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VERDICT 2004 -Will BJP bounce back?

Paper No.1027                                  14.06.2004

by R. Upadhyay 

Despite the on going debate on the dismal performance of the BJP in 14th Lok Sabha election, the Party is still occupying a dominant space in Indian political scene. The sole agenda of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government led by the Congress is to ensure that the BJP does not bounce back. Being a coalition of caste, communal and sectarian alliances, the UPA is also a loose federation of unprincipled groups that do not have any ideological orientation. This weakness of the UPA however is the strength of the BJP.

Indian people are destined to the natural and political calamity and the outcome of electoral verdict 2004 is part of that destiny. Bharat was re-born on August 15, 1947 after one thousand years of its slavery. The first linen wrapped to this re-born baby was - "India that is Bharat is a union of states". However, this new incarnation of Bharat is still suffering from the challenges of political calamities, which it has been facing since the days it became Hindusthan and India.

Partition of the country was a defeat of one-nation ideology at the hands of two-nation theory of the All India Muslim League. Against this non-ideological orientation of political parties the BJS (Now BJP) was born in 1951 as a movement for shaping the political fate of India with a view to re-establish its one-nation ideology. With an avowed objective to fill up the ideological vacuum created by the culturally aliened rulers during their one thousand years of rule the movement was basically against the Nehruvian tradition of secularism. The political goal of the BJP was therefore, to revive the socio-political and cultural resurgence of a vibrant Bharat Khand in Jambu-Dweep (Asia).

Even though, different regional kings with expansionist political ambitions ruled Bharat, the sub-continent was a culturally united nation, which in the political jargon of the BJP is called cultural nationalism. Since the common voters are ignorant of this subtle ideology, the BJP simplified it by giving it the name of  Hindutva, which is denounced by its political rivals as communal ideology. Calling such ideology as anti-Muslim, Nehruvian secularists raised a war cry against it with the sole objective to isolate the second largest religious group of the country from the BJP. Against this ideological war when the BJP led coalition Government was voted to power in 1999 people expected this party to move in the direction to achieve its ideological objective. But when the BJP was found deviating from ideology-centric politics to power-centric politics, the voters expressed their anger in the form of a fractured mandate.

The challenge of electoral maladies, the country is facing today is all due to power-centric politics, which hardly serves the democratic aspirations of the people. The political parties and the institutions that took  command of Bharat after Independence had no ideological orientation to the civilisational ethos of this ancient land. They accepted the Nehruvian concept of secularism, which was against this ethos.

Preaching for high moral standard in public life, the BJP leaders took up politics as a mission for serving the people and not as a profession wielding political power for self-seeking interest. Despite this background, their movement started fizzling with the party coming to power in 1998 and 1999. It lost its image of "a party with difference". It made all the compromises with unreliable and unprincipled elements to remain in power.

Those who have been watching the Indian politics particularly in the closing decades of twentieth century are fully aware that politics in India is just an art of manipulation. It is not a mission to serve the people since the political guardians of this country are running away from ideology and principles. Since independence Indians are destined to face the challenge of the anti-people political ideology of ruling parties and the BJP is also not an exception to it even though it has repeatedly been claiming itself not only a party but also a movement for an ideology.

Whether the voters rejected the BJP or accepted the Congress will remain a debatable issue. In the house of 543 the Congress got 145 against 138 of the BJP. Even the pre-poll alliance of the Congress led group secured only 220 seats against 190 of the BJP led alliance. This shows that none of the two biggest shareholders of votes were acceptable to the people to rule the country.

The ups and downs in the parliamentary strength of a political party are the part of electoral politics and therefore the shocking defeat of the BJP is not unusual. However, the sharp decline in the parliamentary strength of the party in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi is certainly unusual. The following table confirms such sharp decline of the party in these states, where it emerged as a major force in the closing decade of twentieth century.

BJP in Lok Sabha: 1952 -3, 1957 -4, 1962 - 14, 1967 - 35, 1971 -22, 1977 - Janata party -1980 - 31, 1984- 2, 1989 - 86, 1991 -120, 1996 - 161, 1998 -182, 1999 -182, 2004 -138.

YEAR           U.P.     BIHAR    GUJARAT      DELHI

1984                 0             0                1                    0

1889                 8            8                 12                 4

1991                51          5                 20                  5

1996                52            18               16                  5 

1998                 57          20                19                 6

1999                 29                              22                 7

2004                 10              5              14                  1

The following reasons may be attributed to the fall in Lok Sabha strength of the BJP from 1999 to 2004:

  • Unprincipled alliance with unreliable parties  like the BSP in Uttar Pradesh in post-Assembly elections at the cost of upper caste voters.

