Saturday, May 30, 2009

Without ideology, BJP is nothing

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

The responses to my last post have been extremely useful; they have helped clear doubts in my mind. Scintillating debate, even when it gets sharp, is always welcome.

The rise of the BJP between 1989 and 1998 was directly linked to assertive Hindu expectations articulated by an assertive Hindu leadership. These can be briefly summed up as:

. Political: Hindus had begun to tire of Congress's 'pseudo-secularism'; deep within them, Indians nurse a concept of nationhood whose defining contours are Hindu. When I say Hindu, it is not religion specific but culture and civilisation specific. The Ram Janmabhoomi agitation found a resonance across the country because it became a symbol of both bruised Hindu pride and an opportunity to correct a historical wrong. We could debate the merits of such perceived hurt and grievance, but that is not really relevant; what is relevant is that people saw it that way.

. Social: VP Singh's divisive Mandal politics had left middle India aghast and angry. Since anti-Congress feelings were still high, people turned to the BJP for succour. 'Hindutva' was seen as a unifying force.

. Economic: With the world moving towards market economy, middle India was seeking liberation from the statist economic control-and-command structure that had stifled enterprise and restricted growth as well as wealth generation for more than four decades. On this front, too, the BJP offered an alternative economic policy and programme, based on deregulation and reform.

These coalesced into a burst of support for the BJP, taking it to power in 1998. What also helped was the spectre of political instability and Congress's inability to get its act together during the intervening years between the 1996 and 1998 general elections.

This tectonic shift in voter preference towards the BJP would not have been possible without the party's tactical adoption of 'Hindutva' as a component of its ideology (or, as the BJP calls it, 'political philosophy') along with 'Integral Humanism', which the party says "gives us a broader and modern perspective and tries to unshackle our minds from parochial concerns and past baggage".

Deendayal Upadhyaya's enunciation on this aspect was explicit:

“We have to discard the status quo mentality and usher in a new era. Indeed our efforts at reconstruction need not be clouded by prejudice or disregard for all that is inherited from our past. On the other hand, there is no need to cling to past institutions and traditions which have outlived their utility."

For the BJP, "A nation state based on Integral Humanism is a secular, non-theocratic state. Also, it repudiates statism and stands up for decentralisation to uphold the twin pillars of individual freedom and national interest."

To this was added 'Hindutva' in the late-1980s, strengthening the Hindu ethos of the party, making it more credible as a representative of Hindu aspirations, and setting it apart from the 'secular' centrist and left-of-centre political parties, especially the Congress.

Criticism of 'Hindutva' as a 'communal' idea was blunted by the Supreme Court's Constitution Bench judgement which, essentially, said that 'Hindutva' was/is India's 'way of life' and rooted in its civilisational and cultural history.
The Constitution Bench said,
"No precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. It is difficult to appreciate how in the face of these decisions, the term 'Hindutva' or 'Hinduism' per se, in the abstract, can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry..."

The BJP's own articulation of 'Hindutva' is both pithy and sharp:
"Hindutva or Cultural Nationalism presents the BJP's concept of Indian nationhood. It must be noted that Hindutva is a nationalist, and not a religious or theocratic, concept."

Yet, as has been evident during this summer's general election, events and incidents have controverted this 'concept of Indian nationhood', and driven voters away from the BJP, especially in urban India and among the middle classes.

'Hindutva', as enunciated by the BJP, now carries less credibility as a unifying force. On the contrary, it is seen as Hindu bigotry, fanaticism, extremism and 'anti-modernism', and anti-social reform. The instinctive liberal impulse of upwardly mobile Hindus in towns and cities rejects this perception of 'Hindtuva'. We could argue that the perception is flawed and not grounded in reality, but as we all know, perception matters more than reality, especially in politics.

The following have undoubtedly contributed towards the creation of this perception:

. The anti-Christian violence in Orissa and Karnataka;
. The unrestrained utterances of Hindu organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, among many others.
. The moral policing of dubious outfits like Sri Ram Sene which promote lumpen power.
. The harsh talk of neophytes like Varun Gandhi.
. The inability of the BJP to respond in a cogent and coherent manner when under attack from the 'secular' camp.
. The failure to strategise how to achieve political objectives and adopt tactics accordingly.
. The BJP's proclivity to fudge issues rather than confront them.
. The confusion that has replaced clarity within the party about 'Hindutva', with diverse opinions diluting its essence and disfiguring the concept.
. The absence of any strucured consultative process between the BJP and the various units of the 'Sangh Parivar'.
. The subversion of organisational interests to promote individual interests.

