Why BJP lost Elections 2009

What went wrong?         
Was Advani truly tough? When Arun Jaitley openly heckled party president Rajnath Singh, causing embarrassment during the heat of battle, the PM in waiting remained mute but appeared to side with his own lackey. When Varun Gandhi was arrested for making inflammatory speeches, BJP seemed to favor politely dropping him (it told the Election Commission that he was not yet the official candidate). Then, under the illusion that Varun’s outburst would lead to consolidation of Hindu votes, it went ahead with his candidature.

Advani called Manmohan Singh the weakest PM ever (perhaps true) and took personal digs at him. When Singh hit back and questioned Advani’s tough attitude citing attacks on India’s Parliament/Akshardham etc Advani went quiet.

Instead, Advaniji could have said yes those events happened during NDA rule but the frequency of terrorist attacks was higher under UPA. Five years of UPA rule saw bomb blasts in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Gauhati, and Varanasi and so on. More importantly the state governments of BJP ruled Gujarat and Karnataka arrested those behind blasts unlike the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra where the trial for July 2006 train blasts is proceeding at snails pace. BJP could have pointed out that 16 years later, those involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts are still not convicted. The UPA government has not pursued the case in the Supreme Court with the same vigor, as say, those relating to the post Godhra riots.

Advani could have compared the NDA’s response to Pakistan post attack on Parliament in 2001 vs. Mumbai attack in 2008. The NDA Launched Operation Parakram, the largest mobilization of the armed forces since the 1971 war. Three strike corps were deployed along the border with Pakistan; waiting for orders to go across. Both fleets of the Indian navy were combined and deployed off the coast of Pakistan; Pakistan’s airlines were denied the right to fly over Indian airspace. These were tough measures.

Conversely, except making noise and seeking US support, the UPA did not take any concrete measures against Pakistan. The result of their approach is reflected in recent events - when India expressed displeasure on 2 June, after 26/11/2008 mastermind Hafiz Saeed was freed from house arrest by the Lahore High Court, the Pakistan Prime Minister responded: ‘Solve Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions’. Oh, the same old story again.

Ditto for Kandhar. Both Singh and Rahul Gandhi questioned Advani and NDA on why they exchanged hostages for criminals. Advani is yet to come clean. Media reports indicate that Advani did not agree with the exchange; conversely Jaswant Singh always maintained that exchanging criminals for hostages was the best possible option.

Advani could have cited Home Minister Chidambaram’s recent statement that he too would have released hostages, if faced with a similar situation. Or, like Narendra Modi said in an interview to Headlines Today, he could have pointed out that an all-party meeting discussed the issue and agreed to exchange hostages for criminals. As Congress leaders were present at the meeting, it should not now distance itself from a national accord; such motivated tut u mein mein ill-behooved a ruling party. 

Having said that, it must be remembered that the NDA government was headed by Vajpayee and not Advani. Their approach to various issues might have differed.

By projecting himself as tough, Advani opened the gates for criticism. He should instead, have used past examples to prove the NDA approach and let the public decide who is a weakling? Sardar Patel was also called ‘The Iron Man of India’ because of his karmas and by those who interacted with him.

People dislike doublespeak and want their leaders to come out clearly, accept mistakes, not beat around the bush. Rahul Gandhi admitted errors but praised BJP for the highway development program. 

About 15% of the Indian electorate is in the age group between 18 to 30. The BJP campaign centered exclusively around an 81 year old PM in waiting. Notwithstanding a blog, web site and facebook can a 24 year old to relate to Advani and the same old faces of Jaitley, Prasad, Rudy, and Sushma Swaraj. (No offense meant).

Instead, the BJP should have shown Advani with numerous leaders from different age groups, atleast some in the 30’s, men and women. It should have trained these young leaders in the nuances of media communication well in advance and given them sufficient media exposure. This would have helped the BJP connect with various age groups, present the right combination of age and experience.

