For last 3-4 days, I have been reasearching a lot on How BJP can revive itself? I have almost finished searching and made few notes on how it can be done. But then I came across this article in Times of India dated 21stMay, 2009 and which was send to me by one of my medico friend. This article contains 85-90% of the content on which I was writing but they eleaborated in far better way. So I just thought that instead of publishing my article let the people read more on the TOI’s article. I have saved mine for some other day.
I was writing this article because A strong BJP is very important for the healthy functioning of our democracy.
BJP will warm the opposition benches again, in all probability for another five years. Unless, of course, their official party astrologer is privy to some once-in-a-few-million-years celestial formation that will help them ascend the throne in a few months from now. Opportunity lost, did someone say?
It is true that a in a country with a billion people, there are a zillion factors on which elections are fought and that it is unfair to blame BJP’s defeat entirely on its own failings. But, the underlying pattern in BJP’s defeats and its response to these defeats suggests that something is intrinsically wrong and systemically too.
The party, hailed as the only viable national alternative since its ascent in the nineties, has just not learnt lessons from its past mistakes, but also made newer ones. Notwithstanding whether Congress obliges it or not over the next five years,
Here are a few lessons that the BJP can take home from these elections:
Fight to win, not win to fight
To be Prime Minister , you have to win elections – It isn’t difficult to understand this as a concept. In fact, it’s quite obvious. The fundamental truth is that to be Prime Minister of India, your party has to first get enough seats in the Parliament. If a party doesn’t score enough runs err seats, it sits on the Opposition benches and plans walk-outs. But, it seems even this simple logic has been very hard to understand for BJP’s top leaders despite the party’s trouncing the last time around.
They internally squabble over who is best suited to be the party’s candidate for the top post, and what is worse, even externalize it. When they don’t reach a conclusion, they undercut each other. Some start sulking publically and yet others stop attending crucial party meets. So, with all this, they have a hope in hell to get the required number of seats. How about squabbling after winning enough seats? It will certainly be a happier situation for all those fighting as they will have something to fight for!
Action Point: Hold a US style Presidential Primary. The winner in this primary, becomes the BJP candidate for the PM’s post. Once this is done, the others need to gracefully step back; the way Hillary Clinton did once Obama surged ahead. At the same time, get a fix on some mechanism to also groom potential ministers, particularly the key ministries and also have stated key policies you would pursue. Get your A team in place and do it NOW. Since BJP calls itself a democratic party (as against the ‘non-democratic ‘ones), it should walk its talk.
The Perfect Delivery
Deliver in every State you have a government in. If there is one thing that is getting loudly clear is that people are now sick of wallowing in India’s Third World status. They want a better life. And, their finger presses the button which promises them just that. So, while the Congress can feel smug about its victory, it too needs to deliver if it wants to come back again. Ditto for BJP. It has in its portfolio some major States.
Delivering a good performance there will not only help in that State, but also have a rub-off on other States. So, if the BJP doesn’t want to go back to its ‘two seats’ status that LK Advani is so fond of boringly recounting time and again, it better whip its chief ministers into delivering concrete results. If Narendra Modi has indeed turned Gujarat into a model State, why should it not have some impact on other states? And why should Modi be left alone to thump his chest about these achievements, and not the rest of the leadership? MP and Chattisgarh too should have made public their score card.
Action Point: Fix specific delivery targets for each State’s leadership, ones that are going to be visible and helpful in garnering the maximum votes the next time round. Pursue these targets relentlessly. Highlight achievements to the local people. And do that in a united manner, and unequivocally. Also, take it further down to your workers. Make the cadre accountable and responsible for elect ion results.
Be a growing boy, Boost your reach
Strength comes from within – The last time, the BJP came to power on the back of a coalition. Now, it is smug in the belief that it will get enough friends each time to occupy the 7, Race Course Road. Of course, this theory assumes that they will get the most winnable ally each time and that each time; their long-standing ally will deliver. The fundamental truth is that these allies gravitated towards the BJP because they saw the BJP growing in size and clout. A diminished BJP doesn’t get them closer to power.
Action Point: The moral of the story: BJP needs to grow on its own in size, reach, geographies and do this even in areas where their allies are strong. How dependance on allies can cripple them is evident in Orissa. What will be the BJP’s condition in Bihar if the JD (U) too dumps them is not difficult to visualize. Its next leadership needs to work assiduously towards building the party at the grassroots level. Allies should be a bonus. Plus, if you become big and have a good shot at getting and retaining power, they will come to you wagging their tails.
So, build, build and build. Identify 350-400 constituencies around the country where you stand a chance, and work hard on them right away. Spread yourself to other states. If BJP wants a chance in the next election, it ought to stop worrying and start acting right away, preferably right after its ‘Chintan Baithak’!
Who am I? Why am I here?
Think about what you believe in…. Are you are ‘Right wing’, `Hindu nationalist’ or are you not? This is not about secularism or pseudo-secularism, or the rights and wrongs, or even the desirability or otherwise of whatever ideology you follow. The idea is not to preach the virtues of being ‘inclusive’ or ‘accommodating’. This is about thinking through what you believe in, if there is such a thing left. Who are you and how are you different from the Congress-not only in terms of Hindutva ideology, but also in terms of your approach to economy, foreign policy etc. What fresh ideas do you have?
Action Point: First sit down and define what you are and what you stand for. Get your mission and vision statements clear. Your workers have to know what you stand for. And, after that, let no party member go out and contradict party position because he has a right to express his private opinion in public.