  • Similar alliance with AIDMK in 2004 at the cost of a trusted partner DMK in Tamil Nadu.

  • Hankering after uncertain Muslim votes infuriating party cadres.

  • Failure of the BJP while in power at center to free the people of Bihar from the ‘misrule’ of ‘jungle raj’.

  • ‘India shining’ campaign was not based on ground reality.

  • Frustration among party cadres due to arrogance of the leaders in power.

  • Failure of the party to expand its ideological relation with voters of rural sector, which constitute over 70 percent.

  • BJP succumbed to the pressure of RJD and SP and failed to introduce Women’s Reservation Bill even though Congress was in support of it. This gave an impression that the BJP was not serious about it.

  • Middle class voters became indifferent towards the BJP because of latter’s transformation from ideology-centric politics to power-centric.

  • Over confidence of the party

The BJP shared power in Uttar Pradesh Government led by Ms Mayawati of the BSP, which had voted out the party in the floor of Lok Sabha. People of this state have not forgotten how this ‘Manuwadi party’ helped her to establish her deep political roots in this biggest state of the country at the cost of its ideological image. BJP’s closeness to Mayawati compelled Ram Bilas Paswan , a Dalit leader from Bihar to leave the company of the NDA and as a result it suffered a major set back in that state. The party also annoyed its trusted alliance partner the DMK in Tamil Nadu and joined hands with AIDMK, the party that defeated it on the floor of parliament in 1998.

The BJP led Government constituted a Constitutional Review Committee but it preferred P.A.Sangma to resign from the committee than allowing him to recommend the debarring of foreign born naturalised citizen from holding the constitutional post. The party gave a slogan of India shining without taking into consideration of the plight of a common man particularly in rural sector. The larger majority of Indian voters could not understand the meaning of this slogan.

  The BJP was the main protagonist of Swadeshi but made compromises. The party ignored its ideological patrons in Sangh Parivar on many issues on the plea of necessity of going ahead with coalition politics.

  The BJP as a political party cannot afford to be hostile towards the Muslims, who constitute over twelve percent of country's population. The party tried to dilute its anti Muslim image and exhausted lot of its energy in competing with the 'secularists' to woo the Muslim voters. This was however viewed by its cadres as an appeasement policy.

  The political rivals of the party with the help of hostile media perpetually raised the communal riots in Gujarat, which worked as catalyst to isolate the BJP from the Muslims. Now some of the NDA partners of the BJP are also found expressing that Gujarat riot was responsible for the defeat of the BJP, though it may not be factually correct. Had it been so, the BJP would not have got the decisive mandate in recently held assembly elections in Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh  which have a  border with Gujarat.

The sharp rise of the BJP after its electoral rout in 1984 and its ascent to the throne of Delhi in 1998 was a miracle. But the sharp decline in its Lok Sabha strength in Uttar Pradesh from 57 in 1998 to 29 (25 after the formation of Uttaranchal state) in 1999 and from 25 to 10 in 2004 is a signal that the party has failed to establish its firm ideological root in this biggest state of the country. Similar trends in Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi in 2004 also prove that the BJP did not succeed to expand its ideological relation with voters while it was in power.

  The BJP during its six-year of rule since 1998 deviated from its ideologically centric political goal and lost its image of a party with difference at the national level. The hearts of the ideologically committed party cadres were missing during the election campaign.  If you talk to the party cadres informally, they have no hesitation to say - 'the BJP deserved it'. For them the BJP also developed all the political vices like unprincipled alliance, personality-based politics, electoral issues without assessing the ground reality and so on.

  One unique feature of this election was that no political party or psephologist had any inkling about the shocking defeat of the BJP. This shows that the partly indifferent voters remained silent and expressed their anger in form of a fractured and fragmented verdict. The trend also shows that the voting share of both the Congress and the BJP declined in comparison to 1999 election. While the Congress secured only 26.69 percent of votes this time against 28.30 percent in 1999, the BJP’s share of votes was also reduced to 22.16 percent against 23.75 percent in 1999. This gives an indication that the voters did not prefer any political group to form the government but the Congress got the benefit of the loopholes in present electoral system.

  The fractured and fragmented mandate of 14th Lok Sabha election is nothing new but a repetition of the angered expression of the people Historically, such mandate, which gave birth to turbulent politics in the country, dates back to 1989. Coalition governments formed on the basis of unprincipled caste, communal and sectarian alliances of power-centric political parties never had the positive support of the people.

