active volunteers felt neglected by her as well as by the Delhi BJP leaders.


3. The rape issue -- The AAP not only built on old campaign tricks like promising freebies, but also had deliberately crafted a genuine appeal to each of the sections of society. In particular, it exploited the concern about women's safety far better than former police chief Kiran Bedi. While she belittled the widespread concern about rape, the AAP went all out to depict the BJP as the party that, while pontificating about the sacredness of women in Hindu tradition, failed to address this real-life concern.


4. Dustbin for Rejects - The BJP started becoming the dustbin for rejects from every corner. The rejects came in all shapes and sizes and with absolutely no adherence to the BJP ideology. So much so, it also included seculars like Shazia Ilmi who was seen obsessively campaigning against the BJP and asking Muslims to be more communal on television.


5. Wannabe Secularism - The BJP enjoys no real acceptance among the secularists and the minorities, but it keeps on craving this, even at the expense of its support base of Hindu activists. Kiran Bedi sought the usual certificate of good conduct from the secularists by declaring that since childhood she had rated all religions equal -- a statement not really offending the Hindu party workers but not generating any enthusiasm either. A candidate who lost his seat to the AAP, Rajinder Singh Sirsa, blames Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's statement on Ramzade vs. Haramzade (Rama's descendents vs. "bastards", meaning Muslims) for costing him the Muslim vote (Indian Express, 11 Feb.). The statement is unworthy of a Minister and in fact of any serious Hindu, but Sirsa is living in a fool's paradise if he thinks that without it he would have gotten the Muslim vote. Using their own brains, or following a pro-AAP advice ("fatwa") by the Shahi Imam, the Muslims overwhelmingly voted for the party best placed to defeat the BJP. In the same fool's paradise you will also find the BJP leadership that keeps on courting the minorities, not comprehending their long-standing determination to help defeat the BJP at all costs. Buffoons keep thinking that their own conduct can do something about this determination, but this only shows contempt for the minorities: it assumes that they have no agency of their own and merely react to what you do. 


6. Belittling the Hindu party workers - Over the years, the BJP has morphed from a Hindu party into a largely free-market party occupying the niche left unserved the the different varieties of Nehruvian socialists. These classical economic-liberals pontificate against the Hindu-minded party workers to whom each one of them owes his position (for nobody would do the thankless campaigning job for a cold economy-oriented party without a cultural agenda). For instance, Sandipan Deb writes ("BJP needs to decide", Swarajya, 10 Feb.): "The government has been totally unnecessarily drawn into controversies by members of its own party or the extended parivar. Wackos completely unknown till now have been crawling out of the woodwork and making outrageous statements — about imagined past glories, about historical rancour, about they-did-it-to-us and now we will do it to them." Only a secularist would reduce the Hindu agenda to these grievances, and remember that on the secularist side, the BJP will not garner votes, only opportunist job-seekers.


7. The Hindutva wackos – On the other hand, the condemnation of these Hindutva “wackos” is well-deserved. They speak from their underbellies, they have some vague and undirected pro-Hindu feelings and want to redress some real or perceived injustices, but beyond that, they are perfectly clueless. They say things that are not at all rooted in Dharma, such as a threat to kill all those who leave Hinduism, as Akshay Maharaj uttered (the death penalty for apostates exists, but in another religion). The solution is to provide them with leadership and to rally them around a programme that is both reasonable and sufficiently pro-Hindu.


Since its foundation in 1925, the RSS has not seriously rethought its ideology, then already questionable but now also hopelessly outdated. Since its foundation in 1980, the BJP has only watered down the ideology it started with, and now only banks on a historical loyalty of its workers. It gives no direction or rallying-point to the “wackos”. About his opponents, BJP president Amit Shah asks: "What is its [AAP's] ideology? The sum of all grievances cannot be called ideology." (India Today, 16 Feb.) But what is the BJP’s own ideology? Does the BJP’s record of governance reflect any ideology?


Long ago, a party leader justified the effective phasing out of Hindutva (including the dropping of the Ayodhya demand after reaping its electoral dividends in 1991) by saying that a party doesn’t need an ideology, only good governance. This anti-political position has gradually elbowed out the Hindutva stance with which the party is still identified.


