BJP's unease

Ever since its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections the BJP has been trying to discover what and where it went wrong, and it has not found any conclusive answers. Unlike in the case of other parties, the real questioning and search are made outside the party, by the ideology-driven men of the RSS. But the diagnosis and prescriptions of the RSS are predictable and the BJP, after so many years in mass politics, may not be in a position to accept them entirely. But the party is in a serious crisis. The results have set back its parliamentary strength by 20 years. It means that the gains it made by invoking the Hindutva line or by aligning with many regional parties have all vanished. Even though many of its steadfast allies had left it on the eve of the elections, the party had hoped to make it back to power. But the results showed cracks even in its strongholds and naturally the leadership and the strategy are under re-examination.

The party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, L K Advani, had announced his decision to resign his position as the leader in the Lok Sabha. He has been persuaded to continue, with Sushma Swaraj to help him as his deputy. Arun Jaitley will be the leader in the Rajya Sabha. Neither of them has a mass base and belong to the Advani group which is considered to be moderate. Does it mean that the party will eschew any hardline ideological positions in future? It does not,  because  a strong view within the party and of course within the RSS is that it lost out because of the dilution of its core  positions and identity. The party president and leaders like Narendra Modi share this view. The differences in perception are unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

The problem is characteristic to all ideology-based parties working in a changing  environment, like even the CPM. If they  compromise on their ideology, they lose their support base and surround themselves with unreliable and opportunistic allies. If they do not, they cannot grow beyond a limited base which is not enough to ensure power in a big and diverse country. The realisation of this hard choice actually forces hypocrisy and double standards on its leaders and this lowers the credibility of the party. The positioning of the Congress as a pro-poor and youth-oriented party is another challenge. The old order has changed for the party, but it is groping for the new. There is no easy escape from this uneasy situation.

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