On the basis of pre-poll alliance in 1999 the voters gave a chance to the BJP led coalition because of its high sounding ideological image. But when this government too followed the footsteps of the previous governments with a sole purpose to remain in power, the voters became frustrated and rejected both the Congress led UPA and the BJP led NDA to form the government. Since none of the pre-poll alliance group got the magic figure of 273, the formation of the new government is unethical even though not unconstitutional. With some Ministers facing court cases under criminal offences the challenges the country would be facing might be tougher than those encountered during the previous coalition governments.

The country remained in political turmoil for a week due to fractured and fragmented mandate, which was in fact an expression of anger of the voters against all the political parties as well as the present electoral system. They gave a signal to the political leadership of the country for developing a meaningful mechanism, which could ensure the formation of true representative government. However, the Congress led alliance achieved political power on the basis of post-poll unprincipled alliance, which is a constitutionally legitimised political corruption.

The BJP is now raising the issue of tainted ministers in the UPA Government. But had the BJP been serious on such issue, it could have introduced Bills while in power to prevent the election of tainted MPs.  Once, the tainted leaders were allowed to contest the election, their inclusion in cabinet is no more unconstitutional. The issue is now debatable but it may not cut much ice in favour of the BJP. Thus, the party is left with only option to play manipulative politics and look for the fall of Manmohan Singh Government to bounce back to power. The only strength of the BJP in this game is the self-seeking interest of the power hungry constituents of the UPA.

Marxist, Casteist and Dravidian parties are the main strength of the Congress led UPA Government. Of them Marxists with 62 members in Lok Sabha played the role of a kingmaker. They are now enjoying the power without taking any responsibility with no accountability. They are using the Congress as an instrument with a sole aim to keep the party of Hindu nationalists away from power. Before the rise of the BJP to power the Leftists had joined hands with it against the Congress.

The Marxists are ruling West Bengal for over a quarter century. They are perhaps waiting for the day to secure power at centre on their own and make the country disintegrated as happened to Soviet Union. For this they have no inhibition to support the separatist forces operating in the country. In September 1942 the CPI’s Central Committee adopted the following resolution:

“Every section of the Indian people which has a contiguous territory on its homeland, common historical tradition, common language, culture, psychological make-up, common economic life would be recognized as a distinct nationality with the right to exist as an autonomous state within the free Indian Union or federation and will have the right to secede from it if it so desires …. ” (Pakistan –From Jinnah to Jehad by S.K.Datta and Rajiv Sharma, 2002, Page 17. The authors quoted it from Hayat, Sikander, Pakistan Resolution Revisited, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, Islamabad, 1999, page 91).

During freedom movement the Communists had supported the Muslim League in its movement for Pakistan. “In mid-forties E.M.S. Namboodaripad led processions of Muslims in Kerala along with A.K.Gopalan shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and Moplastan Zindabad’ and Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, himself a leftist, had to say that “India was killed by the CPI which provided the Muslim separatists with an ideological basis” (Ibid. Page 18).

  The RJD, which was formed on the basis of caste politics in Bihar is ruling over this state for about 15 years but when the people of this BIMARU state will smile only God knows. The party supremo Laloo Yadav  charge sheeted in fodder scam case is now the Railway Minister. He is making tall claims to improve the condition of Indian Railway. People can only hope for the best. Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu were earlier the constituents of the NDA Government and hardly have any ideological relation with Congress.

Against the backdrop of the discussion the magic formula behind Vajpayee’s smile telling the media – “we do not want to sit in opposition for five years” (June 2, 2004) may be his personal secret, which he has not yet shared with the press. To counter the smile of Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh Government in its agenda for five years as outlined in President’s address to the joint session of Parliament (June 7, 2004) promised, “to carry forward the process of economic reforms but with human face, making a billion people smile. People of this country are now looking forward to see the possible outcome of these two smiles.

  India is known as the biggest democracy in the world. But its pillars do not appear to have a solid base. With democratisation of crime, corruption, casteism and communalism and money, mafia and muscle as key to electoral success the present electoral system needs re-orientation.

The BJP was expected to move in a direction to transform the Indian polity with constitutional means. The advance of the party was not only due to the aggressive Hindutva it propagated after its electoral rout in 1984 but also because of its image of a party with difference. The BJP spent almost half a century to build up this image. However, within six years of power, people rejected it. This is a solid proof that the BJP failed in its mission. Against this ground reality how Vajpayee's smile would remove the general impression against the BJP that the party has lost its ideology-centric image - is a million-dollar question.

The BJP as a cadre-based party has a backing of a large number of front organisations popularly known as Sangh Parivar spread over different parts of the country. If the BJP is really serious to bounce back it will have to win back both the hearts and minds of its cadres in particular and voters in general. For this the party functionaries must go for deep self-introspection as suggested by Advani while addressing the newly appointed office bearers of the party. The future of the BJP therefore lies in its ideological strength, which needs to be revived.

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