Sunday, November 15, 2009

Resurgence Recipe for BJP?

The conservative, Republican side of American politics has seen some modest reversal in its slide since the votes were counted in the recent American elections. They were virtually decimated in the general election of 2008 by Barack Obama. The Republicans have wrested back all the state executive offices in the swing state of Virginia, and have, surprise surprise, claimed the governorship of New Jersey-- a solidly Democrat state. (Just to provide a perspective, it's equivalent in shock value to Tamilians dumping Dravidian parties for national ones.)

It's another issue that the Republicans lost two of their long held Congressional seats. There have been countless post-mortems of this phenomenon, especially since the American media more or less bats for the Democrats. Post-poll surveys point towards a successful campaign by the Republican individual nominees in wooing the independents, and middle-classes worried about the economy. It helped them that there was a lower turnout among minority Black voters who usually vote for the Democrats.

While there is no miracle recipe that the Republicans have discovered, their counterparts across the pond seem to have landed upon one. It is all but certain that the conservative Tories led by David Cameron will win the elections in UK, ending their twelve years drought. This has excited the more sober, clairvoyant conservatives in US. UK is a quasi-Euro socialist state, with its big govt. programs and socialist policies--the taxpayers even fund their news channel, albeit grudgingly. With the high govt. deficits and public medical insurance expenses to be signed, the bills have started piling up. And they will need to be paid, from the taxpayers' pocket obviously. It is this underlying similarity of circumstances that makes conservatives like David Frum take notice. According to him, there are few lessons to be drawn by American conservatives:
  • While upholding your principles, align your priorities with the priorities of the country at large.
  • Volunteer to do what you will be forced by political necessity to do anyway.
  • The leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have.

This is pretty much true for any democratic state where the right has made a comeback, be it France, Germany, or for that matter, dynasty's own Italy. Media by its very nature and structure has to be hostile to the right, but building pockets of favor within the media is not entirely impossible. The right in US has virtually pulled a coup in this regard with Heritage, Hoover, Manhattan Institute providing it the intellectual heft and various publications like Commentary, National Review and Weekly Standard fighting the trench warfare. Fox is another story.

If the BJP in India looks back at the Vajpayee era, it will realize that it has lived through this phenomenon, but it sorely needs a present day role model to replicate that success. Their choice of national president, even if supposedly thrusted by the RSS, is good. Nitin Gadkari is a pragmatic leader, rooted in ideology but with his feet on the ground. He might just be the cure that the party so desperately craves. It should.

PS- While I believe Gadkari is a decent choice for the BJP presidency, he is still not a mass leader, and perhaps won't be in the near future. That position remains unclaimed in the present BJP.


Xinhua Ram said...

The RSS will do well to come up with a new party. BJP can remain a Hindi belt party while the new one enters unexplored territories. Two parties are less self-destructive than one.

Even in Karnataka, the Reddy brothers would have had less clout had there been a 2 party coalition in power.

TanmayKN said...

The Republicans have an advantage in the sense that the civil society in the US takes the initiative against any Govt. policies it does not agree with.The rally in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago is an example.Healthcare,Taxes,Gun Control,BIG Govt. are some of the issues which bring about this reaction.It also helps that the American public has a pretty clear view on where both the parties stand.The Republicans are good at converting these popular movements into electoral success.

That's why the BJP should develop an alternative policy framework & communicate it to the public.It has the advantage of being the main Opposition.

In Britain,Cameron has benefitted from anti-incumbency against Labour.He also exploited the voters' antipathy to the EU to win the Tories' leadership battle & has now gone back on his promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.But the heated debate on the EU has helped the Tories.

The Sangh ideology shouldn't be compromised for the sake of winning elections.The BJP must convey to the Indian voter where it stands on issues of National Security,social welfare,economic policy,etc.

So the question is how long will it take for the BJP to channelize popular resentment against govt. policies,lead the movement,sustain it & ultimately nurture the support base to acquire political power.

I, Me, Myself ! said...

"The leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have." - So true. Vajpayee was exactly this to the BJP.

- Sudhir