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BJP: is the party over?
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
|Is the BJP as a political party over? Has the bubble burst after the heady start the party witnessed during the early eighties and late nineties or is it a dream gone sour?
The BJP had an ideal start for any party. The way it was able to add eighty six seats from its existing two in the Parliament in 1989 elections had amazed every political scientist. It continued with its impressive growth till 1999 Lok Sabha elections. It clinched 121 seats in 1991 and later skyrocketed to 161 in 1996 Parliamentary elections. During the two subsequent national elections the party was able to corner the largest number of seats in the parliament with 180 seats each in 1998 and 1999 elections.
The recent setbacks the party suffered in four assembly elections and its worst performance in Delhi Municipal Corporation elections has not only put a full stop on the emphatic electoral victories but has also put a question mark over its ever being able to repeat its performances either in Lok Sabha elections or in state assemblies. The party had earlier too lost Rajasthan, Assam where it was an alliance partner with Asom Gana Parishad, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
There are other nightmares for the party too. The intra party rift has played havoc with the party. It is said that there are as many leaders in the party as there are cadres. And every leader worth his or her name has a faction of his own to serve his interests in the party. The factionalism has played its part well in contributing to party’s fall. Delhi is the best example of the inherent factional fight in the BJP. With having all the seven Parliament seats in its kitty, the party should have won most of the seats in the MCD elections and the previous elections in Delhi assembly. But despite this fact the BJP has been uprooted from Delhi’s political arena with torturous defeats in both the elections.
Instead of serving the party all the seven BJP members of Parliament have become power centres in themselves who always remain at loggerhead with each other and with the party on petty issues. The two former BJP chief ministers of Delhi who are now members of the Parliament from Delhi have their own factions who always make it a point to go against each other. This is the thing that has played havoc with the party prospects in Delhi. What is true of Delhi is also true of the whole country. The party leaders slug it out with each other all over the country.
Another important aspect that has played its part in uprooting the party from most of the places is the supremacy of the Sangh and the VHP in party affairs. There has been a total disenchantment of non-Sangh cadre from the party due to the ever rising interference of the RSS and the VHP in the party affairs.
So this has not only attributed in destroying the party’s own cadre base, but has also annoyed the people who were working for the party. The non-Sangh party leaders and cadres have been accusing the party for giving plum posts to people from the Sangh parivar. They say that the BJP has uselessly been giving important government jobs to the people with Sangh affiliation. They point out that bringing Ram Prakash Gupta from hibernation and appointing him the chief minister in as important state as UP was the biggest mistake of the BJP and it will have to face its consequences for a long time to come. Handing over important portfolios in Gujarat government to VHP and Bajrang Dal functionaries has also been worrying the BJP leaders.
But the most important thing that the party seems to be missing is an emotive issue that could rally the people behind it. After the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 and the hasty erection of the makeshift temple on its site has snatched the most important vote catching issue in the BJP’s armoury. Its hide and seek game with the construction of the temple has forced the people to think that all this was merely a BJP’s poll gimmick and had nothing to do with Ram it was talking about. The Sangh had tried to salvage the BJP from a looming defeat by projecting the Ram temple construction in a big way, but then too it couldn’t enthuse the men on streets and ended a pathetic third.
The BJP tried to rake up other emotional issues during the run up to the UP assembly and in the other three states besides the MCD, but that too didn’t help the party at all. Issues like terrorism, Indo-Pak standoff and the recently passed terrorism ordinance were projected by the party in order to win elections, but nothing seems to have worked in its favour. The BJP was able to win the eighty-eight seats in UP assembly only because of the trilateral electoral fight in most of the seats in the state. Had there been some sort of understanding between either the Samjwadi Party and the BSP or the SP and the Congress it would have certainly been eliminated from the state.
So what has gone wrong with the party? Why it is being debunked by the people who had earlier voted for it? Why its poll share is shrinking rapidly. And why there is no sign of a resurgence in sight? Is the BJP bracing for some rapid change? Is it the reason why the Prime Minister who himself visited Ahmadabad and met some of the worst sufferers of the genocide carried out in Gujarat by his own party in association with his parent organization the RSS and the sister organization the VHP, instead of consoling the sufferers went on an anti-Islam and anti-Christianity tirade? Vajpayee tried to rub salt into the wounds of the victims of Independent India’s worst ethnic pogrom.
In Goa Vajpayee repeatedly spoke against Muslims and Islam. ‘Jahan Jahan Musalman hain ghul milkar nahi rahte hain (wherever Muslims are they don’t want to live in peace)’ . It was just the beginning. He went ahead with Muslim bashing and added, ‘Auron se ghulna milna nahi chahte. Shantipurn tarike se parchar karne ke bajaye atankwad se dara dhamka kar apne mat ka parchar karna chahte hain (They don’t want to mix with others. Instead they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others).
As it was not enough the Prime Minister tried to squarely blame Muslim for what is happening in Gujarat. Vajpayee said that ‘Gujarat mein kya hua? Agar Sabarmati na hota to jo hua woh nahi hota (What happened in Gujarat? If the attack on Sabarmati had not happened, then what happened later [communal violence] would not have happened). Mr Vajpayye though condemned the aftermath of Godhra. ‘Whatever happened after Godhra was shameful’ he said but quickly added: Lekin aag lagai kisne (But who started the fire?). It is the same theory what the Gujarat chief minister Narendr Modi who is directly and indirectly involved in Muslims’ massacre in the state has been advocating. Modi has all along been maintaining that the Muslim’s genocide in Gujarat is directly a revenge of what happened in Godhra.
Does this aggressive tone of supposedly one of the softest masks of the BJP indicate that the party is trying to refurbish its image as a hardline fundamentalist party?
The fact is that the BJP has never been a soft party. It has always been a fundamentalist militant political organization that rose on emotional issue of the Ram temple and worst communal riots throughout the country in which thousands of people were killed. It has never been able to get votes on its good performance and good governance. And it is its misgovernance in state after state that has caused the immediate and large scale erosion in party’s vote base. The party has been routed in state after state in all the major elections since 1998 despite favourable factors such as Pokhran, Kargil and terrorism.
There are reports that after openly deciding to go for polls in Gujarat where it thought that communal divide will polarize voters in its favour the party has developed cold feet due to inputs from different parts of the state that it is not right to go for polls now and if it goes nonetheless it will be routed. All is not well for the party even in the Sangh’s laboratory.
The slide has begun. And it will continue. People want good governance. They want roti, kapda, makan besides refrigerator, television and washing machine etc. At times they may find state sponsored looting of shops belonging to Muslim community a bit interesting, but this temptation is short lived. It cannot supplant good governance and development. It is the only route to success for any party. And here the BJP fares the worst.
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