08/28/2009, 00.00
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In wake of election defeat, the BJP is crumbling

by CT Nilesh
The party is losing popularity among the young and the urban middle class, where before it was strong and which represent India in the 21st century. In order to regain popularity among these social strata and devise a winning strategy the party should concentrate on the future and not look back. The crux of its relationship with RSS.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - After the defeat in the general election in India, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) kept postponing a discussion on the causes of the defeat till the chintan baithak (introspection session) of last week in Simla, but the result had been a series of expulsions and resignation of the critics.
On the eve of the meeting in Simla a senior member, Jaswant Singh, was expelled for writing a book praising Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. During the meeting, Sudheendra Kulkarni, (former political aide to senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani) resigned from the party for ideological differences. After the meeting, former minister Arun Shourie launched a furious attack on the entire top brass of the party and called for the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to “bombard the party headquarters” and replace the brass by 10-15 nominees of its choice. While Shourie hopes for a takeover by the RSS, Jaswant Singh says that the party should cut the umbilical cord with RSS.
After the defeat of the party in Rajasthan the central leadership had asked the former chief minister, Vasundhara Raje, to resign as leader of the opposition in the local parliament, but she refused and called a meeting of all her supporters raising the chance of a separation. Encouraged by this opposition also BC Khandhuri, who was asked to resign as chief minister of Uttarkhand after the defeat in the election, accused the leadership of acting in haste and making him a scapegoat. For his part, the leader of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, said that there is “too much factionalism in BJP and it should be stopped”.
When Jaswant Singh was asked to comment on the different measures, for him, “expulsion”, and for Shourie, “a simple clarification”, he said: “I have never been a member of RSS. I would like the BJP to be a party of the 21st century. But there are obviously double standards” and he also dared to compare the BJP to the Ku Klux Klan. “The BJP increasingly resembles a ship without a compass. The captain seems to have lost control and the crew is restless”
The BJP has a history of ambitious state leaders taking on the central leadership and splitting the party. Stalwarts like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati couldn’t make a mark as independent leaders but their rebellion hurt the party in their stronghold.
Internal criticism within the BJP have brought out that it is loosing popularity among youth as well as among urban middle classes, two segments where it had been strong earlier and which represent the emergent India of the 21st century. To reconnect with these segments and devise a winning strategy, it needs to focus on the future rather than obsess with the past.
After two consecutive defeats which also signal the end of the Vajpayee-Advani era, the BJP has to take decisions of policy and of leadership. Confronted with adversity, ideological parties, like the BJP, are often inclined to retreat in their political ghettos. The assumption is that the fall in electoral support is linked to a loss of ideological purity. But India is changing. There is a sense of self-confidence among the youth and a belief that their country can face the world on its own term.
A political observer, Swapan Dasgupta, gives these suggestions: “The BJP must candidly recognize that assertive Hindutva marked by hate speeches and moral policing is seen as ugly mirror images of the Taliban. Today, Hindutva has become an etymological obstacle in the BJP’s path, diverting attention from the party’s impressive record in governance. The party should consider freezing it in the way Jawaharlal Nehru quietly shelved Gandhism after independence. Enlightened nationalism, good governance and modernity must become the party’s priorities”.
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