It could well be asked that if Hindus want grievances related to their faith, for instance the threat to Hinduism and Hindu society posed by missionaries of the Christian church, whom should they turn to if not the BJP? And, should the BJP shy away from speaking up for Hindu society?

This is no doubt a tricky question. If the BJP is indifferent to Hindu angst and anger, it will be seen by Hindus as being no different from the 'secular' political class. But if it actively involves itself in the redressal process, it will rile liberal Hindu sensitivities.

Nor can the BJP just disown fraternal organisations like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Those who prescribe this course forget that at the grassroots level, there is tremendous interlinking between the supporters of the various Sangh organisations.

Which brings us to three related questions:

Does a possible solution lie in repudiating 'Hindutva' and retaining 'Integral Humanism' as the core ideological belief of the party, as is being suggested by some?

Or, should the BJP reframe the concept of 'Hindutva' and make it more meaningful for our times without 'secularising' the party?

Or, should the BJP revisit both 'Integral Humanism' [conceptualised in a particular social, political and economic context that does not obtain any more] and 'Hindutva' [similarly formulated in a particular social/political situation that no longer exists], cull out the most redeeming features of both, and draft a new charter to guide the party in the next decade?

I personally feel the time has come to opt for the third course of action. [My Sunday column in the Pioneer.] If adopted, it will ensure greater clarity, help purge the party of its gathered malcontents and give it a 'new look' with which 'new India' can connect.

The BJP would be reduced to nothing without an ideology of its own that is uniquely different from what is espoused by others. But ideology must lie at the core of a grand political strategy, which is different from what the Americans refer to as 'the vision thing' and of which some in the BJP (the courtiers) are enamoured because it promotes individuals over organisation.

Can the BJP come up with a grand political strategy in the next five years, more precisely, by 2014?

The answer to this question is linked to the issue of ideology. One without the other is meaningless, if not impossible.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BJP must choose between ideology and drift

The varied response to my last entry, Locating BJP’s Ideology, is also indicative of the lack of unanimity and the confusion that prevails within the party.

There are those who swear by ‘Hindutva’ and believe that the path to electoral success lies through communal polarisation. Their logic: Muslims won’t vote for BJP in any event; the ‘Hindu vote’ is fragile and given to fragmentation along caste lines; and, in the final analysis, emotive and not substantive issues matter during elections.

Then there are those who believe ‘Hindutva’ (in whatever form) has been grafted on the party needlessly. They would rather go along with ‘Integral Humanism’. There’s a problem though: Not too many of those who espouse this line are well-acquainted with Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s exposition of ‘Integral Humanism’. Intellectual rigour is not the forte of either this group or any other; political rhetoric is often palmed off as ideological discourse.

There’s a third section in the party which is ‘ideology neutral’, does not have either the time or the inclination to study and internalise the ‘political philosophy’ of the party. They are there for reasons that I have elaborated upon in my previous post.

Confusion on the ideological front is confounded when senior leaders dismiss ideology in the most facile manner. LK Advani has on more than one occasion said that “ideology has no relevance to governance”.

Which perhaps explains why the BJP in power (1998-2004) failed to meet the voters’ expectations while dealing with terrorism, Bangladeshi infiltration and even something as ‘secular’ as reviewing the Constitution or dealing with corruption.

Let us not forget that after promising to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants, the BJP actually floated the idea of issuing ‘special identity cards’ (work permits) to them. The BJP had pledged to repeal the IMDT Act, but it didn't do so in the six years it was in power. It needed a Supreme Court judgement to spike this monstrosity after the UPA came to power.

The Prime Minister need not have visited the Vatican during the India-EU Summit in Rome only to be castigated by Pope John Paul II and handed over a demarche. A party president who was caught on tape taking cash was merely made to stand in a corner instead of being packed off in sack cloth and ashes. The bar for ministerial probity should have been set much higher. Arrogance came to substitute humility. The BJP played ducks and drakes with the Bofors scam case. Bureaucrats who discovered 'RSS links' were promoted over able and intelligent officers. Navin Chawla was rehabilitated.

