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Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP

May 22nd, 2009 · 9 Comments

Every crisis presents an opportunity, and that is what needs to be thought of now. BJP at 116 is on a road downwards even though the decline this time was only 21 seats. The time to rethink and reinvent is now. There needs to be a sense of urgency.

The BJP now faces a clear fork in the road. Either it has to become more Hindu-oriented and thus aim to win the majority Hindu vote, or it needs to discard its religious overtones and become a clear right of centre party. The former is not going to be easy since that is where the roots of the party lie, and the latter will end up making it look almost like a clone of the Congress without any cadre support.

The BJP needs to take the moderate approach with a tinge of inclusive cultural nationalism. It needs to come out with a strong statement that India belongs to all, and not just the Hindus. It needs to take on the “secular” word everytime it is mentioned in the context of the Congress. It needs to remove the aura of untouchability that has been created – for some voters and potential allies. This is perhaps the most important challenge facing the leadership. BJP needs to combine its good governance message with a strong message about an inclusive India to start re-connecting to the growing Middle India, because that has historically been the BJP’s strength.

There are other things that the BJP needs to start working on:

  1. The BJP must forget about allies in most states and build on its own. It has to start thinking of itself as a real, national party with a presence of its own in every constituency of India. Allies are ephemeral. Even if they fight elections together, there is no guarantee that they will stay on after the elections. Also, with allies, the party is hobbled in building its own base.  Orissa was a classic case and Bihar could head the same way next year when assembly elections take place.
  2. Establish a presence in the four key states where it doesn’t exist – West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. In the two Left states of WB and Kerala, it has a 7-10% vote share which can be grown. Mamta is not really the exciting alternative that the people of WB are looking for.
  3. Focus on Uttar Pradesh to build the base. This is going to be hard, and needs a leader and lot of work on the ground. A lot of time has been lost. But the good news is that the politics of UP is shifting from caste and identity to aspirations (as Shekhar Gupta also wrote in his recent Indian Express article).
  4. BJP needs to bring out its next-gen leadership – and develop leaders at various levels (local, state, national). The old guard needs to hand the torch and to the next level, and mentor it. This includes building leaders from minority communities and establishing a dialogue with them with the central message being around governance and development.
  5. Effort needs to be also made to ensure nurturing of good candidates who do work at the grassroots, engage and connect with the voters constantly, and are seen as honest and genuine. The MPs who have won must keep the dialogue going on a formal basis with the voters.
  6. The BJP needs to play the role of a constructive opposition. It should appoint a “shadow cabinet” so it can start training and showcasing its leaders, and also keeping the real spirit of Parliamentary democracy and debate alive.
  7. It has to build an Institutional memory. The data, learning and contacts from this election must be leveraged.
  8. The BJP needs to start a membership and funds drive to collect small amounts of money from a lot of people, rather than just relying on the big donors (many of whom are going to be disappointed and frustrated with the result). With a small contribution will come the offer of help from the people, and that is why this is so important.

Most important, the BJP needs a strong leader who is given a freehand for the next five years. This is no time for consensus thinking which will put the party in a state of analysis paralysis, or create factions. The greater goal for the country must override individual ambitions.

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BenifitShow Telugu Movies » Blog Archive » Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP // May 22, 2009 at 7:57 am

    […] original here: Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP Related ArticlesBookmarksTags Hari Krishna – what happened? Hari Krishna when was on dais […]

  • 2 Seo India // May 22, 2009 at 11:49 am

    The biggest problem is that they do not have leaders who can lead the party for next 30 years.

    And, for sure, they need to make sure they are on nationalist path.

    I think that it will be too much to think of going without a tie-up in the South. But, UP is the gateway to Lok Sabha.

    And, bear in mind that they will have issues in retaining Bihar if Nitish dumps them.

    So, in essence, they need a charismatic personality to actually revive them like Rahul has done for Congress.

  • 3 Orkut Junior // May 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The fact of the matter is, 2013 is going to be rahul vs. Modi. So BJP can start preparing for it now.

  • 4 udayapg // May 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.
    John W. Gardner

    Is this the BJP’s core problem? Is it why it is still viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum? And what can be done to correct this?

    The BJP and its supporters carved political space in the late eighties imagining and proclaiming that it had the solution to every problem that racked India. There was a time when successive non-functional Congress regimes made these solutions look attractive to the middle class, but that is no longer the case.

    The Congress has woken up and is changing the ground rules of electorate engagement. It is becoming more attractive to Middle India and as Middle India grows expect more of the same.

    One can safely guess that the BJP is ruling the states they are ruling now for but one last time. The challenge for the BJP is greater than what its intelligentsia think.

    India is an evolving country. And each evolution brings about new problems. Problems that cannot be resolved with simplistic solutions that the Hindutva brigade is prone to.

