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
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
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
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