The flip-flop over relations with Pakistan (Lahore bus journey-Kargil-Agra-Parliament attack-aar paar ki ladaai – let’s kiss and make up) and the constant hand-wringing made a mockery of the BJP-led Government. It’s not sufficient to distance yourself from the capitulation at Kandahar; it was a collective decision, never mind what certain individuals have to say. I was in the PMO those days and I can vouch for this fact.

Therefore, what is required is clarity of thought. The BJP must decide its ideological direction/orientation, reframe ideology within the matrix of today’s India, and stand by it. Or it must boldly stand up and say, “Ours is an ideology neutral party. We shall sway with the wave.”

The consequences of the former course of action would be three-fold:
. Those allergic to ideological rigour will make an exit. This could debilitate the party in the short and medium term, but strengthen it in the long term.
. The BJP’s integrity quotient will increase.
. The drift which began in 1998 will be arrested.

The consequences of abandoning ideology would also be three-fold:
. Those who lack morals and scruples shall take over the party.
. The BJP will, in due course, become a pale shadow of its past and jostle for space with the RJD and SP.
. The drift will gather speed; integrity quotient (at an all time low) will plummet.

A couple of points merit mention:

a. Commitment to ideology does not amount to shrill enunciation and raucous denunciation.
b. Hindutva does not have to be limited to politics of exclusivism or identity-based politics.

Linked to the issue of ideology are three other important issues:

a. Leadership
b. Organisation
c. Expansion.

I propose to write about these in the coming days. Tomorrow I shall write about 'Hindu expectations' and the BJP's role.

Your feedback is valuable. Comments are not ‘censored’ (an apprehension expressed by a reader) but we should avoid personal attacks and derogatory language.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Locating BJP's ideology

There was a time when the BJP prided itself as an 'ideological political party' with clarity of thought and purpose. Many of those who are members or supporters of the party were/are loyal to the organisation because of its 'ideology'.

I say 'many' because not all are ideologically motivated. There are those who are drawn to the BJP because of its position on certain issues (terrorism), the appeal of its leaders (Narendra Modi) or because it offers a platform for anti-Congress politics.

Then there are those who are time-servers and are on the lookout for goodies which could range from bagging contracts to brokering deals to loaves and fishes of office.

There's a third category: Flatterers whose survival (and prosperity) is linked to their treacly flattery, though it must be said that not all BJP leaders are swayed by what is crudely referred to as chamchagiri. The power wielded by the 'Flatterers Club' is demonstrated by the ease with which a 'psephologist', who now enjoys Government perks and privileges, misled the party leadership with bogus opinion and exit polls. Just how bogus can be gauged from his 'exit poll' estimate, calculated on the eve of May 16, that the NDA would get 217 seats while the UPA would halt at 176! His clout and access remain undiminished.

Soon after Shankarsinh Vaghela had brought down Keshubhai Patel's Government, Narendra Modi had ruefully told me how the party was divided in three categories of leaders/workers -- 'Khajurias', 'Hajurias' and 'Majurias'. The 'Khajurias' were the turncoats looking for an office to profit; the 'Hajurias' were the flatterers who spent their time doing 'jee hazoori', and the 'Majurias' were those who toiled 24x7 without any expectations.

Ideology, therefore, was limited to the third category.

After the BJP's defeat in the 2009 general election, three issues have been raised in the course of the ongoing debate in the public domain, although there is as yet no indication that a similar debate/discussion/deliberation has begun behind the shuttered doors of the leaders' houses in Lutyens' Delhi or at the BJP's 11, Ashoka Road headquarters.

These can be summed up in three questions:

1. Has the BJP lost the election because it has cut itself loose from its ideological mooring?
2. Has the time come for the BJP to take a re-look at its ideology and whether it is relevant for the times we live in?
3. Has Hindutva outlived its appeal, and hence its utility as a tool to mobilise support for the party?

There is nothing frivolous about any of these questions. They need to be answered, preferably by those who preside over the BJP's destiny in the short, medium and long term.

Here are my views:

1. Ideology should be neither static nor rooted in dogma. Times change, situations change, people change. There would be nothing more tragic than the BJP treating its ideology as immutable. It would make the party similar to the CPI(M) which is irrevocably wedded to Stalinist dogma.

