Millennium Post

Modi, no chanting please!

The meetings of the national executive and the national council of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) concluded last weekend in the national Capital. Spread over three days, it could at best be termed as lacklustre affair insofar as gathering media attention goes. In fact it managed front page only on Monday morning thanks to Sunday being damp day news-wise.

In the matter of delivery and news worthiness, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the convention of the delegates of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) two days was much better than that of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Poor Rahul, his share in the media limelight got shrunk due to the death of Suanda Pushkar, the wife of high profile Congress minister Shahsi Tharoor.

Modi too had planned some media coverage for himself on Friday, the day of Congress convention, addressing Cybermedia ICT Business Awards conclave. However, to the disgust of his publicity planner, news of Sunanda Puskar’s death started to break on the television channels around the same time Modi’s ‘vision’ on Science and IT was being unveiled. This incident should have given a common lesson to both messrs Modi and Gandhi that at times planned events could go awry in face of unforeseen circumstances. There is no denying the fact that in the upcoming polls, between the Congress and the BJP, it’s Narendra Modi’s party which is on the upswing. But at the same time, party veteran Lal Krishna Advani rightly cautioned at the meeting saying, ‘We lost 2004 elections because we had become over confident. This Lok Sabha elections, we have to ensure that we do not become over confident and fight the elections with only with confidence.’ Congress, despite being down in confidence as of now, is no meek adversary. In fact an adversary becomes tougher to handle if it adopts unconventional means to get better of the protagonist. BJP’s failure to get majority in the national Capital in the recent assembly polls gives credence to the view point that Congress has a strategy in place to counter BJP’s ascendance on the urban seats.

There are 201 urban Lok Sabha seats. In the 2009 polls, the Congress dented BJP’s natural support base on these seats. Malgovernance and corruption within United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II is perceived to have hit Congress support base maximum on these seats. In the natural course these votes should have shifted to the BJP. However, that is something which did not happen in Delhi. In the national Capital, where the Congress lost 15.8 per cent of votes but BJP did not gain anything but lost around 3.4 per cent compared to their 2008 vote share. According to a CSDS survey, AAP snatched of 31.34 per cent of Congress votes, 28.6 of BSP, 22.4 per cent  of BJP and 35.9 per cent  votes of others while BJP managed to get 18.3 per cent of Congress, 21.4 per cent of BSP and 30 per cent of others vote. This shows that it was AAP which decimated Congress, BSP and others and not the BJP.

Though it would be difficult to replicate this model in every urban centre of the country, its implementation by AAP strategists in fertile areas would definitely harm the chances of the advancement of Narendra Modi’s cavalcade towards the prime minister’s house. The question which should arise is – what’s it that the BJP lacks, on which the AAP gains?

BJP in the past few years has produced a leadership which has been unable to launch effective public agitations. In the absence of any visible enthusiasm among the BJP leaders to agitate for legitimate public demands, the cadres too have withered. On the top of it several senior leaders in the party decided to outsource the space of opposition to Anna Hazare’s movement. This in the bargain has, especially in the national Capital, seen a visible shift in the BJP cadres to the AAP fold. Though there are theories floating that a large number of those who voted for the AAP in the assembly elections in Delhi could vote for the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the national Capital. It would be presumptuous for the BJP to work on this assumption and wait for the tide to turn their way. AAP has made it clear in so many words that it has no love lost for the BJP and that it considers it a greater and bigger opponent than the Congress.

Today the AAP brass is dominated by people who have all their life pursued a political line and ideological discourse which would be anathema for the policies followed by the BJP. The stand that they have on Jammu and Kashmir and Maoist movement in several states naturally cannot have them and the BJP on the same page. Under these circumstances AAP will remain an adversary to the BJP and that to a bitter one, at least in the public arena.

The challenge before the BJP leadership, especially Narendra Modi, is not just to enumerate policies for a global India but also at the same time encourage and enthuse the party cadres in the urban areas to recover lost dominance in public arena. BJP in Delhi will have to play an aggressive role as opposition taking on Arvind Kejriwal’s cadres man for man and woman for woman. If the BJP fails to do so, it would be at its own peril.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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