The ‘Swamification’ of the BJP

Noticed a little but not much commented upon earlier this year was the fact that for the first time in a decade or more, the BJP had lost its Ayodhya seat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly. Now the party has lost a graduates’ seat from the Konkan which it had held for 40 years in the Maharashtra Legislative Council.

I would place less significance on the Ayodhya loss but I believe losing a graduates’ seat the party has held from the time the BJP was winning it in its earlier avatar as the Jan Sangh needs closer attention.

It is just possible that Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party registered more of its graduate voters with the Election Commission than did the BJP. Or it could be the more serious issue of intellectual disenchantment with the party. In either case, for all the bombast and bluster of the BJP, I was surprised at how the party has let itself slide both in Maharashtra and across India

Then I came across this piece by Offstumped‘ and suddenly realised what is going wrong with the BJP. Obviously sympathetic to the party, Offstumped describes the party’s woes as their `Swamification’ (from whom I borrow the title of this piece) and hits the nail bang on its head. The BJP has been more concerned with finding fault with others than safeguarding its own bases and building itself up with bricks and mortar rather than just attempting to gauge whose `kameez’ might be cleaner and hoping for the collapse of other forces (notably the UPA/Congress) to find itself back in government again.

But clearly that is not going to happen. The party’s best days were between 1998 and 2002 when even the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir was its ally in government. BJP ideologues might believe that Narendra Modi is their saviour but I have a suspicion that he was let loose upon the world simply to destroy everything that the BJP could have really stood for as a right-of-centre party. India had a very good chance in the 1990s to evolve a two party system much like in the US and the UK but blew it with Modi’s shenanigans in Gujarat. And it is more the BJP than the Congress which is contributing to the rise of the fractious Third Front parties.

Of course there is no question of the Abdullahs ever supporting the BJP again but even someone like Chandrababu Naidu whose Telegu Desam party was the major party sustaining the NDA alliance in government has sworn he will never come together with the BJP again. Never mind that he is in such deep trouble in Andhra Pradesh with the rise of Jaganmohan Reddy and his YSR Congress, the thought to team up with the BJP again simply does not cross his mind – as he once so famously said all his development of AP was of no use as he got voted out only because he was seen as supporting communal forces in this country.

Ditto Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata dal. He deliberately picked a fight with the BJP the last time around, after the harassment and attempted pogroms against Christians in Orissa. Even if he is now on the same side as that party in the presidential elections, he knows he is better off on his own than allying with any other party.

When it comes down to the brasstacks, neither will Mamata or even Jayalalitha dare to team up with the BJP and the reasons are all the same. So where does all that leave the BJP – except abusing the Congress and fighting among themselves over their own leadership issue.

Meanwhile, things might be slipping out of their hands irrevocably as this week’s result to the Maharashtra Legislative Council polls show. The BJP lost not one but two seats – the other being the election to the Council from the teachers’ constituency. The Shiv Sena, which ideologically comes closest to the BJP’s own DNA, should have been supporting the party all the way through. Instead the Sena chose to prop up a rebel BJP candidate against the official one for the teachers’ constituency facilitating the victory of a former journalist supported by both the Congress and the NCP. And in the graduates’ constituency it did not work for the BJP either while the NCP candidate wholeheartedly supported by the Congress romped home by a heavy margin – the kind (more than double the votes gained by the BJP) that should set the party thinking.

Even the artificially-created controversy over the presidential race is so petty and unnecessary. I agree that holding a post with the Indian Statistical Institute advantages Pranab Mukherjee in no way at the presidential stakes. Neither does it disadvantage his rival, PA Sangma. It is simply a waste of time and, if they at all go to court, of good money as well. At the last presidential elections the BJP at least had a respectable candidate of note – Bhairon Singh Shekhawat – to put up against a much-derided Pratibha Patil of the UPA. Personally, I would have voted for Shekhawat if I had been part of the Electoral College and abstained if I had had no choice except to go for Patil.

I was expecting the BJP would be able to find its own candidate of a similar genre/vintage this time round too. But who do they have except for L K Advani? And that particular gentleman is still not willing to let go of his prime ministerial ambitions. Which is where, I believe, the entire problem with the BJP begins and ends. For, if only the BJP would see it, Modi is no problem. As is already becoming obvious, the moment he is seen as a serious contender for the post of prime minister its entire coalition will fall apart and the nation would whole heartedly vote for even a lame-duck UPA all over again.

The party must move beyond these two `eternal-hopefuls’ and break fresh ground to regain its, well, lost ground. And that does not happen by just reacting to situations or other people’s mistakes. We want to know what the BJP really stands for, besides destroying mosques and massacring Muslims. Or is that the only thing the BJP is really capable of, after all?

No wonder, then, that even its intellectual support is slipping. It’s really time it wakes up and smells the coffee. Or else it is destined to turn into someone who is seen as just a joker – like, umm, Subramanian Swamy.

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