Why BJP may emerge as single largest party in LS polls
But will the party be ready for power at that time, asks Pramod Kumar Buravalli
After a long time, I did get a chance to travel extensively across India. This was just before the Uttar Pradesh elections. The sense that one was getting from all the television channels and newspapers (before these elections) was that there would likely be a four-way split in UP and closely contested elections in the other three states (except Manipur of course!).
I was very sure that the channels were just totally wrong. I knew that it will either be a decisive victory for the Samajwadi Party (or) with the maximum number of seats the SP would form a coalition government with the Congress (post election results).
The logic was simple. It was a high stakes game.
The SP and Congress were counting on the Bharatiya Janata Party to oppose Muslim reservation in order to polarise the electorate and get a sizeable chunk of the 18 percent UP Muslim vote in their respective kitties. That is exactly what happened! The BJP opposed the reservation tooth and nail, the Congress failed to convince the UP Muslims but the SP did it right and got what it wanted!
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Image: The BJP national headquarters in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
'Uma Bharati and the OBC vote was BJP's trump card'
Now, it's an altogether different story that the SP may not be able to deliver on the promise of Muslim reservation in the near term because it does not have the blessings of United Progressive Alliance-2 to take this forward into Parliament. An already besieged Congress party will not risk the total polarisation of the Hindu vote; particularly the OBC's against it and will try its level best to let the SP promise fail! At no cost, will the Congress party want to lose both the Muslim and the residual Hindu vote.
So, we come to the BJP. A party that looks like it fell into a trap from the beginning or did it really? If one can understand the BJP and its "thinking leaders", they are not dumb. They knew from the beginning that they were under-prepared, that their leaders were busy infighting and no one could possibly mobilise the entire state electorate like AB Vajpayee used to manage earlier.
But they had a trump card! Uma Bharati and the OBC vote. Both needed time to get settled in and the BJP knew very well that 2012 state elections was not a bright prospect anyway.
They chose to play for the next general elections and let the SP/Congress and even the Bahujan Samaj Party believe that they were after the 2012 second spot. What they ended up doing was to re-energise their base against Muslim reservation, get the non-Yadav OBC's to feel the pangs of potential reservation sharing with Muslims and slowly but surely relegate the Congress party to an 'also ran' spot in the near and long term.
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Image: BJP leader Uma Bharti
'Rahul can't become leader without understanding nature of Hindutva politics'
With the Muslims firmly with the SP, there is no way the Congress will get a decent percentage of those votes in the near term. Rahul Gandhi has also scored a huge self goal by not understanding the true centrist nature of the Congress party. Having surrounded himself with a coterie of incompetent and overzealous 'Hindutva haters', Rahul has become a leader of neither this section nor that. He cannot be a leader of 1.2 billion Indians without understanding the history of Hinduism and the nature of Hindutva politics.
It is a pity for the grand old party which gave such statesmen like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and P V Narsimha Rao to end up in such a downward spiral. Although Indira Gandhi ended up being paranoiac about her aura and power, she did deliver good results; be it the Indian space program, bank nationalisation, victory in the Bangladesh war and Pokhran-1.
That leaves the only party that looks likely to benefit from all these uncertainties, the BJP. My assessment is that the world is getting tired of multi-culturalisms, secularisms et al. Conservative parties in the UK, France, Germany, Australia and many Islamic nations are making a comeback not just into limelight but into political power. Economic realities are dawning on these nations which may at some point in time blame their entire woes onto an immigrant community! How typical?
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Image: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi
'Polarisation of minority community votes will charge majority vote'
And by the way, if not for the public squabbling between the top contenders in the American Republican party, they did have a clear shot at defeating Barack Obama in the November 2012 US presidential election. But, the Republicans seem to be incoherent and inconsistent at this point and therefore the election is at an even keel as we speak.
In India, parties like the BJP with clear ideological convictions can and might emerge as the single largest party in the next general elections because of the same hard socio-economic reality that may soon hit India. Polarisation of the minority community votes will end up charging the majority vote one way or the other. In particular, if that minority is a religious minority, then for sure a party that purportedly represents the majority will reap the benefits.
How am I making this daring projection? Well, the last time Mulayam Singh Yadav was in power and he fired on the kar sevaks in Ayodhya, the party to reap the maximum benefit was the BJP!! A similar thing might happen if the SP and/or Congress press the Muslim reservation issue too hard.
The question then is; will the BJP be ready for power if they become the single largest party? Will they offer something new to the aspiring young generation that is entrenching themselves into the society today? Will their leaders stop projecting themselves for once and build consensus around a single all encompassing agenda?
That I can't predict at all. I can only pray and hope that AB Vajpayee inspires the current crop of BJP leaders to deliver a Pokhran 3, complete national river linking, bring in a Renaissance in arts/culture and most importantly usher in spectacular economic growth for India.
Image: A Muslim voter in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, shows off her voting mark
Photographs: K K Arora