The more heartening feature of the 200 or so comments to my earlier posting is the frankness of views (including the observation that I bear an uncanny resemblance to Raj Thackeray). There is no structured forum where people of broadly similar views and concerns can state their views bluntly. The BJP certainly offers no platform for free and frank discussion--the National Executive meetings have become an occasion for leaders to deliver speeches. I have not censored anything, including the uncharitable comments on leaders, in the belief that BJP functionaries should gauge what the party's supporters truly feel.
I do recognise that a dialogue on internet conducted in English (and also involving non-residents whose concerns and perspectives are a little distant) is a very limited exercise. Still, it is a modest start.
I want to emphasise the importance of a candid discussion in the light of the BJP's reluctance to dissect the debacle. Having re-anointed Advani as Leader of Opposition, the party leadership has retreated into a shell.
It is clear from the responses that there is a sharp division on many counts:
- Some people say Hindutva is the soul of the party and without Hindutva the BJP becomes another Congress. Others feel that aggressive Hindutva is the road to political oblivion.
- Modi, as usual, evokes controversy. He is somehow associated with hard Hindutva. Those who feel that the BJP should become more centrist feel that Modi isn't nationally acceptable. The pro-Hindutva lot think ideology overrides the importance of individuals.
POINTS OF AGREEMENT
There are three main areas of agreement:
- The BJP must seriously take up work in states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and West Bengal where its presence is nominal.
- There is implicit agreement of the fact that the BJP will have to fight its battles alone, without the benefit of alliances.
- There is agreement that the media, particularly the English-language media, is viscerally hostile. Most of those who commented felt that alternative media space should be probed. (Please see my posting: "A 'nationalist' TV channel?" of March 18, 2009)
- I think that strident Hindutva of the early-1990s variety is looked upon with disfavour by large sections of the population. The BJP must take steps to distance itself from extremist elements. Most important, it must be seen to be doing so.
- Development is the main concern of people. The BJP governments have a good track record of development but it is weak in the articulation of economic issues. But economics has to be the priority in the coming years. The BJP has to be totally focused on economic issues.
- The BJP must champion social reform, particularly women empowerment.
- What will distinguish the BJP from the Congress is an uncompromising adherence to ethical politics. Unfortunately, this is one area where the party has faltered. The Congress has stolen a march by inducting bright, young, idealistic people. This has helped it overcome the complications of dynasty.
- The RSS is increasingly being regarded as an impediment to change in the BJP. It is replacing its old moral leadership with organisational control.
- The party leadership looks and appears tired. The present leadership lacks combativeness. Modi, despite his flaws, is the only leader with energy and an inspirational quotient. I believe that pressure from below will catapult Modi to the national leadership.
- Modi must project himself as an aggressive moderniser. He must take care to shed frivolity and acquire more gravitas.
We have just about begun the process of discussion. I hope it continues.
Postscript: My heart goes out to the person who slogged endlessly for the BJP and didn't even receive a modest thank you. I know the feeling too well. I feel it myself.