2. But what exactly is the BJP's ideology? The ideology of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-1977) was sort of centred around Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya's exposition of 'Integral Humanism.' It would, however, be instructive to remember that the BJS was launched by the RSS as the political front of the Sangh; the first president, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, was a Hindu Mahasabhaite and subscribed to Savarkar's political philosophy. Ideology took a back seat when the BJS disbanded and merged with the Janata Party (1977-1980). When the party was reborn as Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980, there was a protracted debate on what should be its ideology. Since some of those who had joined the BJP were 'Congress Socialists', the party settled for 'Gandhian Socialism' as its ideology. The Jana Sangh component was appalled; Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia was vocal in opposing it and circulated a note questioning the very concept of 'Gandhian Socialism'. Faced with mounting opposition, 'Gandhian Socialism' was unceremoniously replaced by 'Integral Humanism'.

3. In June 1989, the BJP adopted a resolution at its National Executive meeting in Palampur (popularly referred to as the 'Palampur Resolution'), commiting the party to the agitation for the liberation of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, which was then being spearheaded by the VHP. It was a presidential resolution, which means it was adopted without any discussion. There were discordant voices, including that of Jaswant Singh, but these were drowned in the enthusiasm that followed and was visible during LK Advani's Somnath to Ayodhya 'Ram Rath Yatra' (terminated by Lalu Prasad Yadav at Samastipur).

4. It was around this time that LK Advani introduced two new terms into modern political discourse -- 'Pseudo-secularism', linked to the Shah Bano judgement and its fallout; and, 'Cultural Nationalism' or (the BJP's version of) 'Hindutva', with elements borrowed from Veer Savarkar's eponymous treatise, Hindutva.

5. Linked to this was the BJP's stirring slogan, "Justice for all, appeasement of none." And the three principled positions it took -- a) Abrogation of Article 370 (dating back to SP Mookerjee's agitation for the full and final integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the Union of India); b) Construction of a Ram Temple to commemorate Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya (this followed the Palampur Resolution of 1989); and, introduction of a Uniform Civil Code (which was included in the party's charter after it adopted a resolution in end-1995) -- became the symbols of the BJP's 'Hindutva' or 'Cultural Nationalism'. It was further fleshed out with issues like cow slaughter and Hindu political aspirations. And it became an over-arching national motivator during the bleak days of VP Singh's divisive Mandal politics, getting a further fillip when Islamism erupted with full fury in the Kashmir Valley.

6. It is doubtful whether barring a handful, others in the BJP are fully acquainted with either 'Integral Humanism' or 'Hindutva'. It exists in their consciousness in a nebulous form. For the flatterers, not even that.

7. Which brings us to the question: What, then, is the BJP's ideology? The official Website of the party does not list any 'Ideology', though it has a section on 'BJP Philosophy' listed under 'About Us'. This section lists both 'Integral Humanism' and 'Hindutva', in that order, as the BJP's philosophy.

8. And therein lies the problem. What does the BJP subscribe to as its core value? Though 'Integral Humanism' and 'Hindutva' are, at one level, all-embracing and all-inclusive, they are not one and the same.

9. The BJP has never really tried to explain, and elaborate, on either. Preaching to the converted does not help. It needs to 'sell' ideas contained in both to a wider audience, not necessarily to convert but to convince.

10. The issue really is not one of the BJP 'revisiting' its ideology or revising it; it is of internalising that which it lists as its 'philosophy' and extrapolating from it. To jettison either or both would be to give up its distincitve identity, of which some still remains, and become just another party hankering for power, a clone of the Congress but minus its inherent strengths.

By the way, the revamped and redesigned BJP Website has dropped a key feature of the old Website. There used to be an icon on the side-bar by clicking on which you could hear the full version of Vande Mataram. Since those who are responsible forrevamping and redesigning the Website are also the brains behind the mission to 'secularise' the BJP, I can only assume that it was a considered decision to distance the BJP from Vande Mataram and disown the National Song as being part of its identity. Ironically, it was the BJP's efforts that led to Parliament according equal status to the National Song as that accorded to the National Anthem -- each session of Parliament begins with Jana Gana Mana and ends with Vande Mataram.