A very good thing about the Delhi defeat is that the BJP suddenly has to face the new situation that, since it is now such a visible enemy, the anti-BJP voters have given up on the luxury of fighting one another, and have united behind whichever party is in a position to defeat the BJP. This may be reproduced in any election to come, especially the national election scheduled for 2019. Henceforth, they need to get not 35% (they got 32% and still were completely routed) but 51%.


This all-out electoral struggle requires enthusiasm among the party volunteers. This in turn requires building a record of achievements that can be seen as pro-Hindu in their results, but that are perfectly democratic and secular. Case in point: abolishing the (by definition unsecular) inequality between the religions in setting up educational institutions and managing places of worship. These are far more important issues for Hindu society than declaring a “Hindu Rashtra”, and need not offend the minorities.  


If this is not done, defeat in 2019 becomes inevitable. But even that is a welcome eye-opener. Too many BJP people take for granted that they will be returned to power and use that perspective as an excuse for not delivering in the near future. Now they should realize that the present term in office is a unique window of opportunity that may never come back.



Unknown said...

Cdnt have said it better.Thnx Koenrad Elst.RELEVANT.

Gururaj B N said...

The fractures in Delhi BJP is the main reason for election campaign lacking focus. Equally important, by neglecting its Hindu base, BJP is losing two ways: it is forfeiting the Hindu votes, and not gaining acceptance in secularist circles. At this rate, BJP will be decimated in 2019.

Karthikrajan said...

I beg to differ. It is a thundering defeat alright, but not a thundering loss as the bjp has managed to retain its vote bank which it earned in the previous election. The image of the thundering defeat is bjp's own creation, as one aap member pointed out - by converting a simple state election into an mega event drawing international attention, thro indulging in hi decibel campaign using PM Modhi and other bigwigs.
It is a thundering loss for the congress which lost all election deposit money !! , but nobody cared as it was written off immediately after LS elections.
So, the big swing in the congress votes towards aap is not due to any merits of aap , as KE has said , but an anxiety to give aap the necessary majority to form an independent govt. Arvind cited the lack of majority for quitting his post. The Delhi electorate decided to give majority to aap immediately after the lok sabha elections when they gave the sweep to bjp - again due to an anxiety to ouster congress completely. But the anger generated by the disarray in delhi bjp unit and the needless targeting of arvind by the bjp turned this anxiety into a sympathy-tsunami which gave aap a landslide.

Bringing in kiran was a good move, but bad timing. Modhi too was parachuted into gujarat CM post, but by that time he had built a reputation for himself by doing a good job in the bhuj earthquake rehabilitation project. Madhu kishwar gives a detailed account in her book " modhi muslims media - voices from narendhra modhi's gujarat " ( Amit shah had no other choice as delhi bjp was lacking a credible face. If aap performs badly bjp can say to the delhi people: Look we gave you a nice cm candidate , but it was you who rejected her and poured sand on your heads. If aap performs not-so-badly, then bjp can say: Kiran can perform better than arvind , just give her a chance. Off course, it remains to be seen whether kiran bedhi will stick on to bjp.

Yes , bjp enthusiasts are taking state election victories for granted. In delhi they failed to read the pulse, as ravi shankar prasad mentioned, that aap had risen as a credible alternative to the congress and bjp. In other states congress was the major opposition party whose reputation had been tarnished. Bjp will face tough opposition in UP, bihar and WB from non-congress parties.

From now on modhi should start functioning as a truly secular leader instead of appeasing the minorities. Else, decimation in 2019 is for sure.

In delhi, he also set a wrong precedent by breaking the chain of command and pulling up the police commissioner for the supposed church attacks. That was the job of home minister rajnath singh and home secretary. Luckily the media took no notice and bjp escaped a major embarrassment. Hope modhi will go on the right track.

Sandipak sai said...

The defeat of BJP will definitely bring some democracy in it. Dissenting voices will get courage to speak their anger.
Moreover after the tie-up with PDP and the snub they got from Mufti when he praised Pakistan and terrorists for his election victory and some of his legislators demanding the mortal remain of Afzal Guru to be handed over to Kashmir valley, BJP is now in a fix.

