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Sunday, June 16, 2013

BJP should cash in on Goa enthusiasm

By Swapan Dasgupta

From the anointment of Narendra Modi in Goa and L.K. Advani’s Sunset Boulevard act in Delhi to Nitish Kumar’s notice of separation and divorce from the NDA, it has been a bit too much of a rollercoaster ride for the BJP. It is just as well that all the drama has been packed into one week of June, at least 6-7 months before the election campaign formally begins. There is nothing more disastrous for a political party than to be confronted with indigestion in the midst of an election campaign—as happened in 2009 when Naveen Patnaik parted ways during the seat-sharing talks. It is best to get over the inner rumblings before the blueprints of the campaign have been finalised.

That Advani and Nitish were party poopers and dampened the post-Goa celebratory mood in the BJP isn’t in any doubt. At the risk of floating a conspiracy theory, it can be said that the duo was acting in concert. The JD(U) was banking on Advani to keep the Gujarat Chief Minister confined to the Gir forest; and Advani in turn was leaning on Nitish and Sushma Swaraj’s personal equations with the Thackeray family to maintain his own primacy in the party. After the BJP tersely informed Advani of the difference between Formula-1 racing and a vintage car rally, Nitish was left in doubt Modi had prevailed inside the party. He was requested by those he would leave orphaned in the BJP to stick to his original December 31 deadline because Advani still commanded a majority in the BJP Parliamentary Board, but by then things had gone too far for the JD(U) to apply the brakes without completely losing face.

As it is, despite his grandstanding and his ability to retain control of the state government, Nitish remains in danger of being squeezed between a re-invigorated Lalu Yadav and a gung-ho BJP—a predicament that could even force him into an alliance with the Congress in 2014. Since the JD(U) departure from the NDA was packaged as a bout of ‘secularism’, Nitish will have to demonstrate to the community he is courting that he stands a better chance of slaying Modi than Lalu Yadav. That may only be possible if he has the Congress by his side.

That Nitish’s imminent departure from the NDA has led to some soul-searching within the BJP is also undeniable. At an over-simplistic level, the BJP is witnessing a curious battle between its heart and its head. A section of the well-established leadership who saw political power in 2014 as a low hanging fruit curse Modi for injecting new complications and making the BJP’s task challenging.

The Advani objection to the projection of Modi was centred on the belief that the sheer weight of anti-incumbency would decimate the Congress and result in the NDA emerging as the clear front-runner for power. In other words, neither the BJP nor its allies would have to do much more than get its caste sums right and work up the crowds with the same messages about corruption, economic mismanagement and the legacy of Atal Behari Vajpayee. In short, it would be the 2009 campaign again with, hopefully, a better outcome thanks to the extent of the UPA’s misgovernance.

The emergence of Modi and particularly the way his rise has been interpreted by a large section of people have upset those calculations. It is now clear that a conventional campaign that, at best, promises to substitute the strategic silences of the 80-year-old Manmohan Singh with the unending reminiscences of the 85-year-old Advani will not yield optimum results. Indeed, another insipid NDA campaign could even revive attractions for the Congress’ all-too-familiar strategy of sops and handouts.

For the BJP, the likely exit of the JD(U) has cleared the decks for a very new type of election campaign. Yes, the possible absence of regional allies in states other than Punjab, Maharashtra and, possibly, the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh and Assam, pose an exceptional challenge. If the general election becomes an aggregate of state elections, the BJP is unlikely to be in the driver’s seat of a new coalition government. And the impossibility of a BJP-led government being sworn in by President Pranab Mukherjee in 2014 is what the pundits and the media will hark on incessantly. Arithmetically, they will tell you, a BJP Prime Minister after the general election has been ruled out by Nitish, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and Jagan Mohan Reddy.

They may well be right. I recall in 1991, Atal Behari Vajpayee ruing that the BJP tally would be around 50 because it had no alliances. At a National Executive meeting, Kalyan Singh, the then BJP chief of Uttar Pradesh, indicated that the party’s popular vote in Uttar Pradesh would, at best, rise from nine per cent to 18 per cent. In the event, the BJP won 121 seats, including more than 50 seats from Uttar Pradesh. Indeed, had it not been for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination a day before the second phase of the three-phase poll, the BJP tally would perhaps have touched 160 seats.

