Elections 2009: A Decisive Mandate for the Congress-led UPA

As a Friend of BJP, I am obviously disappointed by the results. But the bright side of it is that the country will have a stable Congress-led UPA government for the next five years. I just hope that there is a positive development and good governance agenda that is pursued quickly because there are many unfinished things that we need to get done in India across various sectors.

This was one election I watched closely and was involved in at the periphery.  Since morning, I watched the election results coming out at home with a group of friends. Most of us were BJP supporters so the extent of the defeat was quite stunning and unexpected for us.

Here are some immediate thoughts on what the BJP now will have to rebuild itself if it has to offer a credible national alternative to the Congress across all states. It will need to create a presence in the four key states of West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — and this will require a multi-year plan. It will need to work hard in Uttar Pradesh to regain its pre-eminence. It may have to think of going it alone in many states so as to build a deeper presence. It will have to build a deeper and bring to the forefront the next-generation of leadership. More importantly, the party will have a make a choice (as Shekhar Gupta wrote in the Indian Express recently) — does it go go the way of the Hindu Right or the Centre Right? Or is there a middle path that is more inclusive?

Every crisis presents an opportunity – and that is how the BJP must look at the national vote. Even though it may have only have lost a small number of seats and not lost much voteshare on a national basis, the results are way below what the expectations were. And as such, it requires a rethink at multiple levels to rebuild the party and regain the confidence of the nation.

For me, personally, these four months have been a wonderful experience, even as I would have liked a different ending. I, along with others, do plan to continue the Friends of BJP movement that we have started – and hope we can help in a constructive way with our inputs to the party as it seeks to change. Our engagement with the political process has just started – and is long-term.

Weekend Reading

This week’s reading:

  • Mobile 2.0:Design for the iPhone and Beyond: A presentation by Brian Fling (via Vinu).
  • The Secrets of Great Teamwork: An interview with Tim O’Reilly in Forbes. “When people feel like somebody else is telling them what to do, there’s going to be resistance. If they think it’s what they themselves want, then they sign right up.”
  • Megacities threaten to choke India: from Wall Street Journal. “Of growing concern are the country’s teeming new megacities, which are swelling rapidly even as jobs dry up and funding for infrastructure disappears.”
  • Cellphones in India: from New York Times. “Sometimes a technology comes along and crystallizes a cultural moment. Not since Americans and their automobiles in the 1950s, perhaps, have a people and a technology wedded as happily as Indians and their cellphones — small and big, vibrating and tringing, BlackBerry and plain vanilla.”
  • Remaking State Bank of India: A fascinating interview on SBI’s transformation with SBI chairman OP Bhatt in Mckinsey Quarterly. “If you look at any transformational effort at any institution across the world, most of the things people have done are common sense. There is no magic to it. The secret is how you do it, how you build a team, and how you build consensus around what you’re doing. Only then are you able to execute your plan. I had a vision for the bank, but I needed to communicate it.”