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Saturday, November 17, 2012

BJP can’t afford to do a Romney

By Swapan Dasgupta

Unlike the Left that sees itself as an international tendency, the Centre-Right is inclined to be more national in its outlook. The conclusive re-election of US President Barack Obama was consequently an event celebrated by the Left and liberal forces world-wide, not least, in India. The defeat of his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, on the other hand, didn’t generate a similar solidarity of the despondent. In Britain, the governing Conservative Party, for example, had carefully detached itself from Romney and had shown a marked inclination to be supportive of Obama.

The national orientation of Centre-Right forces has, however, not been a deterrent to various commentators drawing parallels with their own countries. Some of this was, predictably, puerile and as laughable as those who imagined that the Indian general election of 2009 could be fought and won using Obama’s famous “Yes we can” slogan. In a more serious vein, there were scholars and commentators that gleamed similarities between the Republican failure to grapple with the emergent identity politics of minority groups in the US and the BJP’s over-dependence on the caste Hindus of Middle India. The implication was obvious: there can be no serious Centre-Right challenge to the Congress and its allies until the BJP go beyond what is referred in the US as ‘heartland’ politics.

Just because all the features of the US experience don’t apply to India is no reason for the entire argument to be rubbished. There are at least two features of the American landscape that are loosely mirrored in India.

First, demographic data suggests a definite “browning” of America. The proportion of white voters is gradually coming down and new immigration has led to the rise in the proportion of Hispanic and Asian voters, particularly in the urban clusters. It was Obama’s energetic mobilisation of these minorities, particularly the African Americans, which enabled him to see off a determined Romney challenge that was primarily based on ‘white’ exasperation with Obama.

Secondly, there is some evidence to suggest that US voters were divided in their attitudes to the social agenda of both candidates. Republicans were perceived to be excessively Christian, fanatically opposed to abortion and even contraception, and generally illiberal. These attitudes are believed to have repelled women, including white women, and prevented the election from becoming a referendum on Obama’s performance.

Both these themes from last week’s US presidential election resonate in India and have a relevance to the management of politics by the BJP.

To begin with, there is now enough demographic data to indicate there is a rising importance of the minority vote across India. There are approximately 150 to 160 Lok Sabha constituencies where the Muslim community account for 20 per cent or more of the voters. Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that Muslim turnout in elections is significantly higher than other communities. This implies that the Muslim community exercises an influence far greater than their actual numbers would suggest—a situation that was true for the African Americans who voted in large numbers and resoundingly for Obama on November 6.

The BJP receives less than five per cent of the Muslim vote and this figure is unlikely to improve in the immediate future. More important, in many constituencies the Muslims vote strategically by which is meant that the community focuses its primary attention on ensuring the defeat of the BJP candidate. As the main ‘secular’ party, Congress is the principal beneficiary of this tactical voting, although there are regional variations. 

There is a suggestion that the BJP should secularise itself more and remove misgivings from the minds of Muslim voters. As the Congress found out between 1937 and 1946, this is easier said than done. The alternative suggestion that the BJP should embrace strident Hindutva and forge the unity of all Hindus belongs to the realms of fantasy. In today’s climate nothing would be worse for the BJP than contrived religio-political nationalism. The party runs the risk of focussing on issues that are not uppermost in the minds of Hindus.

Romney may have failed to fully capitalise on his better credentials for running the economy. That does not mean the approach was flawed. In today’s India, economic management, anti-corruption and development are the issues that concern the electorate. These are the issues the Congress is most vulnerable. The BJP has no choice but to focus on these.

Yet there is a risk of derailment. Just as Romney lost out among the young and women by being to be on the side of social regression, the BJP is invariably distracted by irrelevant issues that touch on social and religious attitudes. The objection to some suggestive song in a Bollywood film was the latest of these. What this loss of focus does is to weaken the party’s already tenuous hold on women and young voters, in sharp contrast to the late-1990s when the BJP was fired by youth support.

To prevail against the powerful forces of sectional mobilisation the BJP has to be single-minded in its focus on the economy and governance and complement it with organisational rigour. In effect this means achieving the maximum unity of every group that doesn’t have a theological allergy to the party. The finer points of contested social and religious agendas need to be consigned to the cold storage.

What was powerfully demonstrated in the US was a simple truth: without securing the ‘swing’ vote, the ‘core’ vote becomes valueless. 

Sunday Pioneer, November 11, 2012


Anonymous said...

Reposting MY comments from dailypioneer:-

Vaalmiki Ramayanam is the BEST.

I owe it to Kaanchi Paramacharya as He highlights one of the most important stories that of Ahalya Gauthama Rishi's wife.

Kambar in his version is constrained by political correctness thus presenting a slightly altered version. Tragically it is Lord Sri.Ram's much extolled Grace ' pathithapavanathvam' that becomes the casualty.

It is an extremely absorbing story that only a Kaanchi MahaPeriyavar could narrate encapsuling all the nuances like an intricate arabesque. Almost an entire book deals with the details. One can never forget Sri.Ram then nor show devotion necessarily overtly through frenzied dancing & eating. Samadhi / kevala kumbakha / tranquillity --all these ill understood concepts & words crystallize on their own ONLY THEN.

I often feel these should be made compulsory reading at home by parents. Most Indian adults also are juvenile idiots. And Indian schools excel in making us turn hostile towards any subject taught.

