Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BJP NEEDS, AND HAS, A BIG IDEA

Some things are best said bluntly. Yes, wise men advise that it is better to lace the truth with sugar. But there are times when sugar cannot be its own antidote. And, with much syrup being served by some, this to my mind is one of them.

The BJP is in a mess and heading towards total disarray. This is the only truth that both its enemies and well wishers agree on. And this is where the divergence starts: What is the way forward for the party, if it has to re-emerge as a real alternative to the Congress?

The dominant current view, propagated by sections of media that are difficult to distinguish from the publicity wings of the Congress and, ironically, by some BJP leaders and their agents in the media, is that the BJP needs faces and projections that are “acceptable” to those who might be its future allies, and not “communal” leaders, no matter how good their record of governance etc.

Is this approach going to get the BJP anywhere at all? Or is it only going to hasten its decline and bring its tally down so dramatically in the next general elections that it may cease to be even the principal opposition party if Cong wins, and if its routed, in no position to project one of its presently favoured candidates as PM?

All the players who conspired to convert what at one stage looked a near certain win into a rather humiliating defeat in 2009 still have the BJP in their vice-like grip in Delhi. The only exception is, perhaps, Sudheendra Kulkarni who, in an almost ‘Mission Accomplished’ mode, quit the BJP after the debacle.

Has this caucus done anything at all, on its own, to rejuvenate the party and increase its footprint and vote-share anywhere in the country? The recently concluded Assembly elections should have come as an eye-opener, but exactly the opposite seems to have happened. The depressing and demoralising results are actually being distorted to project the leaders responsible for it as indispensable!

Their continued failure – deliberate or otherwise – is being dumped on the party. So, the BJP’s worst ever performance in Assam where it won a pathetic four seats and its failure to get even one seat even in West Bengal, not to mention Tamil Nadu and Kerala where again it failed to open its account, is deviously being shown as its inability to increase its presence beyond the areas where it is strong. Implied in this argument is that the failure is only due to its policies, programs and ideology, and that the so-called national leaders of the party cannot be blamed for it. They remain the best thing that could have have happened to the BJP.

Out of this deceitful argument flows the next one: the BJP has no hope of reversing the situation and must accept the reality that, no matter what the Congress does to destroy itself, it is not the BJP but other parties who will reap the benefit and emerge stronger. Therefore, in 2014, if a weakened BJP wants to have any chance of coming back to power, it has to project a “secular” leader who will be acceptable to all the allies that the party will have to rely on more than ever to get that coveted chair in South Block. If it projects a polarising leader like Narendra Modi as PM, its dream will die.

And who are the two most “acceptable” leaders that the BJP has? Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj -- unless, of course, Advani decides to take another shot. And which one of the two can and will be summarily turned into an also-ran, thanks to very, very serious allegations of corruption, media frenzy and – I have little doubt – some tapes ready to be played at just the right time? That will leave only Arun Jaitley in the race.

I may be wrong – and I sincerely hope I am – but it seem to me that the whole drama that has been playing out over the last few years is to pitch-fork Arun Jaitley as India’s next PM should disaster strike in the form of a Congress defeat. He is perhaps the only BJP leader who would look as at home, perhaps more, in the Congress than the BJP. He heads the DDCA in a Congress-governed Delhi and is part of the larger Congress family via the IPL too, not to mention his many abiding links as a lawyer and friend. The media, particularly editors who are very close to the Congress leadership and NDTV, spare no effort to project him as the leading, if not the only, “sane voice” in the BJP, and as future PM.

A weakened BJP suits Jaitley perfectly. The greater the say of alliance partners in choosing BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, the better his chances. In fact this is the only way he can ever become PM. He is not a mass leader and has neither any pretension nor desire of being one. Connecting to the people is manifestly nowhere on his list of to-dos.The arrogance and aloofness that he exudes precludes any connect with the masses. He has risen in the party hierarchy solely because of his backroom skills bereft of certain core values and ethics, particularly as an election strategist who, at one point, appeared to be smarter than the rest, and claimed credit for delivering one victory after another. Till personal ambition took over.

Arun Jaitley has never won an election in his whole life and is not likely to ever too. Yet, propped and promoted by a powerful clique within the BJP and without, he aspires to be India’s Prime Minister. By manipulation alone. At the party’s expense. In my humble opinion, he has already harmed and damaged the party more than anyone else. Thanks in no small measure to his value- and party-neutral skills, the BJP today looks like a poor ‘B’ team of the Congress party.

Is that the way forward for a party that once claimed, with some justification, to be a real alternative to the Congress? Is it ever going to get any stronger in the hands of a few individuals who are driven blind by their individual ambitions? Is it ever going to replace a decayed and dying Congress by embracing the same degenerate values that have reduced the grand old party to a den of dacoits and plunderers, ready to sell the country’s security and future in their limitless hunger for power and pelf?

Surprisingly, the present discourse is not about strengthening the BJP at all. It is about meekly accepting decline and defeat, and banking on sordid manipulations and compromises to get power.

Manipulators do not work to strengthen organisations; they exist to feed off them. And they try every trick in the book to hold on to their perches. A few such leaders have already brought the BJP down and are now working to ensure that in the forthcoming Assembly elections in UP, it finishes last. The same Rajnath Singh who, together with the likes of Jaitley, has done colossal damage to the party, is set to lead it to defeat there again. Without recovery in UP, as any idiot knows, the BJP is going to be nowhere in 2014. That’s probably the idea. That is why they are trying to deflect attention from the rot they have have spread; that is why they are echoing the warnings of the Congress about the dangers of replacing them with a "divisive" leader.

The BJP, as one sophisticated Jaitley-worshipper and Modi-hater recently wrote, needs a big idea. Unfortunately, his ‘big idea’ is all about petty manipulation, has little to do with the BJP and is limited to the object of his worship. He knows better than anyone that the caucus running the party has not brought any incremental votes to the party and will not in future too. On the contrary, it will only lose votes, and many.

The big idea, therefore, has necessarily to be a bold idea, one that can credibly project the BJP as significantly different from the Congress, not as the poor photocopy it is looking like now. There is one such idea that the Congress party is most worried about, and to destroy which it has deployed the complete might of the party and the state. This idea, as you must have guessed, is an epochal change-agent called Narendra Modi. If this huge idea cannot do it for the BJP, the small, stale and smelly ones in circulation certainly will not.
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Do also read: Modi's double blow hits where it hurts
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