BJP’s indecisiveness a handicap for NDA

The BJP’s much-touted claim of the benefits of a ‘double-engine’ government stands exposed as Manipur burns with both the Centre and the state being mute spectators
Last Updated 26 July 2023, 05:40 IST

Recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) revived its National Democratic Alliance, now comprising 38 political parties. Most of these political parties are regional and politically marginal, except for a handful of parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)'s breakaway faction and the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.

The BJP's clear line of attack has usually been against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which has now given way to the Opposition alliance called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A), which BJP leaders have called an alliance of the corrupt. That said, it is important to recognise that the NDA also faces several obstacles. The greatest obstacle for the BJP-led alliance will be convincing the public that if elected back to power it will be sufficiently decisive. The Narendra Modi-led government has failed woefully to maintain decisiveness, which was expected of a second-term government after it was voted back to power with a greater mandate than 2014.

It is crucial to note that the Modi-led government has lacked decisiveness in many significant decisions. For instance, the Prime Minister repealed the three controversial farm laws without an explanation. Putting aside the discussion on the merits/demerits of the three laws, such ambivalence raises questions about the government’s true intent, foresight, and planning. The BJP-led government was similarly indecisive on other issues, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). However, it has taken the government over four years to design the rules and notify the public.

In Manipur, the BJP’s indecisiveness is on full display. Despite extensive discussions, the party has failed to hold its Chief Minister accountable for the violence and bloodshed. It is regrettable that it took a disturbing, violent video of unspeakable atrocities against women for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak, albeit very briefly, on the dreadful state of affairs in Manipur. Similarly, the ruling party or the government did not show solidarity with the protesting female wrestlers, who alleged that BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh sexually abused many wrestlers. The BJP did not remove Singh from any position and did not issue a public statement against him. A few weeks ago, the saffron party reinitiated its push for a Uniform Civil Code, but till date has not come out with a draft giving an outline of what it intends to unify.

The BJP’s obdurate stance on the violence in Manipur and the wrestler protest exemplifies its arrogance. Despite repeated requests from Opposition parties, the BJP is not yet convinced that the Prime Minister should address the Manipur issue in Parliament. In a democracy as extensive as India's, such a display of arrogance is deplorable. These problems also indicate a lack of decisiveness at the regional level, indicating that the party's leadership is struggling to maintain control. This emphasises the potential repercussions of the centralisation of power, which appears to be backfiring. It appears that the BJP is ignoring signals of indecisiveness and instilling the belief that the party can win elections with the aid of Modi's image and charisma. Recent losses in Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh have demonstrated that this approach must be abandoned, and that Modi alone cannot win state elections for the BJP.

At this juncture, the BJP must recognise that regardless of the significance of these 38 political parties, when an alliance is formed, as the largest stakeholder, it will be required to uphold these parties' expectations. Currently, it will be difficult for these smaller parties within the NDA to persuade the public that they have joined forces with the BJP government at the Centre is decisive and has a clear vision about India’s future. The BJP’s much-touted claim of the benefits of a ‘double-engine’ government stands exposed as Manipur continues to burn with both the Union and state governments unable to control the situation.

The BJP has shown decisiveness in its persistent attacks on Opposition leaders across India via central investigation agencies. Similarly, the BJP has been decisive in limiting the democratic rights and autonomy of state governments by interfering in governance-related issues through governors, or by introducing ordinances, as it did in Delhi.

The BJP’s allies in the NDA will confront a formidable challenge when discussing the government's failed promises and decisions that have been withdrawn. The 38 parties in the NDA Ultimately, the NDA will have to rely on the image of Prime Minister Modi. But the question remains: how long will the BJP continue to contest elections solely on Modi's strength? The BJP and NDA must realise that when people elect a government with such a large majority, they expect decisiveness, not volatility.

(Sayantan Ghosh is visiting professor of journalism at St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata. Twitter: @sayantan_gh.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

(Published 26 July 2023, 05:40 IST)

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