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Home > News > Columnists > Arvind Lavakare

The BJP's paralysis

October 11, 2005

Political democracy may well be witnessing a historical rarity in New Delhi. The biggest friend of the ruling coalition of assorted flavours is acting as the biggest foe of the treasury benches while the real foe is playing the mere bystander, quibbling and quarrelling with itself.

It is novel, really, that the UPA government, led by the Congress with 145 elected representatives, is being ceaselessly whip-lashed by 60-odd Communists exerting power without accountability, while the BJP is not playing its assigned role despite having 138 members sitting on the Opposition benches.

The last is a statistic which the BJP seems to have forgotten. It has not even embarrassed the UPA in the public eye on any issue in the 17 months since losing the reins of government.

The BJP's identity crisis

Instead, it has shamelessly stayed away from several debates in Parliament or merely issued whimpering press statements; homework, analysis and concern for those who voted for it have been absent from its role as the leading Opposition entity in the august house of our democracy.

Apart from refusing to fight certain steep income tax provisions in the last Budget, it has even let the NGO called the National Advisory Council function as the de facto government organisation without the semblance of a resistance.

As bad, if not worse, the BJP has forgotten that where national interest is paramount, as in winding up of loss making PSUs, the Opposition must back the government.

All this has happened because the BJP has forgotten that brainstorming sessions, of which it perhaps has had one too many, must produce a definite plan of action. The BJP has been truly paralysed -- except in creating and aggravating internal squabbles and controversies.

This paralysis may well have been brought about by the confusion that seized the top BJP leadership when the 2004 Lok Sabha polls came along. And that confusion may well have been induced by a leftist infiltrator in the highest echelons of the party.

The thought had thus been planted in the 2004 election campaign that the Hindu vote alone would never bring the BJP to power again, and that Muslims had to be won over, come what may. Hence, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's crassly communal carrots such as the promise of 200,000 Urdu teachers that earned the backing of the Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid.

Hence too Advani's discovery of June last that Jinnah was secular and his wish that the BJP forsook its 'hate Muslim' image.

The BJP crisis

The obverse ideological viewpoint never seemed to have struck the BJP's top two. It didn't strike them that a large percentage may well have swung the BJP way were it to promise such measures as:

  1. A subsidy for major Hindu pilgrimages
  2. A law for preventing government from taking over temple managements, for use of temple offerings for their improvement and for social welfare of the neighbouring community instead of being appropriated by the government, for laying down rules of running a temple
  3. A law allowing the majority community to establish and administer educational institutions
  4. Financial aid to Hindu Vedic schools
  5. Determining the wage structure of temple priests on the basis of gradation of temples

The BJP's partners in the NDA would have approved the above measures because all of them are as secular as

  1. The government subsidy for Haj
  2. The central government's financial aid to madrassas
  3. The right of minority religions to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30 of our Constitution
  4. The Supreme Court's order of February 1993 to the Union government and Waqf Boards to determine base wages of the Imams of different types of mosques
  5. The Punjab state government spending, under a 1925 Sikh Gurudwara Act, hundreds of thousands of rupees for conducting elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee that runs Akali politics.

It did not strike the ideological thinkers of the BJP in 2004, and it does not strike them today, that Bofors is not the only corruption that the Indian people detest and want to purge from national life. Every Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Jew on the street would have swung to the BJP if they had been guaranteed, come what may --

  1. Abolition of the legal provision that requires government's permission to prosecute a minister and certain government officials on corruption charges
  2. Fast track courts for corruption cases without provision for more than one adjournment
  3. Denial of bail in corruption cases
  4. Much stricter punishment than the maximum of five years imprisonment stipulated in the existing Prevention of Corruption Act
  5. No acquittal merely because of existence of a 'reasonable doubt'

It did not strike the BJP thinkers in 2004, and it does not strike them now, that the Indian people like their rulers to live a simple lifestyle and be prepared to make sacrifices for the nation's cause.

A cell phone, a bullet-proof automobile, bodyguards -- that is not what the Hindu, the Muslim, the Christian, the Parsi and the Jew of India object in their ministers; what all of them dislike is the ministers' sprawling bungalows, their plush offices, their cavalcade of air conditioned cars and their multifaceted freebies. A manifest promise to do away with all such ostentation is indeed a necessity now.

A corollary of the above would be the elected representatives' willingness to make sacrifices. Let the BJP be bold enough to publicly declare that, with immediate effect,

  1. Each of its members of Parliament will forego his/her travelling allowance and dearness allowance for the day on which the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha adjourns without conducting any business
  2. Each of its MPs will donate 5 per cent of his/her annual salary to the PM's National Relief Fund and another 5 per cent to the party's coffers
  3. Each of its past or present MPs drawing pension from the government on account of completing his/her stipulated parliamentary tenure will make similar donations from that pension.

Let the BJP make that announcement and enforce its implementation, and see the effect on the public.

But the BJP doesn't seem to be thinking of innovations of the kind mentioned in this article. Instead, it's just too confused as to why exactly it lost out in May 2004. It's so confused that it appears to be having doubts about the economic policy it undertook when in power, and suspects that it lost because, as several critics alleged, it neglected agriculture, rural employment and rural poverty.

The BJP doesn't seem to have read the view of that astute economic analyst, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, editor of The Economic Times, who wrote in his column of June 9, 2004, 'These armchair conclusions are contradicted by national data on poverty and state-wise voting trends (poor, rural states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa voted overwhelmingly for the NDA.)'

The BJP remains confused despite several brainstorming meetings among its leaders. It may well have found the answer as to why it was defeated in 2004 by canvassing a pinpointed questionnaire on a random sample basis in those states where it lost heavily, such as in UP and Tamil Nadu. Instead, money was lavished on internal conclaves. That may well be the BJP's real problem: refusal to go to the common man's level and ascertain his views.

Arvind Lavakare

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Number of User Comments: 8

Sub: BJP Prgram

Arvind Lavakare has analysed the situation correctly. Well written article. BJP and its allies are still smarting under the 'unexpected loss of power' . It ...

Posted by Shashi Damle

Sub: Good suggestions

Good suggestions for positive consideration by the BJP's and even NDA's think-tank, i.e, if they have a think-tank.

Posted by subbaraman

Sub: Good analysis

Arvind, You have out things in the right perspective.It is not all that difficult to sway the masses.The BJP was once seen as a down ...

Posted by avdinewsreader

Sub: Hmmm... blalblah..

Pointless, convoluted, meanderings of a confused soul.. Pique's wanton display..Advocacy of a lost cause..

Posted by augustus

Sub: Very well thought

Just what the BJP needs. Unfortunately, politicians dont learn. I'm surprised that even after 2 years, the BJP hasn't come out of it's loss in ...

Posted by Rajeev



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