BJP: Leadership Crisis
Sonia Gandhi is all set to remain the Congress president in what is going to be her fourth term. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has found the development undemocratic, as the Congress constitution, otherwise, does not allow a president of any block, district or state unit for more than two terms. But the Congress is not defensive about Sonia Gandhi. Its spokesmen have covered extra distance to assert that Sonia is an extraordinary leader and that “she could be the party president 40 times if the party wants”.
This column is not going to focus on “democratic credentials” of the Congress. Strictly speaking, it was not democratic even when India was not independent. Just remember what the Congress had done to Subash Chandra Bose. Members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have always been more than equals compared to other Congressmen. And the Indian electorate has not found anything wrong in this.
The fact remains that Sonia Gandhi is the tallest leader of the Congress today, closely followed by her son. Congress party achieves success when it gets “positive” votes on the basis of the charisma of the Gandhis and “negative” votes against the performance of the non-Congress party-led governments. There is not a single Congress leader other than Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the country today who can lead the party to victory whether it is the national or state elections. Possibly, there have been two Congress leaders in recent memory who, not belonging to Gandhi-Nehru family, seemed to have led the party to victory on their own. One was late Rajshekhar Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. With his demise and the virtual rebellion of his son Jaganmohan, now it is only Sonia-Rahul combination that can rescue the Congress in the next elections in Andhra. The other is Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. But now embroiled in the Commonwealth scam, it is extremely doubtful whether she is respected by the people of Delhi anymore.
The overwhelming dependence of the Congress party on Sonia Gandhi for its relevance before the Indian electorate being undisputable, the BJP’s criticism of her is nothing more than an academic exercise. On the other hand, it is time for the BJP to ponder over who is the leader in its ranks who could throw a challenge at all-India level to Sonia, now that Atal Behari Vajpayee has retired and LK Advani has lost the magic and reverence he once possessed. The growing perception (and it is perception that matters in politics ultimately) is that the national leadership of the BJP has been totally ineffective in taking on what is said to be one of the most lackluster governments in independent India’s history.
Of course, it is difficult to agree with the habitual BJP-bashers, who dominate the Indian intelligentsia and media, that the party is in shambles and has no future. Latest official data, released by a central government led by the Congress party, shows how the BJP-ruled Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have done much better than any other state in implementing the schemes meant for the Muslims and other minorities. The Congress and the Communist-ruled states have done badly on this score, all their loud concerns for the minorities and so-called secularism notwithstanding.
Similarly, the date on GDP for 2009-10 has shown that Chhattisgarh has topped with a growth rate of 11.49 per cent. The state’s impressive performance has been as per the pattern over the last few years. The state had clocked a GDP growth of 17.51 per cent in 2006-07 and 11.71 per cent in 2007-08, before dipping to 6.81 per cent in 2008-09.
During 2009-10, Gujarat emerged as the runner up with a GDP growth rate at 10.53 per cent. The state’s GDP at constant prices over the last decade went to Rs 2,52,528 crore. No wonder, why overall Gujarat continues to be considered as India’s best performing state.
The third place in GDP growth has been bagged by Uttarakhand. The hill-state’s GDP grew by 9.41 per cent to Rs 29,507 crore in 2009-10.
Maharashtra, the country’s commercial powerhouse, secured the fourth rank. Its GDP went up by 8.59 per cent to Rs 4,80,335 crore during 2009-10 fiscal. Orissa, one of the erstwhile poor states, made it to the top five with a GDP growth rate of 8.35 per cent in the last fiscal, its GDP at constant prices standing at Rs 90,229 crore.
The above scores highlight the fact that of the best five, the first three belong to the BJP. The fifth, that is Orissa, is run by the Biju Janata Dal, which, not long ago was a big ally of the BJP. In the top five, Congress has got only one state, though it does not govern that state alone. After all, Maharashtra is being led by a coalition of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. Obviously, a party like the BJP that rules many states with impressive performance cannot be called “has been”. In fact, take away Maharashtra and the Andhra Pradesh, it is the BJP which, either on its own or in alliance with friendly parties, controls India’s vital states.
But the point that must be emphasised is that unlike the Congress, these states are being led by leaders who are not dependent for survival on their national leaders in Delhi. Whether it is Narendra Modi or BS Yeddyurappa or Shivraj Singh Chauhan or Raman Singh, each one of them wins elections for his own performance. On the contrary, it is because of them that the national leaders of the BJP get elected to Parliament.
Secondly, almost all these leaders have provided clean and efficient governance. Even in states where the BJP government was ousted due to defections such as Goa and Jharkhand, its earlier performance is remembered fondly. These regional leaders of the BJP have earned their place due to their concrete work in the fields such as BSP—Bijlee, Sadak, Panee (Electricity, Road, Water), issues of everyday concern to people.
That brings the point: what is then wrong with BJP’s national leadership? If one goes by the popular perceptions, then here are the answers:
First, most of its national leaders have shown themselves to be made of clay. They specialise in bringing down each other while giving a walkover to the ruling Congress. It has miserably failed to be an effective opposition even though the BJP leaders have been handed price rise, corruption, terrorism, Kashmir and deteriorating regional environment from the security point of view as issues on the platter. To quote noted journalist Pritish Nandy, “The BJP loves fighting the enemy within, not the Congress.”
Secondly, none of the present national leaders has ever presented what his or her vision of India is or should be, something that Vajpayee and Advani of yester-years had. Naturally they do not inspire the middle class, which not long ago, was the most important constituency of the BJP. These national leaders support every possible regressive idea that will take India back, not forward. See the mindless way they have effectively killed the Indo-US nuclear deal by inserting conditions in the recently passed nuclear-liability bill, conditions that defy international norms and will not attract any nuclear supplier. See the way the BJP’s national leaders are legitimising the dangerous “casteism” in Indian politics by supporting the caste-census. See also the manner in which the party is dividing the country in the name of gender by supporting the atrocious Women-reservation Bill in its present form.
And last but not least, the national leaders of the BJP suffer from a tremendous sense of inferiority complex. They are not proud of their heritage and ideas, with the result that they are guided more by the criticisms of their enemies than by the suggestions of their supporters. In fact, this was one of the most important reasons why the BJP lost the 2004 elections, surprising even the Congress Party which has been ruling India since then.
By Prakash Nanda