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Thursday, November 6, 2014

BJP membership drive shows that it is avoiding the ideological route

By Swapan Dasgupta


The reportage of the BJP’s membership drive on November 1 focussed principally on the party’s technological adroitness and its use of modern communication tools for political mobilisation. This is doubtless interesting. However, more significant was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on the occasion. 


According to the Hindustan Times report, Modi suggested, “BJP should also come across as a diverse party. People from all strata of society should feel that we have a representative in this vase of flowers.” The geographical spread of the BJP, he felt, should be complemented by a vertical expansion to include all social and economic groups. 


This is not the first occasion a top BJP leader has implored the party to look beyond the faithful. Shortly after the NDA came to power in 1998, L.K. Advani proffered the idea of a “New BJP”—taking his cue from Tony Blair’s success with New Labour—at a BJP National Executive meet. Advani’s prescription stemmed from a belief that as a party grows it must blend core beliefs with ideological aggregation. He often said that the BJP must incorporate elements of the “idealism” that defined other political traditions. After all, the BJP was forged in 1980 as a more cohesive version of the Janata Party and not merely as a resurrection of the Jan Sangh. 


This experiment faltered on two counts. First, the relationship between those who saw the BJP as an ideological pole and the Atal Behari Vajpayee government suffered from a variety of strains. There were occasions when the disagreements went far beyond routine friendly fire that governments face. Secondly, the unexpected NDA defeat in 2004 was attributed to the detachment of BJP karyakartas from the government. Fearing growing incoherence, the RSS—at the request of many in the BJP—had to step in after Advani’s contentious utterances in Pakistan in 2005 to exercise its moral authority and steady the ship. Political experimentation was put in deep freeze. 


The challenge of attracting an incremental vote was met in 2014 by Modi transforming the general election into a presidential contest. The BJP’s 12 per cent increase in the popular vote and the absolute majority it secured in the Lok Sabha was a consequence of the party out-performing the Congress among all communities (barring Muslims) and classes. The BJP achieved an above-average support from upper castes, backward castes and Scheduled Tribes. Although it out-polled the Congress among Dalits, the extent of support was below its national average. Going by the CSDS-Lokniti survey findings, there was also a positive correlation between levels of economic prosperity and support for the BJP. Finally, there was a direct link between age and support for the BJP: the younger the voter the greater the support for Modi. 


The disaggregated data from the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana are still awaited. However, preliminary and anecdotal evidence suggested that broad voting pattern of the Lok Sabha election persisted. Particularly interesting was the ability of the BJP to overcome its local shortcomings and win a clear majority in Haryana. The party complemented its traditional support along the G.T. Road with categorical endorsements from non-Jat communities and—much to the surprise of the commentariat—Dalits. 


Empirical evidence would certainly suggest that the perception of BJP as a party of the rich, the Hindi speakers, the upper castes and the traders is now an invalid stereotype. The Jan Sangh started life from a narrow base but socially and geographically the Modi-led BJP has evolved into a truly representative of national party. 


Yet, there was an over-reliance on Modi for the Assembly election. Banking on the Prime Minister’s intact popularity, the BJP was spectacularly successful in equating a vote for the BJP in the Vidhan Sabhas with a vote for Modi. This approach may mark the party’s forthcoming campaigns in Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi—a pointer to both its strength and weakness. 


The decline of the Congress has presented the BJP with an opportunity to fill a void and consolidate groups that voted to make Modi the Prime Minister. As of now, the support is still fledgling and vulnerable to the arithmetic of a possible anti-BJP combination. The conversion of the 2014 support into a vote bank is still work in progress. 


It is interesting is that in bolstering its pan-Indian credentials, the BJP leadership appears to be avoiding the ideological route. The Modi government is rooted in the Sangh philosophy but it does not wear ideology on its sleeve. Rather than take the doctrinaire route to growth, its outreach appears to be centred on governance initiatives. 


The aggregation strategy of Vajpayee and Advani between 1998 and 2004 implied a bid to occupy the conventional Centre-Right ground and steer away from the assertive Hindu nationalism of 1988-94. The Modi-Amit Shah strategy involves rigorous consultations with the parivar and exercising caution in pursuing the radical economic agenda of the ‘globalised’ Right. However, this is coupled with an autonomy of approach as far as party building is concerned.  


To some, this may appear the Congress-isation of the BJP. It could also be read as ideological politics by other means. 

Hindustan Times, November 5, 2014







Om Prakash Sudrania said...

Well chosen and written subject but, I feel that it goes far beyond ideology or BJP. The entire votary in 2014 was practically incensed with Modiphilia. I should be honest in discussing the issue that Hindus as a class has been oppressed since millennia and they saw someone as their Gabriel after a long time, even far beyond the softy Vajpai. He was a goodman and statesman and an equally competent politician but was perhaps constrained in his long line of coalition partners.

Modi was seen by the Hindu oppressed masses far beyond words to say. The hope Modi generated in the majority (Hindus) is unparalleled and it's these decisive manners and methods of Modi, to me personally, appealed far more than anything.

By his slogan, "minimum government and maximum governance", Modi has once again proved his Chanakya intel of honest governance which besides our Muslim colleagues, shall go a long way to even earn the Muslims to get or fall inline as we are already witnessing it.

You can broker friends too from only a strong pedestal and Modi knows to play his cards well. We have full confidence in him and his style of functioning only if his colleagues can rise up to his mission. Hope the cabinet of colleagues shall take the cue from him.

Last but not the least, as you know, Modi had to overcome lot of intra-party dissenters too but the ppl had decided to fall inline with him despite the fears of minority backlash, the happy majority decided to go alongwith "Modi-Modi" mania to outcast all his intra-extra dissenters and install him, and I think, at the least, I haven't wasted my vote but put it to good national use.

As long as Modi keeps up his governance style, chants of "Modi-Modi" shall reverberate globally. The world must be surprised with envy hearing such Modi-mania even in their own turf, far beyond Modi's own. Modi shall create a World History. I feel overwhelmed while writing it.

Jitendra Desai said...

Right.BJP under its new leadership is on its way to becoming a highly improved version of Congress.Replace those Ashram dwelling Gandhians and Sarvodaya activists with RSS and picture will be complete.Modi and BJP's present leadership are witness to unprecedented decline of Congress and family owned regional satrapis.This is Godsend opportunity for BJP to rush in and fill up the vacuum.As planned BJP should take the membership roll to 10 crores by 2015.

yashwanth kumar said...

Doesn't look like a good idea by bjp who before elections claims to the savour of hindu right and after winning the mandate and elections gets greedy to occupy the secular has suffered with this deviation from its core ideology twice as we all know (2004 &2009).we hhaven't heard the congress ever going gaga over issues concerning hindus to gain the core hindu has its mind cleared over the secular or the pseuda secular to be precise. The high thinkers in the bjp would be wise enough not disappoint the people or the alleged communallist who have supported and rallied behind the saffron outfit during thick and thin.
hope better sense prevails.