The Index of Opposition Unity (IOU) model that was used to forecast elections was demolished in 1991, an election where the Ayodhya issue dominated. This was entirely due to the fact that the BJP campaign was novel: it was unorthodox, strident and centred on the creation of a new India. Never before or since has a BJP campaign been so full of raw energy as it was in 1991.

The issues of the 1991 campaign have become history. Today’s India has changed far more than its politics. There is raw energy of a youthful population desperate for self-improvement and, by implication, national resurgence; and there is raw anger that periodically manifests itself in spontaneous explosions against corruption and rape. To this can be added the social churning created by upwards social mobility, urbanisation and regional pride. And, finally, there is waning faith in the ability of the existing political class to effect meaningful change.

In a nutshell, while the existing arithmetic is tilted against Modi, the emerging chemistry of politics favours an outsider who encapsulates this churning. It is Modi’s ability, as campaign chief, to harness these energies and social trends that will determine whether the enthusiasm witnessed in Goa is translated into parliamentary seats. There is no half-way house left for the BJP. To win it will have to reinvent its approach to politics. Fortunately for it, the sheer determination of its supporters to break the mould overrides the innate conservatism of its leadership. In the past week, hard decisions were forced on the party. Now it will have to take them voluntarily and with imagination. 

Sunday Pioneer, June 16, 2013


Tapan said...

What do you think are BJP's chances in the "almost" states: states like AP, Kerela and West Bengal where the political space is crying for a right wing party but BJP seems hell bent on not taking the opportunity.

Manoj Agarwal said...

No doubt, the idea of NDA damaged the BJP at multiple levels. The total transformation of LK Advani and his subsequent conduct can be seen in this context. An NDAfied Advani today represents everything that is wrong with BJP.

First and foremost damage NDA inflicted was, the primacy it gave to Delhi based arm chair strategists. The presence of such leaders for a cadre based party is suicidal. 2nd, the moral compromises done in the name of NDA led to a) party's moral degradation and b) stagnation in party's growth at all India level..

It's time BJP upgrade itself to a truly national level and present itself to electorates in totality and not in parts...

Anand Kumar said...

Now that Nitish has walked out of NDA, the remaining three parties should close ranks and make DEVELOPMENTAL POLITICS as the sole agenda in the coming days and expose these political parties who are misleading the Indian people by harping on the fancy term"SECULARISM" without actually knowing the true meaning of this word.

Anonymous said...

Swapan Dasgupta ,

I thoroughly enjoyed this written with priceless wit.Politics is the most boring. More so when we are confronted with petty ego hassles of alleged "Bhagavad Gita going through"ers. Hence humour & wit become very essential to enliven.

" the difference between Formula-1 racing and a vintage car rally"

"It is now clear that a conventional campaign that, at best, promises to substitute the strategic silences of the 80-year-old Manmohan Singh with the unending reminiscences of the 85-year-old Advani will not yield optimum results"

Not just these. For the first time your "conspiracy theory" is TRUE & not some wild speculation.

I still cannot understand why everyone is so desperate to mollify the sulking Advani.

Nitish is also a LIABILITY. Anyone with a penchant for appeasements & using the same sickening word 'secular' should be shunned.

Anonymous said...

Tapan ,

It is certainly not the fault of BJP.

Kerala & West Bengal might use the words "development" borrowing & stealing the words & concepts of Narendra Modi but I see no bright future for them as they are NOT the same like Gujaratis.

West Bengal has an enormous population of bangladeshi infiltrators who would NEVER vote for HINDUS' BJP as it means NO BEEF , NO COW slaughter.

Ditto for Kerala that steals COWS including milch cows , pregnant cows & cattle , sand from riverbeds & rice & vegetables ALSO of Tamil Nadu ( all these anti HINDU terrorist activities were all pioneered by DMK & DK of Tamil Nadu with the connivance of congress) & consumes & transports to Bangladesh.

And Kerala has a well entrenched lobby of christian evangelicals also.

If Gujarat is prospering it is because they are against COW SLAUGHTER. Against "conversions".
Have banned alcohol also. And Narendra Modi also is one such PIOUS GUJARATI. Thus have EARNED their prosperity.

That would always be DENIED to Kerala & West Bengal. Do not worry too much as they LOVE poverty & deprivation.

Anonymous said...

Chandan Chawla said...

