Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP?

It has been three weeks since the election results have come out.  A new government has taken office, and it is business as usual. The national vote has created a government that should last its full-term – unless the Congress decides otherwise and wants to seek a mandate earlier to drive home its advantage and aim for absolute majority on its own.

There has been a lot of analysis that has come forth from experts and amateurs alike on what caused such a decisive Congress victory – and a disappointing performance by the BJP and the parties that comprised the Third and Fourth Fronts. There are many theories that abound and plenty of discussion has already happened.

The purpose of this commentary is to focus on the future of the BJP and see what the party can do to rise again. It is not about finding faults – decisions were made which at that time seemed right to the people who made them. It is also not about trying to do a numerical analysis of seats, votes, caste/religion combinations. It is about looking at the big picture and focusing on the most obvious things that are the need of the hour. These are also the hardest things to do. During tough times, it is easier to tinker around and wait for miracles rather than make tough decisions. That route doesn’t cut it any more.

(Note: This series of articles on “What Next for the BJP?” has been jointly written with Amit Malviya.)

From India’s perspective, it is very important to have a centre-right BJP to provide a counter-balance to the centre-left Congress. The nation also needs a strong Opposition in the next five years. If the trends of what happened in 2004 and 2009 are to be extrapolated, India is one election and one party away from creating a dominant political force – much like the nation experienced for most of the first three decades after Independence. And that will not be good for the politics and governance of the country.

Like a market leader in the world of business, the Congress would like nothing better than to leverage its momentum and create a lasting, sustainable competitive advantage in the political marketspace. The BJP needs to remember that it is the only thing that stands between the Congress and its complete domination of India. The Congress would like nothing better than to return India to a single-party monopoly. BJP is the only party that can fight. Until a few months ago, this was a fight between two equals. Now, it is a battle between David and Goliath.

The BJP is a party that is still work in progress, and one that has made many mistakes in recent times. The time for the party to bounce back is limited. In war, little mercy is shown to the losers. The BJP should expect none. And yet, it needs to rise and fight back. As Jim Collins writes in his new book How the Mighty Fall: “Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down, and getting up one more time, without end.”

The party needs to focus on four fundamental things in the months ahead to start to rise again and start becoming a meaningful force in national Indian politics:

  • Clear and Contemporary Ideology
  • Decisive and Dynamic Leadership
  • Efficient and National Organisation
  • Credible and Substantive Opposition Party role

It is Back to Basics and Back to Ethics. We will discuss each of these in more detail.

Tomorrow: Ideology

24 thoughts on “Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP?

  1. I have always wondered how is a Catholic Church which has very few degrees of freedom to change their ideologies can so effectively manage their organization, have strict rules for their priests, can effectively manage grassroots communication and keep improving the numbers of their followers year after year? One advantage they have is scaring people with after life but it is just a concept.

    What will it take for a political party to emulate such a behavior? Are there few issues within our community which can evoke similar kind of strong fellowship emotions?

    On the other hand based on public reactions so far it appears that Congress has been able to create Obama effect with post election results. And if they play their cards right they have good possibility building on this momentum.


  2. “The nation also needs a strong Opposition in the next five years” – I guess the right word should be active (not just activist?) …which is what the BJP was not 04 – 09 and ought to be from 09 – ?

    “And that will not be good for the politics and governance of the country.” – Not necessarily true, if capitalism can turn intelligently benevolent, so can dynasty.

    “The BJP is a party that is still work in progress, and one that has made many mistakes in recent times.” – Forget the mistakes, the Congress has made much more. Most important is the fact that the BJP is yet to find an issue where its stand can resonate with and galvanise the masses. A rath yatra for constructive purposes, would that be too much to ask for?

    Siddharth, true, I only wonder if we need to talk about the priest hood or the folk.

    First Ball Six scores a six. Hit it right on the nail.

    – The BJP simply needs a more charismatic, pan Indian leadership someone who doesnt look and sound like he has just arrived out of a can of old pickles.

    Someone more gulabi…and someone who can deftly steer it away from its old and timorous roots. The sooner it finds it the better for the party and its backroom boys. In retrospect, it needs two leaders, one for the camera and one for the hard work behind it.

    Couldn’t help it Rajesh….I just needed to take a crack at this…


    “Clear and Contemporary Ideology, Decisive and Dynamic Leadership, Efficient and National Organisation, Credible and Substantive Opposition Party role” – sound rather tired and more of the same. (***Leader ***Government)

    How is it that same guys write the slogans everytime? Even when the very slogans have failed?

  3. Afterthought:

    Thought I will try my hand at slogan making. Knowing your personal passion towards seeing an improved world class India, which I believe is why you took to politics in the first place, can I suggest a simple slogan like “India First”.

