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BJP failed due to problems within

BJP failed due to problems within

Author: A. Surya Prakash
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 20, 2009.
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/177181/BJP-failed-due-to-problems-within.html

Verdict 2009 is in and the people have renewed the mandate for the Congress-led UPA in an unambiguous manner. Although the alliance has marginally fallen short of the magical 272 needed for a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, the massive increase in the strength of the Congress in the House and the 100-seat lead that the UPA has secured over the NDA headed by the BJP has left no scope for speculation on who the winner is. It has also squashed the ambitions of many bit players who have been playing a disruptive role in national politics and put out of business many wheeler-dealers who were waiting for May 16 to make a killing.

The results indicate a grand revival of the fortunes of at least one national party. Second, the Congress it appears enjoys far greater credibility than the BJP among voters. And, finally, the clout of the Communists in national affairs, which has been grossly disproportionate to their known sources of electoral support, has been substantially reduced.

As regards the rout of the BJP and its alliance, the truth is that the voters saw the Congress as the more credible alternative. The BJP could not have had a more conducive environment to trounce the ruling coalition. The country witnessed the most horrific and audacious terrorist assault when 10 fidayeen held Mumbai and the nation to ransom last November; the people have been groaning under inflation and economic slowdown; despite mounting scandals and charges of corruption against some Ministers, the Prime Minister remained helpless; the Government seemed paralysed when it came to joining the global movement against secrecy rules in Swiss banks; and, the Prime Minister gifted away $ 7.3 million to a fugitive called Ottavio Quattrocchi by unlocking his bank accounts in the UK apart from ensuring that this Italian friend of the Gandhis was taken off the Interpol list.

Even a couple of these issues would have been enough for an Opposition party to exploit in an election, but as the results have shown, that was not to be. The BJP appeared to be meandering and floundering throughout the two-month-long campaign. It raised these issues no doubt, but failed to connect with the voters. Equally disappointing was the party's performance on the coalition meter. Several of its partners were ready to ditch it around election time. Several others are packing their bags after the election results came in. This says a lot for the political wisdom of the BJP's top brass.

Here are some disturbing statistics for BJP sympathisers: The party polled 86.40 million votes as against 103 million votes polled by the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections held in 1999. In 2004, the party secured 22.16 per cent of the votes as against the Congress's 26.53 per cent.

Far from widening its base, the party's vote-share has certainly shrunk in this election. First indications are that the BJP has got just 19 per cent of the 400 million votes cast in this election, which means the total votes in its kitty has dropped by 10 million. The Congress's vote-share, on the other hand, has risen by at least three per cent, which means the difference in the vote-share of the two parties has increased from just over 16 million in 2004 to a staggering 34 million in 2009.

Why did the BJP fare so badly? The reasons are many, but here are a few. The first of these is that there is no indication that the party has learnt even a single lesson from its crushing defeat in 2004. There was no credibility in anything that the party said, be it on terrorism, corruption or relations with the US. Having released dreaded terrorists during the Kandahar crisis, it did not lie in the BJP's mouth to attack the Manmohan Singh Government on 26/11. That is why the party could not convert even 26/11 into votes.

Nor could the BJP encash the corruption of UPA Ministers: Of the 15 scamster MPs caught on tape taking cash to ask questions or sanction projects under the MPLADS Scheme, eight were from the BJP. This party also has the distinction of having an MP who was found involved in human trafficking. He was smuggling people into Canada on passports given to members of his family! The list is endless

Indiscipline at the top, with many leaders pursuing their own personal agendas at the cost of the party and the larger movement to which they belong, is yet another factor. Fourth, some of the most arrogant and conceited politicians can be found in this party. They lack the humility to listen to others and they are beyond learning. Last, there is no party high command, as in the Congress or the CPI(M), and therefore many party leaders are answerable to no one and are beyond party discipline.

Is the BJP capable of sincere introspection and course correction? Given the party's track record post-2004, I would not put my money on this.

The other significant outcome is the marginalisation of the Left. Electoral data shows that in recent times the vote-share of the two Communist parties - the CPI(M) and the CPI - has hovered around seven per cent. In 2004, the CPI (M) secured 5.66 per cent and the CPI got 1.41 per cent of the votes.

But, as all television viewers and newspaper readers know, this is inversely proportional to their media presence. Communists and their sympathisers in the media have always ensured a disproportionate media presence for them and this has beguiled leaders of these parties into thinking that the entire country is at their command.

If you just go by the airtime taken by CPI leader D Raja and listen to his shrill injunctions and threats, you are certain to forget that you live in a vibrant democracy. You will probably think that you are caught in the midst of an ideological battle between two strands of Communism in a totalitarian state. Those who wish to see an end to the era of lopsided media presence of Communists will certainly hope that the Lok Sabha election results will have a salutary effect on dispensers of media space, and TV viewers will be spared the spurious lectures on democracy by Mr 1.41 per cent!

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