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:

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

Tomorrow: Ideology

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