There could be two reasons for dropping Vande Mataram from the BJP Website. One, it makes the BJP 'look' Hindu and thus 'offends' Muslim sensitivities. Two, it makes the BJP appear 'old fashioned' and hence prevents it from 'connecting' with the youth. But Muslims aren't exactly tripping over each other to embrace the BJP, nor are the youth rushing to vote for the party.

Interestingly, although perhaps not coincidentally, the redesigned RSS Website has also dropped Vande Mataram.

I guess nationalism, Hindu, cultural or any which way, is no longer a dirty word only for the 'secularists' but also for our so-called 'nationalists'.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BJP after its defeat: Hand-wringing is not introspection


I came across this story in the Times of India a couple of days ago:

MUMBAI: A section of Muslims is lobbying for the induction of former Minister of Minority Affairs, AR Antulay, into the Union Cabinet. Octogenarian Antulay lost the Lok Sabha election from Raigad to the Shiv Sena's Anant Geete... Antulay was the lone Muslim MP from Maharashtra in the 14th Lok Sabha. With his defeat, there is no Muslim representative from the State in the 15th Lok Sabha and many Muslims feel that his induction into the Cabinet and his subsequent nomination to Parliament through the Rajya Sabha would help reduce discontent in the community... A delegation of Muslims ... is leaving for Delhi soon to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi... "He is respected among Muslims and if he is made a Minister again, the Congress can ensure Muslim support in the Assembly polls which are a few months away,'' said Sami Khatib, president, Anjuman-e-Islam.

Three points need to be noted.

First, Antulay, who as a Cabinet Minister in the previous Government headed by Manmohan Singh had contested the televised version of 26/11 and insisted that Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and two of his senior colleagues were not felled by terrorist bullets during the siege of Mumbai (thus lending credence to the desi Islamist fiction that it was a plot by Hindus and Zionists to blame Pakistan) could not swing the Muslim and 'secular' Hindu votes. He was defeated by the Shiv Sena's candidate.

Second, Muslims of Maharashtra are loath to accept the verdict of a democratic election since their man has lost and a Hindu has won. So, they want the Congress to get him in somehow or the other. If it doesn't, the Congress can discount Muslim support during the Assembly election later this year. I am not surprised Antulay is 'respected' by those Muslims who are not-so-subtly blackmailing the Congress.

[I read an interesting analysis of the 2009 election from the Muslim perspective:
"The 15th Lok Sabha that would be formally constituted any moment in the ensuing week will have a meager 28 Muslim MPs, far less than needed if compared with the percentage of their population, 13.4 per cent according to the 2001 Census..." The full analysis can be read at]

Third, for all its 'moderation', 'secularism', 'centrist politics' and 'appeal to the masses', the Congress couldn't squeeze in a Muslim winner from Maharashtra. So much for the hogwash that the BJP should learn from the Congress on how to carry all sections along.

It has been pointed out that the BJP's candidate (a VHP swami) in Hardwar (Uttarakhand) lost miserably, as did another VHP activist who was given the BJP's ticket for North-East Delhi constituency; the BJP candidate was trounced in Kandhamal (Orissa).

What has not been highlighted is the BJP's victory in Malegaon (Maharashtra) which has a huge Muslim population (said to be 50 per cent). There was much expectation that the Congress would wrest this seat from the BJP, courtesy the ATS's dubious case against Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur that they, along with nine other 'Hindu terrorists', plotted and executed the September 29, 2008 motorcycle bombing at Malegaon in which six Muslims were killed.

It is not surprising that this minor detail should have been ignored both by 'secular' media and those in the BJP who are wringing their hands for not sacking Varun Gandhi for his intemperate comments which, they believe, contributed to the party's defeat in the polls.

Of course, such claims amount to nothing but bunkum, and are aimed at deflecting attention from the main reasons why the BJP foundered (or should it be floundered?) so horribly. Till now there are no indications of any honest introspection by the BJP or an attempt to do a proper analysis. Everybody's covering up for everybody, which makes sense: Maintain the status quo so that nobody's affected.

BJP president Rajnath Singh at least has had the courage to state publicly that there were "certain flaws in the working and decisions of our party". Other notables have merely said, "The mandate is for us to sit in the Opposition... we will behave like a responsible Opposition." We would have been in the dark without such profound observations.

