Change in ethos, purpose cost BJP dear

Change in ethos, purpose cost BJP dear

 As the party, which changed the country’s political discourse in the last decade of the previous century by its Hindutva brand of politics, struggles to find its feet in the 21st with back-to-back electoral setbacks beginning in 2004, there is clear and inexorable erosion in its real identity. The BJP, which prided itself as a “party with a difference”, could not escape charges of “congressisation” and “corporatisation” that are anathema to to the spartan political life advocated by the RSS — the parent organisation.

The saffron party’s transition from an opposition party to a party in power came at the cost of its original political agenda and the organisational cohesion and dynamism. A constant shifting and shuffling of the main issues like Ram Temple by the party leaders affected the morale of the cadre which remained confused on “the real agenda” of the BJP. 

The dilemma of its committed voters increased manifold when veteran party leader L K Advani, who spent a lifetime cultivating the “hardline image”, sought to embrace “a second identity” in an image makeover bid during his controversial Pakistan visit in 2005.
No wonder, soon after the trends became clear on Saturday afternoon, BJP president Rajnath Singh and a few other senior leaders rubbed it in by commenting that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s absence was felt by the party during the poll.

The three political experiments and power sharing with the BSP in UP had cost the BJP the loyalty of its upper caste vote bank which drifted towards Mayawati in the May 2007 UP Assembly polls. The seemingly neglected upper castes were given pride of their place in the BSP’s party-organisation.

The upper castes along with dalits and Muslims now seemed to be flocking back to the Congress fold  in UP where it has performed unexpectedly well. The Congress’ impressive performance has matched that of the BSP and the SP.

The BJP’s short term objectives to grab power eroded its voter base in UP which returns 80 MPs to Parliament. It has always remained divided over a tie-up with the BSP, with Rajnath Singh opposing proximity to Mayawati and advocating that the party should plough its furrow alone. As against this, a day before Advani was keen to bring the BSP on board in the eventuality of the NDA making a bid for power at the Centre.

Apart from the change in campaign tactics, which witnessed a major shift from a high decibel “India Shinning” in 2004 to a low-key and matter-of-fact conduct of  electioneering this time, the BJP could not evolve a positive campaign with the “weak Prime Minister” plank not striking a chord among the voters.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi “towering over” the Prime Ministerial candidate towards the end of electioneering, sent mixed signals to the electorate and apparently “diminished” Advani’s stature.  The results in Gujarat, where the BJP bagged 15 seats (one  more than in 2004) as against 11 of the Congress, do not reflect a “Modi wave” in his home state as was made out by his supporters.