Opposition Party Role: Credible and Substantive
Finally, the BJP has to accept its role as the leading Opposition Party in India for the next five years. There are three things that the party can do which can help it win back the confidence of voters who were disappointed with some of the party’s antics during the previous five years.
First, the BJP must appoint a Shadow Cabinet by taking up 10 key ministries. It needs to complement the ‘ministers’ by teams of professionals on the outside who can give appropriate inputs. This will help in showcasing the emerging talent within the BJP and also ensure that the party is seen as a credible national alternative to the Congress.
Second, the BJP needs to take up specific issues pertaining to development and governance, and raise awareness about these. For this, the party needs to segment the voter base into 8-10 buckets, and then see what issues strike a chord with people in the various segments. This will also help the party start to re-connect with the grassroots.
Third, the party needs to also consider its own Legislation in Parliament. Just because it is in Opposition doesn’t mean that it cannot do so. It needs to ensure that proper debate takes place – the Bills may not get passed, but at least it can present alternatives to the nation.
In other words, the party needs to play the role of a constructive Opposition party which takes the Indian Parliamentary system seriously. Much of this was missing over the previous five years.
The BJP needs to think differently going ahead. It is going to compete in 2014 with a Congress which will have the wind behind its back, a youthful leadership, a plank of development and perhaps good governance, and no shortage of resources. Playing by the book will not get the BJP to power in 2014. It will need to think hard on what the Achilles Heel of the Congress will be (and there will be). But for it to be in a position to capitalise on that, the BJP first needs to get the basics of Ideology, Leadership, Organisation and Opposition Party role in order. Only on that foundation can it hope to mount a serious challenge to a resurgent Congress. The decisions the BJP makes now will decide whether the BJP remains a two-decade wonder or something more potent and transformational in Independent India’s history.