    Is this not what we all want to see? Will this not unite Indians under a banner sans social constructs? Will not the most divisive ideology be forced to bend to this national urge? And will this not encourage an urge for national pride and excellence?

    Now now, I am getting carried away myself like another slogan writer, but I feel that such a slogan will not only provide a unifying pan Indian feel, but also convey the nationalist pangs that drive the best in the Hindutva crowd
    without sounding divisive or triggering divisive sentiments within the party and without.

    I do not know if you or your team would like it, but it or something on similar lines conveys what you are all trying to do. Whatever the slogan be let it be succinct and straightforward. And you need one if you want to energise and drive yourself to the next election.

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  5. I have been reading ur analysis/advice for BJP. Regret, I fail to agree. I remember Deendayalji saying, after he lost election to Mr Rajdeo Singh at Jaunpur, ” Victory or defeat is immaterial. Elections are the opportunity for spreading our message of nationalism.” I may also recall his lecture at Varanasi, wherein he had strongly pleaded for KATTARTA for the tenets in life. He, at Varanasi at the residence of Mr Vindhyachal Gupta, in the Lahurabir locality, observed during breakfast: In future no one should arrange such costly breakfast. It had been brought for all of us by one of workers from MALDAHIYA. 2day Mr Adwani is coaxing to avoid greed. BJP, the incarnate of BJS has conveniently forgotten the fundamentals: Akhand Bharat, Cultural nationalism etc, just for the greed of POWER. Not only BJP but RSS have failed to instill the high ideals of national character in the Indian people, who could form the vote bank for BJP. Support of Saints and Shankaracharyas during elections can not help, who are supposed by the voters as Inactive and Passive section of society, as they are seldom found active on issues like Conversion, Reconversion, Education, Public health care, Employment of Hindu youth and so on. It is also a failure that not a single national daily, TV channel supports the ideology expounded and propounded by RSS/BJP.
    If BJP wants to gain ground, it will have to keep in mind that the Indian Muslims by and large will never vote for it. It will have to revamp its cadre and stick to its fundamentals without caring for defeat/victory. It should remember its mission of educating the people and not just forming a Govt. No unholy alliance shall make it win.

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  7. Whatever happens, we should not lose Courage. Dont compromise on principles.
    BJP has forgotten their ideals and principles, just for remaining in Power. It cannot attract minority votes now. The only course left for them is to collect more and more Hindu votes.
    Congress is having a wonderful leader now in Rahul Gandhi. He is really busy in rejuvenating the youth. Typical example is the win of a Tamil lady in the BJP strong Madhya Pradesh. He has forsaken all Minister Posts, including PM. Of course, he can get it whenever he wants. That shows his selfless service attitude.
    The immediate task for BJP is to find a fine person to match Rahul.

  8. The point is well made. BJP is not dependant on the reproductive patterns of one family!!! It is a true Janata Party!
    Only BJP can stop Congress. Congress itself was banished from 1992 for a good 12-14 years.. Rajiv Gandhi lost his re-election. Rahul Gandhi is nowhere near his father plus Congress infighting will always be there. BJP is a lot more disciplined party. Modi and BJP can talk of development oriented politics while Congress can talk of votebank politics. For a hero to appear a villian has to be spotted. BJP should wait for that villian to project their Hero. Right action has to come at the right time…Meanwhile,BJP should just focus on strategies for winning back Rajasthan,HP,Punjab and Maharashtra. Then build foundations in Kerala and W.Bengal..
    BJP will be back..People forget that Congress is using divide N rule better than the Brits..

  9. what happened to the BJP in 2009 is a good thing. I think Modi picked weak canidates in Gujurat and other places hoping the BJP would lose. This is a two fold thinking. It doesn’t mean that he is a back stabber. It means he is looking ahead. India is about to go through a very though time economically. America is about to collapes, and this will have a great effect on India, as America is our biggest trading partner. Keeping an eye on budgets, I think Modi realizes that Kendra is almost broke.

  10. Sorry, I didn’t finish. As I was saying, I think Modi understands that the welfare programs UPA has set up to get votes can’t sustain themselves. The are already wondering how they will pay for tke 25k of free food they has promised everyone. By losing this election, the BJP has missed walking into a fire. Now the UPA is in full swing at the center for the next 5 years. They will have no one to blame but themselves for the economic mess they have created. Had the BJP walked in to take power, everyone would have blamed Advani for mess of the 5 years. So I think Modi will keep focusing on Gujurat for the next 5 years, as all the work of his previous term is coming to bear fruit. India by 2014 will see the difference between BJP’s pro-development schemes, vs. UPA’s pro-welfare schemes. BJP will return, trust me. India will have her day again. The bigger they are the harder they fall. The Congress has reached it’s height with the current leaders such as Rahul and Sonia. They have only one way to go now…..Have faith….relax and watch the show….

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