The Fall and Fall of the BJP

Posted in Uncategorized by armalcolite on June 9, 2009

The triumph of the Congress in the general elections has meant a further five years in the opposition for the BJP lead NDA and its back to the drawing room for the once famed team of strategists who seemed to not get anything wrong.

The next five years will be crucial for the BJP, for not only does the party need an overhaul and trust its second generation of leaders (who will be anointed in the days to come) but given the state of affairs at Ashoka Road, the challenge that stares the BJP in its face could be more existential than one would like to believe. An integral part of the revamping process would have to be a comprehensive breakdown of its electoral performance and an analysis of the verdict to shape the future course of action.

Already, analysts and party leaders are citing various reasons from an aggressive Hindutva campaign to a lack of substantial opposition to the UPA government’s policies (as opposed to the anti Manmohan campaign) as causes for their failure. But two aspects of their performance may have affected their performance more than others and may also be the primary reasons for their failure.

Before going into the actual causes, one feature of this election must be made clear. With the better than expected performance of the Congress, the media has been quick to hail the re-emergence of a ‘National Election’ as opposed to one that is determined by regional equations, as has been the case since the dawn of the ‘Coalition Era’. At this point, I hasten to clarify that despite the comparatively impressive haul of the Congress, the elections of 2009 was still fought and won on regional politics, and a national victory was a consequence of many victories won at the states.

That brings us to the question of the BJP’s poor performance. During its heyday under Atal Behari Vajpayee’s leadership, the BJP performed very well in certain key states, which were decidedly BJP strongholds. Though, the BJP did not have a nationwide presence (almost non-existent in the South) winning consistently in the Hindi heartland ensured the party had the numbers to lead a government at the centre. Compare this to the BJP’s performance in states like UP, Rajasthan and even Punjab for that matter. While the Congress made an unexpected comeback in UP, the BJP was wiped out in the state of Rajasthan not to mention the defeat of the SAD-BJP combine in Punjab. So while the Congress made gains in states where it had lost a foothold, the BJP failed to hold on to the seats it was expected to.

The second factor that cost the BJP this election was a lack of formidable alliances and more importantly, losing the alliances that it had. In the past, even if the BJP did not do particularly well or did not have presence in a particular state, it had credible alliance partners it could fall back on. But in these elections members of the NDA such as the BJD in Orissa left the NDA. In other states, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance failed to deliver again in Maharashtra and in the South, the BJP has almost no presence except for the state of Karnataka with regional parties keeping away from the BJP.

So the task ahead for the BJP is now to not only fortify the states it used to control, but to also look to expand and put up a serious challenge in states (particularly the Southern states) where it does not have a presence. What is needed is the kind of grassroots level organisation that was seen over a decade in the state of Karnataka or even cobbling up an effective alliance as in Bihar with the JD(U). For as stated earlier the challenge that the BJP faces is that of its very existence, given the meteoric rise of the Congress across all regions, and the BJP must regroup in the best interests of democracy, as Advani recently acknowledged, for the first time in many years we may be headed towards a bi-party democracy. To keep such a system functioning a credible opposition is just as necessary, lest the horse trading politics of the 90’s should return.


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