By paying lip service to building a temple at Ayodhya inspite of being aware that the courts, Muslims and allies would not allow it, BJP once again tried to fool the Hindu voter. Lack of credible actions made the voters loose faith in the BJP. Most Hindus do not know the implications of Article 370. Both these issues are steeped in politics of the 1990’s.

In an attempt to gain wider acceptance, the BJP became secular like the Congress of the 1990’s meaning it wanted the Hindu vote by default and the Muslim vote by virtue of having now become secular. This alienated its core Hindu constituency and did not bring in the Muslim votes either. The BJP’s dilemma is akin to the Congress’s in the 1990’s - Rajiv Gandhi wanted to keep both the Hindus and Muslims happy. We know what happened!

During its five year tenure, I do not recall any significant action taken by the BJP to create a level playing field for Hindus or assuage Hindu feelings. Why must only Hindu temples be under the control of State Governments? In states like Karnataka temple collections become part of the State Treasury. Why cannot Hindus, like Muslims and Christians, manage their places of worship? BJP forever referred to the plight of Kashmiri Hindus but did nothing to improve their condition.

The NDA undertook no action to strengthen the provisions of the FCRA (Foreign Contributions Regulation Act) that control flow of foreign money into Indian NGO’s. How many people know that between 1993-94 and 2006-07 a sum of Rs 64,670 crs was the sum of Foreign Contributions received into India NGO’s (mostly Christian organizations) and these contributions increased by over 100% since UPA came to power. Click Here

Unlike the BJP, the Congress is very clear that Minorities and Dalits are its principal vote banks and goes out of its way to woo them. OBC reservations of 27% in institutions of higher learning, allowing bank lending to Muslims as priority sector lending meaning lower interest rates, subsidy to Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem by the Andhra Pradesh government, allowing the legal process to take its own time in case of terrorism involving Muslims, going slow on identifying and deportation of Bangladeshis, the list is endless. 

One reasons for BJP’s ascent was its exposure of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Congress. Let us take some examples. Every time the BJP raised any issues concerning Hindus, the Congress claimed it was pursuing the policy of Hindutva to get votes. Has any BJP leader asked the Congress or the media to define Hindutva? Did the BJP say ‘why does speaking for Hindu rights upset you? Do only minorities have the right to protest? After all, Congress openly espoused the minority cause for decades! Secondly all UPA leaders said their aim was to keep the communal forces (BJP) out of power. Did any BJP leader expose their hypocrisy by asking UPA to define secularism?

Now take the Pakistan PM’s recent statement on resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN Resolutions. The world knows that the UN resolutions require Pakistan to vacate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir first before any talk of implementing the resolution. I do not recall any Congress leader telling the Pakistani government this!

Management of BJP allies has left a lot to be desired. Wherever the BJP has a regional ally, the ally has invariably weakened the BJP. It had pockets of support in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Tie up with Trinamool Congress and TDP in 2004 decimated the BJP. Naveen Patnaik used the BJP to get into power, consolidate his position and left BJP in the lurch. Nitish Kumar in Bihar may go the Patnaik way.

On the other Rahul Gandhi showed the SP/RJD their place by making the Congress fight the UP/Bihar elections on its own steam. The results are for all to see.

Why on earth did Jaswant Singh fight the election from Darjeeling and support Gorkhaland? The clamor for this new state has created enough problems since the 1990’s; no Bengali can support Gorkhaland. This one seat alienated Bengalis in the entire state.

The BJP did not attack the Congress’s poor record of governance. Inspite of ruling India for most of independent India’s sixty years over 20% of her population continues to live below the poverty line. Thirty seven years ago Indira Gandhi’s nara was ‘Garibi Hatao’. Sonia Gandhi said pretty much the same thing in 2004 and 2009, the slogan being ‘Aam Aadmi’. Advani could have accused the Congress of having a vested interest in keeping India poor, backward just the way Laloo Prasad did in Bihar for three terms.

Deep down, Advani knew that this was the last fight of his life, a fight to make his dream come true. Spiritually speaking, when a person gets too attached to the fruits of his action, the object of desire becomes more and more difficult to achieve (ma phalesu kadachana).

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