The young are less emotional and more rational. They are differentiating the "goal" from the "means(BJP)".

It is advisable for the BJP to act as a proper means or get abandoned.

Bhuvan said...

Not that this would have mattered electorally, but after Kiran Bedi's despicable semi-apology for the Charlie Hebdo killers in the aftermath of the incident, I am so glad she lost, as did the BJP, whose spokespersons and appointees (reference to MJ Akbar and A Surya Prakash) go about defending article 295(A)of the constitution that protects religions from critical scrutiny, and was invoked to hound the hapless women editor of the Urdu newspaper who published a Muhammad cartoon. In a Times of India conference on freedom of expression, MJ Akbar spoke passionately in defense of blasphemy laws and why it is important to gag free speech on religion. Coming from a Jan Sangh/RSS family background going back 70 years, I am astounded at the calibre and intent of the leading lights of this party. I hope all true secularists (meaning in the true sense of the word) find another party to pin its hopes on, that can actually take on the forces of religious extremism sweeping the world, by facilitating free and frank critique of these nefarious doctrines. All those still pinning their hopes on Modi, who spends a lot of time nowdays attending family functions of Mulayam and Lalu, should really let the scales fall from their eyes now. This man only has an economic agenda at best, underscored by a streak of megalomania that feeds on pinstriped suits emblazoned with his name like ram naam. Not that his record as Gujarat CM wasn't an indicator; remember how promptly he banned a book on Gandhi that cast a bit of a shadow on India's holiest cow.

Bhuvan said...

Not to mention the glib 'man ki baat' talk down to school children and others, in the best traditions of Chachajan Nehru.

Bhuvan said...

@karthikrajan....It's a 'supposed' Church attack alright. Some miscreants committed robbery in the Holy Child school. Even the school principal stated no religious symbols were touched. Nonetheless, in a deliberate and shameful attempt to give this incident religious color, the English press went berserk with headlines of christian institution attack (strikes a chord with similar reporting during Vajpayee's term, eh?) followed by the mandatory demonstrations by the aggrieved Christians who seem more unhappy here than in Syria or Iraq. Amazingly, the entire govt from Smriti Irani, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, and of course the h'ble PM got involved in the act of condemnation and assuaging 'minority feelings' and asking the police to act, helping spread the false notion that this was some kind of a church attack committed by Hindu zealots. When was the last time, say for example, a theft in Saraswati Shishu Mandir or DAV school was reported and played up, with govt support, as an attack on a Hindu institution? Not to forget the role of the Minorities Commission and the State Minority Commission in playing up such incidents. That reminds me - there was a time up till the 90s when BJP honchos used to say we will do away with the Minorities Commission. The line, as with most BJP pet issues, changed to - Wait, we can't do that now, but once we have a majority of our own, we most certainly will. Now that the unthinkable has happened and they have a majority, they have been found to be the liars they were. Or is it? Let's give them time to get a majority in the Rajya Sabha as well, and maybe State governments in 20 odd states would help, plus a President of their own would be good too...and THEN we will find out! I reckon that may take another 120 years or so – let's just be a bit patient and give them time to work out their agenda. There's no hurry at all - we have been waiting since Jan Sangh's foundation in 1951 anyways.

Unknown said...

I agree with most of your views sir but do not agree with you when you say BJP is a dustbin rejects.It was good for Sazia to join BJP,should not be so quick to pass judgement,she will be an asset to the party.Kiran Bedi is a good member for BJP to have,she should be an instrument of change,she is not a politician.I agree that the way it happened back fired. BJP were caught napping.
As to the "wackos" making dumb statements it is clear that these people need counseling,they probably do not know how to address thr pain and anguish in a democratic setup and end up making stupid statements. It also shows that large number of people in the country are ignorant about the problems facing the country and about politics in general.

Abhishek Thakur said...

Reading this post after 6 months, all the points make perfect sense and the party would do well to analyse them. Especially the statement that "BJP would now need not 35% but rather 51% of votes". The Lalu-Nitish alliance bears testimony to this fact. In 2014, the opponents were taken unaware- now they are prepared and geared up and have their opponent's (BJPs) measure.