Today ill informed poltroons mislead with their juvenile interpretations. As many are hostile towards The Very Seer plus proud to treasure their scepticism . Hence one should not work upon the sceptics with zeal at all. If Lord so DESIRES any colossal slothful conceited person can also be transmuted in mysterious unconventional ways. Understanding CANNOT dawn without God's Grace. One should deserve it. And intense suffering in life alone leads to disenchantment & seeking lasting Peace.
Nevertheless , His Very Name chanted with guileless devotion by many also acts in mysterious ways.

Anonymous said...

Read one Raguraman's seemingly pedantic but impertinently inane query attempting to pull me into this quagmire of hindu versus muslim.

This is the reason extremely very very few Indians ( ubiquitously annoyingly present all over this world masking their sanctimonious exterior with veneer of mock humility) I have always been convinced are quick on the uptake retaining all the facts involved & able to gain clarity while taking decisions & policies.

Whereas Arabs , Americans Australians , British Chinese , Europeans, Pakistanis etc ( sans Indians of all religious hues) overwhelmingly are not this wantonly dumb , obdurate & chasing the chimera called sooperpower ststus.

Values are the same.Indians fail deplorably in integrity. Aaaaalways. Among Indians in India I find the muslims are far far superior to hindus & converted christians. The real Christians from America to Australia , New Zealand are all normal people.

The converted christians of India truly are devious. When all that they have to resell to us are the brazenly stolen stuff & stories etc from indigenous Hindu Puranams including Bhagavatham they stand forfeited of all respect from me.

Indian muslims don't resort to such egregious thievery.Indian hindus are abominably sanctimonious fingerpointing at say one solitary MF.Hussein.

For decades indian film industry particularly kollybollywood comprising of alleged braaahmins like k.balachander , porn star kamalhassanfamily ( alleged freedom fighters they thump their chests) in cahoots with DMK DK etc have poured ONLY scurrilous venom on Sri.Ram & Krishna. The uber sanctimonious Ilayaraja, the swollen headed IIT EVM inventor now mercifully dead Sujatha always were very close to the kamalhassan who considered it fashionable & original thinking. And Hindus very much including braahmins relished all of their stuff & nonsense with insatiable glee & gusto.

" We are making money through art so what if hindu gods , religious truths get distorted indooism gives this many union members would have perished of starvation but for our kollybolly industry's smutty songs choreography whereby the poor single woman yonder with an illegitimate child earns some pittance........" is the kind of nonsensical drivel offered by them.

Indian muslims never stoop to such levels. No wonder when some Indian Muslim came running behind the Palanquin of Kaanchi MahaPeriayar exclaiming :-

" You are my Allah , accept me by "converting into hindu community I shall serve you..." Kaanchi Paramacharya blessed him thus :-

" Stay where you are owing allegiance to YOUR Principles".

He always cautioned hindus to internalise what their Holy Books
contained & NOT make a comparative hasty theological shoddy studies thus picking up quarrels.

Anonymous said...

Indians should take a hard look at their own pseudo piety. Particularly hindus whose oxygen supply is from kollybolly tripe.

It is not muslims of India but these hindus particularly alleged braaahmins comprising of k.balachanders , porn star kamalhassans , carnatic singers dancers fraternity who all form of one big mutual admiration artyfarty self congratulatory society that have CONSISTENTLY been contributing not just zilch but punishable blasphemy too.

I will cite just one song in this pornstarkamalhassan's movie whose script was written by another tambram & music composed by uber pretentious alleged Ramana Bhagavan devotee Ilayaraja to give you an idea.

For his raunchy pelvic thrusts with indianbharatheeyanaris the word " SHIVARATHIRI " was used.

The orgasmic orgies during midnight were described by these braahmins- "ARDHAJAMA PUJAI".

Ejaculations referred to as "HOLY WATER ANOINTING".

This is just one among many. WHERE WERE the outrageous protests ???

NONE AT ALL. Financing from DMK always & their dubious chit fund schemes I had mentioned earlier.

Only very recently Hindu Munnani cracked a very limp whip. It was this kamalhassan who had the last laugh as he had the song released all over the world & made money.Including Gulf countries.

In all their film shootings they pollute many waterbodies causing irreparable damage to greenery also.

Belatedly one Amala second wife of Nagarjuna posturing as some bluecross socialite blahblah after frolicking all around with the same raunchy folks & wreaking havoc is enough to put to sleep the somnolently apathetic indians.
And the same Amala presides over idiotic tv programmes giving "judgements".

These kollybolly scum micromanage opinions of all impressionable minds. India can NEVER be a great nation as Indians have not a whit of greatness in them.

Anonymous said...


Like Romney and his party, nobody really knows what BJP stands for - whether it is social issues (eg: women bashing by Ram Sene), foreign policy (who can forget the bus yatras and Agra peace summit), religious issues (Ram Mandir, rings a bell?), corruption (ahem, see your own previous articles).


Anonymous said...

In Britain and US the Right (excluding the extremists fringe)is identified by its economic policy and conserevatism, not by religious identity. Religion may be on the fringe. In India religious hardliners pretend to be the Right/ Conservative. In reality they are merely a politico-religious group. Economy or Conservatism is merely on the fringe. BJP, the avowed religious party, has components from the entire left-right spectrum. It is merely a religion-motivated grouping.