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Analysis: Why the BJP is fast losing the plot

Last updated on: July 7, 2011 17:08 IST

Analysis: Why the BJP is fast losing the plot

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

Even as the UPA is struggling for credibility and ways to fight corruption, the BJP is merely waiting in the wings hoping to earn votes by default. But that is not likely to happen, says Sheela Bhatt.

Which are the headlines dominating the news today?

  • Rahul Gandhi's padyatra in the villages of Uttar Pradesh. This time his tour is not as sharply ridiculed by his critics as his earlier visits to Dalit homes.
  • Murli Deora, corporate affairs minister in the United Progressive Alliance government, has offered to resign because the government doesn't want one more Cabinet minister facing prosecution.
  • When Deora was the minister for petroleum and natural gas he had come under a cloud for the way he dealt with Reliance Industries and accepted their figures of capital expenditure for exploration of the Kaveri-Godavari basin's offshore drilling.
  • The recent Comptroller and Auditor General report has raised serious doubts against the ministry when Deora was heading it.

Union Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran resigned on Thursday, because a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry was getting closer to him.

On Wednesday, the CBI officially admitted before the Supreme Court that Maran is under its scanner. The allegation is that Maran forced Aircel founder C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in his company.

Maran has denied the charge but Sivasankaran has given the CBI documentary evidence for six charges out of eight.

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Image: Corporate Affairs Minister Murli Deora

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'Do you think judges live in a fools' paradise?'

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An important case in the Supreme Court regarding the dubious and antique Land Acquisition Act that allows the government to acquire land from farmers in the name of public good.

On Tuesday, Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said something that should hold everyone's attention.

The issue before the bench was that in Greater Noida, the government acquired land from farmers cheaply and then gave it to builders with dubious conditions, suggesting corruption.

The builders and developers started building flats and dream houses and spent crores on advertising using film and sports stars. The land was given to builders by accepting around 10 percent of the value of the land. The government's condition was that the builders would pay off the rest in 10 installments over 10 years.

Only then would they own the land. So thousands of middle-class investors bought flats on land which was not 'owned' by the builders.

The Allahabad high court then quashed the notifications for land acquisition in Greater Noida. That was shocking for the builders, but more so for the investors who had bought flats in the various housing schemes.

The Hindu has reported that when senior counsel P P Rao, appearing for one of the builders, said residential complexes were being constructed for the needy, Justice Ganguly asked, "Do you think judges live in a fool's paradise? Look at your own brochure. It says facilities include swimming pool, spa, tennis court, badminton court, beauty parlour, Ayurvedic massage, etc.

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Image: Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida

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'The state is doing a totally anti-people thing'

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Are these for poor people? Land is given for development which must be inclusive. The State is taking advantage of the law and using it against the poor. The State is doing a totally anti-people thing."

Justice Ganguly, further, said: "The purpose of land acquisition is being defeated. The poorest man in society should benefit in the public interest but you [the State] are responding in such a way that the poor are driven out."

The allegation is that the Mayawati government had, in 11 days flat, changed the 'land use' to benefit builders.

Justice Ganguly said, "What farmers get are lathis and litigation. Men are arrested and women are raped. In the name of globalisation, poor people are being marginalised; why are terrorist activities increasing? Why are so many people committing suicide?" he said.

"They are pushed to the wall. The Land Acquisition Act has become an engine for oppression of the common man. You [State] have virtually demolished every area for the benefit of a particular society for which you work," he said.

"There is greater danger to society. They take to crime. Once you take away land, you deprive the next five generation of farmers of their livelihood,"  he added.

J Venkatesan's report in The Hindu of the court proceedings suggests that Rahul Gandhi's walk through villages may accrue political benefit to him because, obviously, the issue of 'land' is crucial for farmers in UP.

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Image: The allegation is that the Mayawati government had, in 11 days flat, changed the 'land use' so that builders could be benefited

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Some MPs think that the judiciary is crossing the limits

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But, in all above 'newsbreaks' what is commonly missing is India's principal opposition party.

The UPA is struggling for credibility and ways to fight the menace of corruption but the Bharatiya Janata Party is merely waiting in the wings to earn votes by default.

Jaswant Singh, senior BJP leader and member of Parliament, has spoken up against the court's decision to jail 2G spectrum accused and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Kanimozhi.

Maybe Singh is expressing the feeling of many MPs who privately think that the judiciary is 'crossing the limits' in handling of the accused in the 2G spectrum scam.

The legal issue of the arrest of Kanimozhi, however important, is a small technical issue of who should get bail and who should be jailed. What Singh has overlooked, like the Congress party, is that his own, his party's and nation's focus has to remain on the unholy partnership of private players in the telecom industry and the telecommunications ministry to make big bucks at the cost of the exchequer.

Surely, Singh's political act of speaking out for Kanimozhi is not his party's voice.

