In comparative real terms, the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) was nearly equal to the Congress Party in terms of party seats won in the 2004 national elections. The BJP had won 137 seats and the Congress had won 145 seats. If the BJP could not form the Government in 2004 it was because its coalition partners in terms of regional parties had lost heavily. The Congress could ride into power, mainly on the strength of the Communist Parties (61 seats), outside support of Samajwadi Party(36 seats), and a conglomeration of other disparate parties, all flaunting the hackneyed 'secular' label, but without any personal or ideological commitment to it. Minus the Communists support the Congress Government can fall anytime and hence the deference to the Communists even in foreign policy formulations as has taken place in Nepal leading to adverse security consequences for India.
The BJP with just being two years out of power is displaying no resilience to raise itself to new heights once again. Neither is it as the main Opposition Party virtually equal to the ruling Congress in number of seats in Parliament , playing the role of an energetic and activated Opposition posing a threat to the ruling party in terms of its survival. The recent Assembly elections in some states did not indicate that the Congress despite being the ruling party at the Centre, was on a winning spree. It was others who did. Political opportunities exist for the BJP to exploit, only if it was cohesive and gutsy to do so.
Current indicators of happenings within the BJP do not suggest that it has the resilience to do so. The BJP has to reinvent itself by ridding itself of the 'Congressifcation' that overtook this Party in the closing stages of its being in power. This extended from leadership group rivalries, personality cults, intolerance towards inner party dissent, ignoring the cadres which were its strength, and diluting the very ideology and ethos of the Party. The BJP needs to reinvent itself with a younger generation of leaders and new political strategies.
In terms of leadership, the older leaders like Vajpayee and Advani have had their day and they made sterling contributions as architects of the Party which could ride into power. It is time for them now to be the Council of Elders of the BJP along with many others. Advani could have made a comeback but for his ill-advised trip to Pakistan and his equally ill-advised utterances there, to which we shall come back later.
The BJP is not poor like the Congress in structuring a new generation of leaders from the likes of Narendra Modi (let the Indian media howl), Jaswant Singh, Arun Jaitly, Sushma Swaraj, Yashwant Sinha and many others. These are faces with which the large progressive segment of Indians can align with time. The aim should not be to win the next election but to build an enduring, strong and gutsy BJP which in course of time would eventually reclaim power. These new generation leaders must be made to travel extensively all over India and particularly to the South. They should not only be visible during election campaigns in states but engaged in extensive out-reach campaigns to the progressive middle class segment of India which is growing by the day. Business Chambers and Confederations should receive special attention. Their out-reach should also extend to the large Indian diaspora all over the world. This has to be a sustainable activity more so in the years out of power.
In terms of political strategy, the BJP , despite all its efforts to woo the Indian Muslim vote has been unsuccessful for the simple reason that this 12% percent segment is a captive in the hands of its feudal religious clergy and leaders fed by the Congress and 'secular' parties. In any case they now seem to be inclined to form their own Muslim political outfits to fight elections as visible in Assam and Uttar Pradesh. That effectively rules out the Muslim vote for the BJP until a visible progressive segment makes its appearance in the Indian Muslim community and which one day is bound to appear because India at large offers them the opportunity to do so.
It was the above that neutralized Advani's political leadership of the BJP. His terming of Jinnah on Pakistani soil as a secularist was distorting historical facts. The Pakistanis who revere him as the founder of a Muslim theocratic state in South Asia were bemused and the millions of Hindus who were forced into migration to India in 1947 by Jinnah - contrived genocidal communalism felt cheated by Advani's remarks. The rest of India too was not bemused.
The main challenge of a reinvented BJP would be to break the casteist and backward classes vote-banks especially in the Hindi heartland. This is possible with dedicated hard work at the grass-roots level both by BJP leaders and a rejuvenated grass-roots cadre. They could establish a separate organization within the BJP for setting up educational, health and social service facilities in backward communities to win over the hearts and minds of these deprived classes and visibly show their commitment to their upliftment even when the BJP is not in power. The senior BJP leaders should set an example by moving out of their air-conditioned rooms in New Delhi and spending a couple of weeks each year at outlying communities where such social upliftment schemes are put into action.
Finally, a re-invented BJP should not be politically apologetic about its credentials that it represents Indian nationalism and that it represents virtually a billion Hindus, only because the remainder two million Indians remain held back by fears of majorityism generated by so called secular politicians and the Communists. The re-invented BJP should both by articulation and deed should forcefully assert that the future of all Indians is safe in its hands and that it offers an alternative to dynastic rule and parties with extra-territorial loyalties.
Lastly, the BJP can only emerge as a truly powerful political force , if the RSS to which it is tied also re-invents itself. Even to all progressive Hindus the traditional RSS image of khaki half-pants, black caps and sticks seem archaic. It is not in synch with modern and progressive India. Nobody is suggesting that the RSS give up its ideology, all that is being suggested is that improve your visuals. Would ideology be comprised if RSS cadres don khaki jeans, white T-shirts and black baseball caps with RSS emblazoned on them? That would be a more acceptable sight. Further, the RSS cadres so equipped should be the first to be visible in large numbers on any disaster site to provide relief to communities.