Fevicol your beliefs
Once you have decided what you stand for, you should also consider sticking to it. Once you stick to your beliefs and promises, it will build more faith in you. Right now, voters have rejected you because they could not take you seriously anymore. For them, here is a party that promises one thing and compromises it for the sake of power.
Action Point: Stick to stated party positions and do not keep changing/vacillating as per the need and situation. This doesn’t mean that you do not re-look some of the party positions in the recent past and see if you want to stick to them. Be flexible, but, at the same time, core positions are not meant to be shifted election to election
Cure yourself of Congressitis
This disease is called so because it first affected the Congress party as per your leaders. It is characterized by shameless pursuit of power and willingness to destroy institutions, principles to get to the throne by hook or crook. You have caught the disease too. At one time, it was your perceived image of being relatively selfless that helped you; people took Atal Behari Vajpayee at face value. BJP wasn’t seen to be a party that will remove Governors, State governments, negotiate the right pound of flesh for support, encourage party switchers, field dubious candidates etc. But, today it is difficult to distinguish between Congress and BJP.
Action Point: Now that you have tasted the fruits of power, it is difficult for you to go back to your old self of coming across as selfless. But, do try to at least ‘look’ less desperate. This also includes saying ‘Buzz off’ to criminals and history sheeters. Why should you be seen as the party fielding the maximum number of candidates with a criminal background? Is there is a dearth of eligible, young people in this country who can contest?
While you are laid-off
Staging walk-outs is a valid form of protest the Constitution permits. But, this doesn’t mean that this is all you do when you are in Opposition.
This is the time to rebuild and reconnect. L K Advani should have spent a lot more time since May 2004 to May 2009 touring at least 50 of 80 odd UP constituencies and getting a hang of what people there wanted.
Similarly, other key constituencies could have been identified and worked on. You had a full five years to get yourself noticed as worthy and credible politicians. But, you didn’t do it. So, now hear the thumps from Sonia Gandhi’s hand on the treasury benches.
Action Point: We know you have the succession issue to battle out and that it will pre-occupy you because your `larger than life’ leaders never cared to develop and identify the second rung of leadership. But, coming back to point number one (which said that to become Prime Minister you have to win elections), it should be clear that you have to sort this out really fast.
Connect on the ground, not on Facebook
Connect with the people, not with TV studios. TV studios are important, you can reach out your message to millions in one go.
But, what if that is not the message people want to hear. Plus, there is no way people can come back to you in a TV studio. And Internet does not still reach Kalawati, despite what your media managers would tell you. So, we know all of you look very handsome and pretty on TV, but, it is time for some sunburn, dehydration and diarrhea.
Action Point: Get your chappals out and start walking and connecting. Pack in your sun screen and water and get going to the muddy waters of roadless villages. Go taste the real India.
(No more) Pursuit of Pettyness
We all know the depths to which politics can tumble to in India. But, do you necessarily have to meet such perfection. You ended up opposing (and looking foolish) all the things you proposed and started when in power. You were in favour of VAT when in power and you opposed it later. You would have signed a nuclear deal yourself, but, you opposed it just because the Congress was doing it.
You could just have stood up and said that you started the negotiations and the Congress must bring these to fruition. You know what, had you supported the Congress in these key legislations, the Left would have scooted earlier than it did. Plus, the Left would have accused the Congress of being hand in glove with you. Wouldn’t that have been a happy situation for you?
Action Point: Don’t be petty. The ultimate objective of occupying the seat of power is to improve the lives of all Indians. Don’t oppose anything that will achieve just that. It makes you look petty and short-sighted.
Need to develop a ZooZoo strategy
It is time BJP learns from Vodafone’s ZooZoo ad campaign and how it has scored over almost all other campaigns that tend to depend on the superstar power. The cost-effective and hugely successful ZooZoo campaign for Vodafone has taken the country by storm. Not because it has a Khan or a Sachin endorsing, but a simple script that has an emotive connect with people in light-hearted fashion.
Action Point: How about BJP formulating a series of inexpensive ad and marketing campaigns from time to time (and not just during elections) that connect with the people while delivering the intent and the message with honesty? Are the “War Room” controllers listening?
Be inclusive, love thy neighbour
At the same time, BJP needs to formulate an action plan that lets minorities know that their interests and development too will be ensured.
Instead of rhetoric, BJP needs to work sincerely towards taking them along; address their genuine concerns, have an action plan for their security and development while according them full freedom and rights, and yet not lose out on majority support. It may be tougher than said, but not impossible.
Stop counting the stars
We won’t quibble about, or debate your belief in astrology. Millions of Indians believe in it and we don’t know enough to either dismiss it as mumbo-jumbo or accept it as perfect science. All we know is that the stars may be in a favourable position, but the actions have to be performed by you.
The logic is like this – if at a favourable time, you do the right thing, the stars will help you get the desired result. Clear? It doesn’t work the other way – just because the stars are in the right place, you will do the right thing and hop into the PM’s BMW caravan. Plus, depending too much on superstars is like expecting Tendulkar to come out and hit six sixes in the last over.
Action Point: Say no to astrologers and Bollywood stars, be the star.
My Personal Views: BJP has an image of Party with the Difference but it has lost that identity for many reasons. These are definitely the desperate times for the party and the desperate time asks for desperate measure. It will be in the interest of the party that it regroups itself and work on reaching to the masses through ground work. BJP must do undergo a make over and should take attempts to enhance the minority voters in its base. In short BJP needs an overhaul and I feel that they have got good 5 years for the same. It all depends on the leadership as how they can pull this off.