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Image: DMK MP Kanimozhi

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If the Lokpal Bill comes, Team Hazare will largely get the credit

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But the fact remains that on the front pages of newspapers and elsewhere in the public space, since the last many months, the judiciary, the court cases, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have captured the popular attention and the BJP is nowhere on the scene.

This has happened only because the BJP has failed to make clear its stand on the issue of corruption. They have not presented any road map to curb it.

Many BJP leaders think platitudes on corruption is politics. For many New Delhi-based leaders, political activism is all about screaming on television.

If and when the Lokpal bill comes into being, a large part of the credit for it will go to Anna Hazare and his team. Whether the Congress party will get credit or not will depend on its politics in the coming months. But, in all likelihood, its current draft suggests that they will lose more credibility over the issue.

In the coming two years, one wishes the BJP will not become a party that stands for nothing and take on the issues of Hindutva, corruption, environmentalism, or land rights of poor farmers.

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Image: Social activist Anna Hazare with yoga guru Baba Ramdev

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The BJP has simply missed the bus in the last seven years

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The BJP didn't start any pan-Uttar Pradesh agitation against Mayawati. The BJP didn't fight the Left's party politics in West Bengal or Kerala. The party has simply resigned itself to the pulls and pressures of electoral politics.

It has no ambition to begin somewhere in the states where it can make a difference in the future. As a result, in the last round of assembly elections in five states, they got four seats out of 850 plus seats.

The BJP remains divided as ever even in Uttar Pradesh.

The issue of 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games and the Congress's criminally slow response to these scams have not been exposed by the BJP but by the judiciary, civil society and media, in that order.

The BJP has simply missed the bus in the last seven years. Surely, there have been bright sparks in taking up issues in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Yes, L K Advani did speak about bringing back black money from tax havens abroad in 2008-09 but somehow it didn't strike a chord with the people till the Supreme Court took up these cases.

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Image: Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani

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Gadkari's mission has failed in doing genuine patchwork

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A senior editor, working for a widely-read daily in New Delhi, says, "It seems that in a certain sections of the BJP there is a secret admiration for the Congress party and the manner in which its party president Sonia Gandhi is handling senior leaders." 

At the national level, the BJP is leaderless. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's experiment of foisting Nitin Gadkari's leadership is failing.

The BJP's loyalists and its cadre want Gadkari to cement the differences among the top leadership so that in the coming six months they can start warming up for the 2014 general elections.

Gadkari has only managed to see that mediocre intra-party quarrels do not reach the media frequently. However, the way Sushma Swaraj tweets and the way she roars in an interview to Outlook suggests that Gadkari's mission has failed in doing genuine patchwork.

He should have moved the party to decide on a consensual leader to take on a weakening Congress.

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Image: BJP chief Nitin Gadkari
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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Is the BJP not sensitive to corruption in public places?

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After the exit of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and with Advani's receding influence, the BJP show lacks punch.

The way Swaraj has disowned the Reddy brothers (the controversial mining barons of Karnataka), the way she has passed the buck for the Karnataka fiasco to Arun Jaitley suggests that the BJP has just delayed the simmering discontent from being played out before television cameras.

Karnataka is Gadkari's major failure. It tells us that the BJP is not sensitive to corruption in public places. Gadkari's repeated attempts to imply before television cameras that Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa giving away precious land to his family members is just immoral and not illegal have not done the party any good.

Now that the government, with the covert help of the BJP and other political parties, has trashed the Jan Lokpal bill and sidelined Anna Hazare and his team, there are increasing signals that the BJP's views on Team Anna and its mission may not be radically different from the Congress's own.

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Image: Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa

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Where is the BJP leader who will define his party's cause to young India?

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On many issues, it is emerging that the BJP has no original stand. Is just giving 'reactions' to scams and follies of the government real politics?

It is a party that seems incapable of taking a pan-India political initiative to impress young voters. It reacts to the erroneous agenda of the Congress party, it follows the media and is beaten by regional parties in understanding caste politics. BJP-ruled state chief ministers are like independent satraps who don't care for their head office in New Delhi.

The BJP is in danger of getting reduced to become, as real estate dealers say in their advertisements, 'a gated community'.

Saying all this is not to trivialise or overlook the BJP's appeal or potential. But there is also no guarantee that the urban middle class, whose sentiments support the strict stand of the Indian judiciary against the government and who are silently agitating against price rise and identifying with people like Anna Hazare, would vote for the BJP in droves.

Neither can the BJP think it will somehow appropriate the anti-UPA sentiments in its favour without spelling out what it stands for.

V P Singh's rebellion against his party, on an anti-corruption plank, won the day because he stood up and spelt out his cause.

Where is the BJP leader who will define his own and his party's cause to young India?

Unfortunately, the BJP doesn't have any stand even on that.


Image: BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, LK Advani and Nitin Gadkari at a protest
Photographs: Reuters
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