The UPA government despite its innumerable scams and scandals appears hopeful of returning to power after the next general election. The reason is that it has a very strong supporter that helps it stay in power. That supporter is of course the BJP. Never in living memory has an opposition party appeared so directionless and incapable of exploiting a golden opportunity to seize power. The BJP seems oblivious of the young generation’s mood which could arguably determine the outcome of the next poll.
Consider the BJP’s poll strategy.
Earlier while assessing the poll strategy that could be adopted by the BJP through promoting Mr. Narendra Modi I had opined that the BJP would attempt to propagate a Hindutva rate of growth to supplant the Hindu rate of growth. I thought that the party would attempt to marry the constituency of a rising new generation seeking economic development with the strong nationalist constituency which was the party’s traditional vote bank. The party is attempting that but so clumsily as to make it self defeating.
Hindutva signifying strong nationalism suggested promotion of all Hindustanis under a modern nationalist approach in foreign policy. Instead the BJP has revived that ancient and stale issue of the Ram Temple. It might prove to be a costly miscalculation. The Ram Temple issue will have little appeal to the new class of voters. On the other hand in all likelihood it might alienate a substantial segment of those seeking development. Instead of marrying two constituencies, the BJP might end up by causing one to reduce the other.
The biggest weakness of the party’s poll strategy up till now is the glaring absence of the Big Idea that could reach out to the entire nation.
The government’s Food Security Bill might well be intended as a Vote Security Bill like Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi described it in parliament. It might well be riddled with flaws that would prevent its effective implementation. But it denotes at least an election strategy based upon the possible slogan Bhook Hatao so obviously modeled on Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao slogan decades earlier. That the slogan may not work is beside the point. But at least the government is attempting a holistic strategy to create a wave to encompass the entire nation.
The BJP instead has any number of talented individuals giving expression to their views that fail to create any overall party image. LK Advani, MM Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh – by no stretch of imagination does the party lack talent. But together what do they all add up to? They appear as just a bunch of articulate individuals voicing disparate opinions. There emerges no powerful collective image that might capture the voter’s imagination. There is no Big Idea. And the party’s attempt to make building of Ram Temple that idea enforced by party president Mr. Rajnath Singh’s repeated assaults on the English language and English education create a distinctly negative image for the new class of young voters.
The lack of coordination among talented individuals who lack any cohesive idea to glue them may be illustrated by just one example. Recently BJP MP Mr. Chandan Mitra addressed the Osmania University in Hyderabad. He spoke on India’s desired strategy to deal with China. In a perceptive analysis Mr. Mitra outlined an overall strategy that could address security, economy and diplomacy to counter China. It was an impressive speech that could provide a basis for the party’s policy towards China. However, while Mr. Mitra argued for curtailment of trade and investment by China, the BJP poll campaign in charge Mr. Narendra Modi is pursuing the exact opposite policy in his home state of Gujarat. To the delight of Beijing he is energetically advancing trade and investment by China in his state. So where does the party stand?
If the UPA cannot win, the BJP may not either. Going by current trends, chaos and instability await India after 2014 polls.