Excellent post ! In its attempt to reinvent politics, it will be interesting to see how real development issues are debated by the BJP. Will it allow for a campaign that is innovative in ways to reach out on nuances of equitable growth and creating better economic and social prospects for its population? How will it essentially target the naive youth that are still beginning to find political affiliations or engage in aspirations for better tomorrow? Or will it be business as usual - hurling political insults and avoiding secular questions.I hope the team BJP will be ready to break its conservative barriers and establish its credentials as no nonsense party !

Anonymous said...

Once again there is talk of "Untouchable BJP " in media. Even before GOA announcement BJP is untouchable except for 3-4 parties in NDA. No other party was join hands with BJP in exposing UPA corruption. Of course one can say BJP has failed to unite opposition, which can be said about the Left too. In either case BJP was untouchable. Many parties already experimented with NDA. The chances of they returning to NDA fold are slim. Then why BJP should rely on these parties?.......... Last nine years BJP pushed its own agenda to back stage to keep NDA alive, bordering the pseudo-secularism practiced by congress. What it got in return? Lesser seats, alliances limited to individual states.....
BJP may not be able to form government in 2014 too. But it should pursue two goals. Increase its own tally. More importantly restrict congress to 110. Other parties will have no choice but rally around BJP.

Anonymous said...

BJP should articulate a vision for India's future to which the young population both rural and urban can connect. They have to offer a alternative to current regume's sop & appeasement based politics. Without a vision and a plan to implement it, they are doomed to a result similar to 2009. They have to understand, sympathetic articles and comments in social media does not mean votes in the polling booth. INDIA is waiting for a strong right. Whether BJP can be that 'right' is the question young India looks in askance.

Anonymous said...

Tapan, as long as half-wits from Jhumritalaiya think Kerala is pronounced Kerela, these so-called opportunities will remain a joke.


Anonymous said...

@Tapan, BJP is a not a 'right wing' as in 'conservative'. It is right wing alright, as in 'religious fascist'. We can do without crude religious politics.

Sandeep said...

Loved the piece Swapan. I am a supporter of the BJP and of Narendra Modi, and irrespective of what the national media seems to say about him, and about Gujarat, I strongly believe that with all his flaws he is the only leader in India today who has an idea of India that goes beyond the usual rhetoric of caste and religion.

A recent article by M J Akbar also harped on this point, that there are times when a leader takes a stand and people support it. This happens even if many in the intellectual class consider the leader and the idea he or she encapsulates divisive. While his comparison of Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi may have been slightly inappropriate (Thatcher did not ruin institutions like Gandhi did!), the idea of a strong leader defining the narrative of the nation is still true. Modi may be India's Thatcher and Reagan all rolled into one.

Only time will tell if that is true, but my vote is firmly with Modi and the BJP.

Jitendra Desai said...

@ Tapan, You are right.BJP needs to proclaim boldly and explicitly in these states that they have tried everyone till date.How about trying this new kid on the block.Of three states mentioned by you, Bengal appears ready.Bengalees have seen them all.

Jitendra Desai said...

With Nitish out, there is no secular baggage that party has to carry in the campaign. Soft Hindutva, hard [ tough] state,honesty,security,India's pride in the neighbourhood and in the world, economy, HR [ education,training,jobs].... these may be the issues around which a campaign could be built.

Anonymous said...

Congress vote share was 36.2 in 1991 . Thereafter in 1996 Congress got 29.65% votes -The party could not cross that figure in all of subsequent elections ! While Congress vote shares remain over 26.53% (2004) their worst performance in other years , BJP vote share fluctuates rather wildly . Point is that BJP can increase it's vote share robbing not Congress but other parties.

Anonymous said...

Swapan, I am big fan of your analysis, always wait for your latest blog. Look forward to see more of you on Modi.

Anonymous said...

Dear Swapan

I was going through one of your old articles on the analysis of NDA defeat in 2004 and wld like to reproduce a relevant para as it makes sense today
"More than anything else, it is arrogance that leads to the undoing of candidates and political parties. In recent times, Ajit Jogi was undone by his wily arrogance by the voters of Chattisgarh last December and last week Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was jolted by what people perceived was his arrogance.

