BJP Shrinking Despite Modi
How does one view the election results from Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh? In my considered opinion, results are ominous signs for the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP). It can be now argued that unless the BJP mandarins do not shed their arrogant postures and style of functioning and learn some important lessons from Gujarat Chief Minister Narandra Modi, the party, which is really shrinking, can never recapture power at the Centre in 2014. If despite all the scams it is involved in and the ludicrous governance it has provided over the last eight years, leading to inflation, administrative chaos and diminishing image in the comity of nations, the Congress is performing credibly electorally and has added two states—first Uttarakhand and now Himachal Pradesh—to its overall tally of party-ruled states, one should not be really surprised if there will be a UPA-III government in 2014. The point is that the BJP, as the principal opposition party in the country, has failed miserably and will continue to fail unless a radical shift in its functioning is fashioned.
It is a foregone conclusion that after having lost Uttarakhand and Himachal, the BJP is going to lose Karnataka, where elections are due shortly. And again, there is every likelihood of the Congress returning to power in this crucial southern state, possibly with the support of the BJP rebel Yeddyurappa, whom the BJP national leadership humiliated unfairly. In other words, despite every conceivable odd, the Congress is winning and despite every possible advantage the BJP is losing elections. In the last two years, the BJP has done well only in Bihar and Punjab, but the fact remains that elections in these two states were fought under the leadership of its coalition partners. The governments there are headed by the BJP- allies, not the BJP. The only state where the BJP heads a coalition now is Jharkhand, but here too there is every probability of its losing the polls when these are held, unless the party fine-tunes the electoral arithmetic and woos back Babulal Marandi, arguably “the king maker” in Jharkhand at the moment.
I am of the considered view that India needs an alternative-national party to the Congress which is right of the centre and has a fresh vision that will take the country forward. Such a party needs clear- cut alternatives to be presented before the nation’s youth—who are about to constitute the numerical majority as far as the overall population is concerned. We need a party that lives up to the expectations of the rising middle class, the backbone of any county that is or aims at being prosperous. We need a party that is truly nationalistic and rises above caste, community and creed. We need a party that is prepared to play a global role, not afraid to rise above the phobia of either Pakistan or China or the United States. We need a party that welcomes capitalism and competence, not prisoner of vested interests that are hell-bent on avoiding competition and remaining mediocre and exploitive. We need a party that is committed to working towards making India a formidable military power. We need a party that will empower the country’s poor so that they are employed (or self-employed) and proud enough not to accept the State-subsidies that, in reality, enslave them in perpetuity. We need a party that focuses on universalising quality education at the school level so that every Indian child is good enough to gain admission to institutions of higher learning and subsequently enter the job market without the crutches of reservation that divide the society and the country.
Above all, we need a party that is committed to transparent governance and works towards making India truly democratic and representative by undertaking suitable electoral reforms. We need good people in our legislatures and governments, people who get elected without the help of money, muscle and heritage. India badly needs a change in the prevailing first-past- the post electoral system that elects a candidate getting around just 10 per cent votes of the electorate to rule for five years. Such a system will not make him or her accountable as long as he or she has the support of a particular community intact. He or she will simply not bother about what the overwhelming majority of his or her constituency demands. In fact, he or she simply need not care about their sensitivity. Let us face this bitter truth—India is not a democracy in true sense of the term. Most of our institutions are not democratic in spirit. If the world still recognises and respects us to be a democracy, that is because we peacefully change our governments and our judiciary is fiercely independent.
Unfortunately, the BJP at present does not enthuse that it is that party. And it is a great irony in the sense that in the 1990s, unarguably its best years, the BJP had promised to be such a party—the party with a difference. Tragically, the present BJP is the ghost of the party it was in the 1990s; it has virtually become the B-team of the Congress, pursuing the suicidal politics of populism on almost every issue of national concern. It is supporting all the policies that take India backwards, not forward. See its latest stance on the issue of reservation in promotions for the SC and ST employees. What is really pathetic in this case is that it has also exposed that the party, contrary to its claims, is a highly undemocratic outfit. Reservation in promotion is a serious issue. Any position on this should have been taken after due deliberations in the party’s supreme decision-making body, the “Parliamentary Board”. But it transpires that it was not the case. Many senior leaders of the party are, indeed, aghast that their parliamentary leaders (leaders of the opposition in two houses), took the stand of supporting the constitutional amendment on reservation in promotions between themselves without discussing the issue with their colleagues in the Parliamentary Board! One wonders how supporting such reservation will necessarily help the BJP, given the fact that the credit for it will go to the Bahujan Samaj party supremo Mayawati. Would SC and ST MPs of the BJP have revolted otherwise? Not at all. See the Samajwadi Party, the only party that is opposing the measure—it has 10 SC MPs in the Lok Sabha and as many as 54 SC MLAs in Uttar Pradesh!
Obviously perceptive Indian voters are not impressed with the BJP. If the people of Gujarat have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP, it is not because of the party. The Gujarat voters have renewed their faith in Narendra Modi as chief minister, not as a BJP leader. In fact, it is not wrong to say that all the traditional supporters of the BJP in the state—the RSS and VHP—not to speak of many regional and national BJP leaders, did campaign, directly or indirectly against Modi. It is worth noting that all the three principal alternatives before the Gujarat electorate—Modi, Keshubhai Patel of Gujarat Parivartan Party and Shankarsinh Vaghela of the Congress—were from the RSS and still respected its ideology.
If against heavy odds—fiercest opposition from the central government and the agencies under its control such CBI and IB(in spreading falsehood): Left-liberal NGOs, activists and press; and numerous BJP leaders trying to sabotage his campaign—that Modi won, it is because of his record in transparently good governance and non-populist politics. Modi defied the conventional wisdom that heavy voter-turnouts went against the incumbent government. In fact, record—voting in Gujarat (nearly 72 per cent) proved that identity politics such as casteism and communalism did not matter in the ultimate analysis. For me, the most impressive aspect of Modi’s aspect of Modi’s victory is that he has won by shunning populism. Modi did not promise free electricity. He disconnected electricity to all hose households and establishments that did not pay electricity bill. People still voted for him because he ensured uninterrupted supply of electricity. Similarly, Modi did not distribute tickets to his party candidates solely on the basis of their caste and religion. In fact, Modi himself comes from a caste that has negligible electoral strength in the state.
The Gujarat lesson should be very clear to the BJP—either perform by shedding narrow and sectarian ideas or perish. The BJP needs more leaders like Modi. The spectre of Modi polarising Indians and allies like Nitish Kumar leaving the NDA needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Gujaratis are not outside India. Indian voters need clean, effective and forward-looking governance that benefits all sections of society, something Modi has delivered in Gujarat, something the BJP needs to promise to the countrymen.
By Prakash Nanda