Elections 2009: What Next for the BJP? (Part 6)

Organisation: Efficient and National

With clarity of Ideology and a decisive Leader in place, half the battle will have been won for the BJP. The next step has to be start rebuilding the party organisation based on merit and morality. It also needs to expand its footprint nationally, especially in the four states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal.

If there are three values that need to permeate the organisation, they are these:

  • Integrity: there must be no compromise on honesty
  • Courage:  so one can make bold decisions without fear
  • Nation First: this is easier said than done

 There needs to be a radically different outlook to rebuilding the organisation, because the current system is broken.

A fundamental rethink needs to be done on how political parties fight elections. Let us first understand what the issues are, and then we can discuss solutions. There are three key problems that afflict political parties as they go into the elections:

  • Selection of Candidates: It seems silly but parties just cannot seem to be able to get good enough candidates to fight in most constituencies! So, they are either transplanted from other areas or taken from the opposition. In some cases, there is so much legacy that people well past retirement age continue to fight. (A related issue even for sitting MPs is that most haven’t done any real work at the constituency level and so face a tough time getting re-elected.)
  • Outreach to Voters: This comes down to actual communications and interaction with voters. To start with, a “3D map” of the constituency needs to created (location, profile, contact information) along with a feedback system to initiate and continue the conversation with the constituents. There is a message that needs to be communicated. Everyone seems to wake up only towards election time. What if this was not the case? What if this was a continuous engagement process? Parties and voters would both benefit.

Of course, there are various other factors which affect a candidate’s prospects – the opposition, caste/community issues, national perceptions (“waves”), etc. What is increasingly clear is that Indians can reward good governance least at the state level as has been seen in recent state elections. So, development can trump caste equations – at least in an increasingly larger part of India.

In a nutshell, in urbanising India, a combination of a good candidate affiliated with the right party with a deep outreach programme to voters, and complemented by adequate funding and continuing engagement through the years can create a foundation for victory. A win will not be guaranteed of course, but without these factors, one has to start relying on all kinds of other things (vote cutting candidates, caste calculations, etc.)

Tomorrow: Organisation (continued)