I have little doubt that arrogance played a role in the NDA's debacle last week. Six years in power had changed the body language and demeanour of many of those who were complete non-entities before 1998"

While undoubtedly Modi is BJP's best bet - his perceived arrogance and BJP's arrogrance ( they are cock sure that they will come back to power" could be their undoing. As a BJP sympathiser and MOdi supporter - I wld strongly urge you to advise Modi to moderate his speeches and display more humility ( he can afford to since his record of governance is proven) - in his public demeanour and behaviour. This will hold him and BJP in good stead. There is ample time for this course correction. Otherwise it could be history ( 2004) repeating itself

Anonymous said...

Anon @June 25, 2013 at 5:27 PM,

Be it arrogance , corruption , dodging punishment , unaccountability , dishonesty , lack of scruples- it is congress party that holds monopoly over them all.
Followed by its allies.

Your erroneous perception of Narendra Modi as "arrogant" reminds of another ailment of muslims of India. As long as Hindus were accepting bomb blasts & vandalism of their Temples as fait accompli muslims of India were very contented. This is what secularism means in India. Ditto for christians' conduct of usurping Temples by burying a cross overnight followed by frenzied evangelizations & land grabbing.

After all bomb blasts muslims found it very convenient to mutter "this is not Islam.....we will hold a mass prayer for hindus who are dead...let us remember Gandhi & gandigiri....".

After one such bomb blast reported by BBC I remember Nisha Pillai devoting barely a few minutes brushing it aside with " ...they always say it is done by muslims and move on....".

KPS. Gill summed it up much better " Our hysteria is followed by denial".

As the very congress establishment is pro muslims & christians. And avowedly anti HINDU.

For the first time there was unprecedented SPONTANEOUS JUSTIFIED reaction from Hindus of Gujarat after arson of Hindus in Godhra. This is something that muslims have never been able to accept. Hence look for labels like "hindu militancy, hindu terrorism...war mongerer...yada yada."

Salman Rushdie tried a different line " once present tolerance is no longer there..." Farah Naqvi said " milijhuleeee is missing between hindus & muslims".

WRONG. It is muslims who are the intolerant inimicals when pitted against hindus. Aurobindo The SEER had long anticipated this decrying this fetish for hindu-muslim bhai bhai treacly sentiment. For decades we have found this coexistence very very detrimental to HINDUS alone. Only die hard fools would chase the same chimera.

ASSERTIVENESS is not arrogance.

Anonymous said...

During Mumbai bomb blasts only those who could recite verses from Holy Quran were spared. A couple from Turkey escaped unharmed.

Juxtapose such a mindset with masochism of HINDUS who allow themselves to be ruled over by OVERTLY anti HINDU anti VEDIC congress , dmk & communists.

Muslims & christians of India have ALWAYS derided us HINDUS as "pagans/ Idol Worshippers". This Uttarakhand tragedy has made many of them gloat over our plight. In comments section it is the communists , muslims & christians who are unabashedly purring with delight. Media is trying some damage control by writing about one muslim called YUNUS who has also been involved in rescue missions flying helicopters. This makes us forget Sarabjit Singh & lots of HINDUS who are tortured to death. For one YUNUS there are thousands of HINDUS involved in protection of the entire country & rescue missions.

Christians would always cite one Ribeiro , Parsis would cite sugar dissolved in milk by one Parsi king long dead & gone. Abdul Kalam quoting some verses from Bhagavad Geetha ....such examples NEVER remedy the CORE issues of HINDUS.

Rest of the countries openly PROUDLY proclaim they want to govern their countries based on their indigenous culture & religions tightening immigrations.

Why should HINDUS end up as the sleaziest secular amorphous cadaver suckling all INIMICAL parasites ? Our scarce resources CANNOT sustain such a burden.

Land that legitimately belongs to SIKHS has been unfairly given away to Dalai Lama & his followers by congress dynasty ( Nehru the IDIOT). Dalai Lama can be absorbed by Deepak Chopras & Richard Geres. Dalai Lama has never hesitated to join hands with many hard core muslims WITHIN India.

Prasanna said...

I really liked the line "difference between Formula-1 racing and a vintage car rally". Advani is still languishing in the era of yatras.

They did work for him decades back, but as the recent experiences have shown, they are no longer able to generate the same response even from hardcore BJP supporters. The time and tide are definitely with Modi, and now the party's line has really become clear to go ahead with whatever agenda they need to use for 2014, unadulterated with false notions of inclusion and secularism. The coalition-within-coalition of Advani, Swaraj, Nitish and Thackerey is now no reduced to their actual size.