Sunday, June 14, 2009

BJP in huge trouble and internal turmoil after the 2009 elections

When the results for the 2009 Indian Lok Sabha (Parliament) elections were out, everybody was surprised by the scope of the Congress victory. The Left would have been shell-shocked by the scope of their reduction in seats and dramatic bad run in both West Bengal and Kerala, but it was the BJP that was most badly affected. The BJP, which once ruled India for 5 years, had just lost its second general elections (and both of them were lost under the leadership of Lal Krishna Advani - this election was his last attempt to be the Prime Minister of India, since he would be too old the next time).
For the first few weeks after the election, it seemed like the BJP was literally in shell-shock, the party quickly resisted a half-hearted attempt by Advani to resign as the leader of the party (given that there is no clear demarcated second line leader - the presumed next generation leader, Modi, could not carry his state to a complete sweep (which was almost a rejection for him), and all the others are in full fighting mode, it would have been difficult for the party to select a new leader agreeable to all). Murli Manohar Joshi tried to stake a brief claim, but that was quickly thwarted.
Now the voices in the party are being heard loud and clear, and there is a demand for an accountability of the defeat of the party. After all, the party has lost badly in many of the states that were supposed to be good for the party (or had been in the past), such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand, Delhi. For a party that was called the natural party of the middle class and the urban section, not being able to make a mark in Delhi and Bombay shows how much the party seems to have swayed away from being an effective contender for power.
In the last 2 days, there has been a sudden jump in the demand for accountability, and this seems to be related to the recent movements of Advani retaining the leadership of the party, Arun Jaitely becoming the leader in the upper house, and Sushma Swaraj being the deputy leader in the lower house. Other leaders who have been left out and who are seen as having been left out such as Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, and Yashwant Sinha have been demanding for more accountability and also that people who had a leadership role in the elections should have to bear the cross for the defeat (targeted at Jaitely, since he was the de-facto head of the campaign and the election effort).
If the BJP wants to come back to being taken as a serious contender for power, it needs to focus more on being an inclusive party. People, even those who were attracted by the earlier Hindutva campaign, are repelled by the hard-line stances on many areas such as the attack on people in a pub in Mangalore, the attacks on churches, the utterances of Varun Gandhi (and their not being condemned). The party needs to show how it can be seen as having a vision for the future, and needs to focus on development (and they have 2 chief ministers who are still there on the basis of their development platform - Modi in Gujarat, and Raman Singh of Chattisgarh).
The party also needs to be more realistic and pragmatic on their policies, as being seen on the side of the Left parties in opposing the nuclear deal was an idiotic posture that disillusioned many of their supporters, and their refusal to cooperate with the Government on accelerating some of the reforms after the exit of the Left parties was also a policy doomed to showing them in poor light. The party can still make good, but it requires a lot of inner look, and self-effort. There is discussion going around about problems in ties with the RSS, but the party needs to fine-tune those ties so that they can use the committed cadre of the RSS while not adopting the reprehensible policies of many of the sister organizations such as the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:30 PM