The General Elections 2009 have ushered in the Congress Government with a convincing margin. The Indian electorate does not inflict 'victory' or 'defeat' on political parties and hence election results should not be seen in that light. The Indian electorate through the General Elections exercises its political preference for a political party which it feels is best suited at a given time to provide the type of governance the mood in the country is looking for. Obviously, the BJP failed to capture the imagination of the Indian electorate. There was no political wave in favor of any political party in the run-up to the General Elections and yet the Indian electorate gave a convincing lead to the Congress Party. The BJP as the major Opposition Party therefore needs serious introspection. It also needs some brutally honest 'Plainspeaking' from those like this Columnist who have been observing it and commenting all along.
The BJP had these results coming to it as my observations for over a year through this Column were pointing out. I would like to begin with the latest Column first and then go down the line.
- BJP Lacks Political Passion and Conviction (September 2008)
The main refrain in this Column was 'The BJP can hardly expect to win the next General Elections until it breaks out of its Congressified fossil shell. The BJP leaders need to add vehement passion and conviction to galvanize the people of India..'
- India's General Elections 2009 : The Run-Up (May 11, 2008)
The main observation made was 'The BJP has not fully got into a proactive election mode. With just a year left in the run-up the BJP as the main Opposition Party should have been a beehive of political activity especially in States which it intends to recapture from the Congress and those whose loss in the last General Elections led to its exit from power'
- BJP Needs to Energize Itself (February 10, 2008)
It stood pointed out that 'The BJP, if it seriously wishes to wrest power from the Congress Party and its coalition partners has to do much to energize itself than just naming a Prime Ministerial candidate.' Also outlined were a 11-point program that the BJP should adopt to move ahead.
Before one begins to do a bit of plainspeak, it needs to be said that the BJP failed to energize itself organizationally for the General Elections. The sole responsibility should have been that of the BJP President and he signally failed in that responsibility.
Moving to some major flaws noticed, the following needs to be highlighted:
- Other than Shri Arun Jaitley, Shri Ravi Shanker Prasad Singh and of course Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi no one else campaigned vigorously for Shri L K Advani. This is a shame.
- Shri Advani therefore was virtually alone to spearhead the BJP election campaign. It was a lonely fight for him and one can say in a sense the BJP betrayed him.
- The RSS leaders and cadres who pretend to dominate the BJP were nowhere on the election campaign scene to provide a support system. The BJP needs to politically disconnect itself from the RSS.
- The election strategy was totally wrong. Dr Manmohan Singh need not have been targeted. The Congress Party should have been targeted for its dismal national security record and for its flawed counter-terrorism record. That would have made more sense for the people of India.
- The BJP should realize that the Indian Muslims will never ever vote for BJP in elections. They will resort to tactical block voting to defeat the BJP. To counter this effect the BJP rather than trying to win them over has to devise strategies to see that this block voting is fragmented in elections to its advantage.
- Post- election results, the BJP leaders including Shri Advani looked as they were at a condolence meeting mourning the demise of some loved one. There was no resilience and a projection of determination and resolve that the BJP was alive and kicking and would live to fight another day.
- The BJP top leadership is too elderly and projects the image of a 'pensioners club' rather than a young and audacious group of people looking fit to lead a resurgent young India.
- the BJP campaign started vigorously but towards the end it petered out and the Congress campaign on TV became more stronger and effective.
- The BJP needs to dispense with its various think tanks and cells comprising retired top administrators, diplomats and military officers. They seemed to be not in touch with the public mood and could not advise the BJP leadership realistically.
- In the process of Congressification of the BJP, the strength in terms of committed party cadres has virtually become extinct. They need to be revived.
Having said what was noticeably wrong one would now like to make some recommendations:
- The Party President should take moral responsibility for not energizing the BJP organizationally for elections and should therefore resign.
- The entire lot of BJP leaders over 60 years of age should be ruled out for consideration as Party President or future Prime Ministerial candidate of the Party.
- The youth wing of the Party should be overhauled, leadership changed and staffed by a top cadre of young and modern faces of a progressive India
- In BJP ruled States young political leaders be inducted straightaway as Cabinet Ministers so that some of them can make a mark by the time the next General Elections come
- The BJP public relations team be revamped with more presentable and dynamic faces
- States which need to be targeted to reclaim power should receive active attention straightaway. The States machinery should be revamped and tasked to plan their election campaign straightaway.
- Organizationally, task forces at the central level be constituted straightaway to plan, prepare and launch vigorous drives geared to fight the next General Elections.
In short, the BJP needs to reinvent itself in the mould and image of what the overwhelming young generation of modern India desires for after all it is their electoral preferences that would count in the next General Election again.