Whether some people like it or not, the discussions over the outcome of Election 2009 has been enlarged into a debate over the future course and direction of the BJP. This is heartening. It shows that there are people who look at the BJP as more than a political party: it is an emotional commitment.
There may be some collateral considerations behind the positioning of some individuals but this does not distract attention from the one common concern: the need to rejuvenate the party and, indeed, the wider movement associated with it.
The question that necessarily follows is: does rejuvenation demand a reinvention? It is on this question that there are sharp disagreements.
It is very important that the focus remains firmly on the issues. In the ultimate analysis, the procedural aspects are not terribly important. Does it matter if someone writes an article or circulates a private note or makes an intervention on TV? To date, those at the organisational helm of the party have not delineated a framework and forum for debate. The party president is quoted in the media as saying that there will be a debate if the "need for it arises". It would seem that he is living in a cloistered environment where "need" is unrelated to the environment.
The suggestion that an unnamed three-member team is already assessing the damage and will suggest remedies is a non-serious one. As far as my information goes, there is a three-member RSS team that is studying the election. Their conclusions will no doubt be worth studying. But this committee shouldn't be a reason for the BJP to abdicate its political responsibilities. The BJP must look at the defeat from a political perspective.
I don't want to repeat my arguments about the so-called ideological parameters for the future. It is important, however, to clarify that shedding the H-word does not imply discarding the ethical and cultural compass that has guided the party so far. What I am insistent on is the effective dissemination of ideas and the image of those articulating it.
Effective image management does wonders in politics. For the BJP to become appealing once again, it must become contemporary. There is, unfortunately, a face of the BJP that is both reactionary and retrograde. If you want elaboration, just look at some of the comments to earlier blogs.
I think that in the next year or two, the BJP has to recover its image of sobriety and become the intelligent voice of nationalism. As a starter, the party could consider sustained interventions on the following themes:
- Strengthening institutions of the state such as Parliament, judiciary, Election Commission.
- Opposing the political protection of corruption through a malleable CBI
- Arguing for prudent fiscal policies and an end to state-run inefficiencies
- Highlighting the achievements of its state governments
- A watchdog role to prevent weak-kneed responses to neighbourhood troubles and arm-twisting by the superpower
- A more equitable federal arrangement that devolves more resources to the states
I think it is important that the BJP imposes a two-year moratorium on elevating sectarian and identity-related issues to the top of the political agenda.The point is to demonstrate that BJP takes an interest and has views on subjects other than (what someone called) Mickey Mouse issues.
The BJP's Hindu credentials don't need reiteration. Its Ugly Hindu image has to be washed off completely.
Meanwhile, go full steam in the task of overhauling state units and trying to secure a meaningful foothold in the southern and eastern states. There has to be generational change at all levels.
PS: THE TEHELKA ARTICLE OF MINE THAT IS AT THE CENTRE OF A CONTRIVED MEDIA CONTROVERSY