about us
  areas of expertise
  our projects
  ideas & resources


  Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives            Next Article


The Great BJP Farce

Omkar Goswami


Hats off to the BJP! Just as we were getting resigned to being inundated by a spate of terrible stories on the drought, the party decided to provide us with uninterrupted comic relief. With Jinnah the Great, Humpty Dumpty, provincial hicks posing as leaders, Alice in Blunderland, kati patang, the Queen who lusts for her tarnished crown and even the Walrus from Nagpur who felt that the time had come to talk of many things. Every day brings more mirth with the papers and the morning cup of tea.

How has this party, which led a coalition government for five uninterrupted years up to 2004, made such a fool of itself, and with so much gusto? Everyone has a theory. Here is mine.

The theory is based on three premises. The first is that the BJP is now a party without any ideology. Period. Once upon a time it did. It was called Hindutva, defined in many ways — from the rabble rousing Bajrang Dal, Sadhvi Rithambara vituperative to the more sophisticated drawing room discourse of the excessively fecund ‘other’, almost always prefaced by, “I have nothing against Muslims, and some of them are my best friends, but...” It was a disgraceful, divisive ideology, but it brought in votes. Then.

No more. Some things have changed for the better in India since 1999. One of these is that a much larger number of people couldn’t care less about Ram Janmabhoomi, Babri Masjid and how Mahmud of Ghazni razed the Somnath Temple in 1024. Yes, there are still many Hindu bigots out in the streets and hiding in the woodwork. But they are localised in some parts of India; and just aren’t enough to win even 150 Lok Sabha seats — let aside 270-plus. The election results should tell us this in no uncertain terms. BJP won 182 seats in 1999; 138 in 2004; and 116 in 2009. To lose 66 seats in five years, and another 22 in the next five says something. It says that people are more concerned about how to secure their children’s future than to cast their ballot on the alleged sins of the parent’s hoary past. Nobody is particularly interested in chaps doing morning exercises in khaki knickers — even the new designer variety — and navel gazing about the purity of the Hindutva being. People want to get on with their lives. And the BJP just doesn’t have a story for them. Probably never did.

The development plank doesn’t sit easy with the BJP. Once bitten by ‘India Shining’, the party doesn’t have the rhetoric to clearly define what it wants to do for the people of this nation — especially the poor and downtrodden. It is not surprising that BJP has never been able to formulate a slogan as powerful as ‘Garibi Hatao’. Atal Behari Vajpayee tried with stuff like ‘Bharat Jodo’. But his sad successors have found people-energising, vision-making and vision-sharing well beyond their limited pale. So, the party lumbers without a coherent vision for India. And without the slightest capability of creating any such. Small town hicks are exactly what they are — small town hicks. Localised megalomaniacs thankfully stay local. Mice remain mice. Self-made lions roar only in places where they can. Outside their turf, they don’t count.

My second premise is that the party has no leaders. Vajpayee, the Bhisma-Pitamah, was a great and respected leader. Look at the rest. Can anyone today in the BJP even vaguely aspire for national leadership? Rajnath Singh? Narendra Modi, whose roaring writ runs only in Gujarat? The Queen who can’t even speak for Rajasthan? The TV leaders? Or the octogenarian, sitting above this motley lot, at the very end of his political life, a confused King Lear reflecting on the shambles of what he thought may have been?

The third premise is that parties that haven’t ruled long enough disintegrate when they are in opposition. Especially for a period that looks like a decade. The BJP politicos don’t have the patience. Don’t have the body language for a long haul. Neither know nor care how to rebuild a tattered and demoralised institution. Find it below dignity to reach out to the cadre. Don’t know how to rebuild an organisation, because they think of the world through individual lenses. Living for the greed of power, and its benefits. Out of it, they disintegrate.

So, here is the BJP. A party without a clear political ideology; totally bereft of any leadership worth the word; clueless of how to slowly rebuild and create strength while biding its time. When you are hit by triple pathos, what do you do? You create farce. Like the BJP has. Why be surprised at all? Expect more sequels. With other funnies like Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Sheikh Chilli, Jack Sprat, Sad Sack... The list is endless.


Published: Business World, September 2009


                 Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives            Next Article