    As long as the opposition can generate solutions that do not call for antagonism of one section of people or cutting them to size, the jingoistic solution will not be attractive to the large majority.

    I see the BJP as having the problem of its life against a resurgent Congress. I also think that their thought leaders are underestimating the problem. Which will result in the party being sidelined and being looked upon in the same way the Communists have been looked upon in the last forty years. Irrelevant Irritants that do not but die.

    The BJP leadership should reinvent itself and the party, it should come up with new ideas that enthuse the nation and its people. Finally it is the ideas that generate enthusiasm and carry the day.

  • 5 Sanjay // May 25, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Rajesh, you must join the forum at swapan55.blogspot.com. You will be able to share your opinion with a lot more likeminded people.

  • 6 passeryby // May 26, 2009 at 11:50 am

    And a ‘What next for the Congress’:

    How to bring intelligent, articulate, switched on folks such as yourself onboard.

  • 7 What next for the BJP? « Hamara Congress // Jun 21, 2009 at 8:02 am

    […] The first of his posts on this theme here: What Next for the BJP? […]

  • 8 rainman // Jun 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    After UP elections I had written on my blog that BJP is making a huge mistake by taking the UP verdict lightly. No attempt was made to find out why BJP did so badly in the elections instead amusing excuses were given. One of the excuses was that people wanted to vote out Mulayam so even the die hard BJP supporter voted for Mayawati.

    By saying so they willfully ignored the significance of this verdict. With the press of a button a baggage of thousand years was removed. It has been the rule that dalits vote for Brahmans to keep them in power not the other way round. Think about all the prejudice that have to be overcome. To explain this paradigm shift BJP leaders gave a self-fooling explanation. If Brahmans had voted for BSP than it was not just that they wanted to vote out Mulayam but something else. I think it was because of lack of alternative. I think Brahmans have left BJP for good and lot of work is needed to be done to find out why? Brahmans were angry with BJP and they did not see any other viable alternative so they voted for BSP. But during these LS elections they saw a resurgent congress. They could feel that a chunk of Muslim vote was shifting towards it so the congress became that alternative that they were looking for. I feel that this Brahman vote will consolidate further with Congress and more Muslims will join it and Congress might emerge the single largest party in next UP assembly elections with BSP coming close second.

    The BJP will get marginalized and might come distant fourth in that elections. As far as SP is concerned lot has been said in the media about Muslims deserting SP because of Kalyan Singh. I don’t agree with this. Last time when Kalyan Singh had joined Mulayam, the latter had kept a comfortable distance from him. But this time there was no such prudence. On the contrary Kalyan Singh openly campaigned for SP. Mulayam is a very experienced and cunning politician he would not make that mistake. He might take tactical help from Kalyan but will not risk his biggest support group(after Yadavs) for him. I have a hunch that Mulayam already knew that Muslims are drifting away from him and Kalyan was brought to compensate those drifters with the lodh votes. It is due to this vote bank SP was able to prevent a disaster. Actually SP did pretty well and ended up being single largest party.

    The reason why I am writing in this forum is not to dishearten supporters of BJP, for I am one of them, but to shake the party out of denial mood. The same foolish excuses are being forwarded again. Some of the excuses are that people voted for national parties or people voted for stability and thought UPA can provide that or caste is increasingly becoming meaningless. I do not think any of this is correct.

    How can you explain that Mayawati got highest percentage of vote in UP followed by SP, both thrives on caste based politics. RJD was only 5% behind JD(U). BSP and SP have retained their caste based vote bank the only votes that seems to have shifted are that of Muslims, upper caste and urban voters and all these have shifted towards congress. I agree with Mr Jashwant Singh that an honest introspection is needed.

    The biggest problem with BJP today is that no one seems to have any authority. There are three ways of effectively running the party, as far as I can think. 1st and the worst form is hierarchical where only one family has right to lead congress is the most appropriate example of this form of leadership. The 2nd is a dictatorial type where one person has dictatorial power and decides every thing for the party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Lalu Yadav represent this type of leadership. The 3rd and the best form is the democratic party where the leader of party is selected by the party workers verdict. In all these form there is a leader who can take decision and his decisions are respected by everyone. Unfortunately, BJP represent none of these systems. It is democratic enough to allow top leaders to question and fight among themselves but there is no democracy in selection of these big leaders. Most of the BJP’s top leadership is miles away from common man and common party worker. These leaders are not elected by workers so they are not answerable to them. A democratically elected leader commands authority but because there is no real democracy so no one commands that authority. That’s why we have so many leaders fighting among themselves and working as individuals and fulfilling their own individual ambitions.

    I hope BJP will wake up from this denial mode and do what should be done to make it a party with a difference and not the party with lot of differences.

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