Here are some random causative factors that contributed to the BJP's humiliating defeat in Election 2009:

1. BJP lacks credibility. Voters don't trust the BJP, or what its present leaders have to say. For instance, when the BJP talks of terrorism, its record in office tells a different story. LK Advani trying to distance himself from the Kandahar episode has had a recoil effect. Or, when it talks of Bofors, a valid question is raised: What did the party do to fix the scamsters when it was in power? As for the BJP's tall talk on corruption, ah, well, let it be.
2. BJP lacks moral authority. It's not enough to preach. You should be seen to be practising rectitude.
3. BJP is neither fish nor flesh. Desperate to be endorsed by the 'secular' media, the English-speaking commentariat and the social elite of Delhi and Mumbai, the BJP has transmogrified itself into a 'B' team of the Congress. If the choice is between the Congress and its cut-price version, voters will naturally opt for the former.

Frankly, it all boils down to the BJP's 'IQ' -- Integrity Quotient.

The BJP, especially those who selflessly support the party and fly its flag, today reminds me of Sisyphus.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three myths and an election

Kanchan Gupta / Comment

This year’s general election will be remembered for three myths that determined its amazing outcome, catapulting the Congress to an awesome 206 seats and reducing the BJP’s tally to a paltry 116. The first is about the BJP ‘failing’ to break free of its ‘Hindutva agenda’ and coming up with proposals that would appeal to the masses and be in tune with the aspirations of India’s young. This is entirely incorrect. None of the BJP leaders who campaigned across the length and breadth of the country talked about those issues which are identified with what is crudely referred to as the party’s ‘Hindutva agenda’. I don’t recall any leader promising to abrogate Article 370, introduce a Uniform Civil Code and build a ‘grand temple’ dedicated to Sri Ram in Ayodhya. So how did this perception gain ground? The answer to this question lies in the manner in which the media, especially 24x7 news channels, portrayed the thrust of the BJP’s election campaign, wilfully misleading readers and viewers by perpetuating falsehoods in the most brazen manner, beginning with the party’s election manifesto.

Till the day of its release, only the top leaders of the BJP (you can count them on your fingertips) were privy to the contents of the manifesto. To prevent motivated leaks, the manifesto was printed the night before it was released. Yet, for nearly a fortnight before that, newspapers and news channels ran jaundiced stories about how the manifesto would focus on the BJP’s ‘core Hindutva issues’, how the Ram temple would figure prominently in it, how it was meant to revive the ‘Hindu card’, and how all this had caused a rift in the party! I happened to run into one of the peddlers of this fiction a couple of days before the manifesto was released. How do you know all this, I asked him. “Someone who is involved with drafting the manifesto has told me,” he replied haughtily. Really? The poor, pathetic sod and his feckless editor obviously had no clue about who was drafting the manifesto, what were its contents, and yet they manufactured and published stories which they knew were patent lies. I should know because I drafted the manifesto.

And when the manifesto was released, journalists didn’t even bother to read the 48-page document. Instead, they picked up three lines on page 47, which said, “The BJP will explore all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya,” to put out stories on how the party had returned its “old hardline Hindutva”. During prime time news that evening, anchors aggressively confronted BJP spokespersons with taunting questions like, “So, the BJP, bereft of any issue, has fallen back on Ayodhya? It’s communal politics once again?” They grinned as the party’s representatives, ill-prepared and inarticulate, mumbled inanities. A news service that prides itself on being ‘different’ ran a story that was all about the BJP’s previous manifestoes. Others followed suit. And that was it.

The manifesto talked about the economy, foreign policy, strategic affairs, climate change, education, agriculture, science and technology, gender equality, minority welfare. But all that was overlooked because for media those three lines on Page 47 were of overwhelming importance. Tragically, since media chose to ignore the substantive portions of the manifesto, which would have found a resonance with ‘young India’ had they been publicised, those leading the party’s election campaign also abandoned their own governance agenda. Instead, they talked about frivolous issues far removed from popular concerns — for example, setting up cyber cafés in impoverished villages.

And thus was the perception created that the BJP cares only about building a temple in Ayodhya and nothing else. The power of perception over reality was demonstrated when during a television debate actress Nandita Das, asked by a feisty member of the audience what exactly had Mr Varun Gandhi said in Pilibhit to merit her censure, stuttered and stammered, bit her lips, looked at her nails, tossed her head defiantly and said, “You know all those awful things he has said...” or words to that effect. Where did she read or hear about those ‘awful things’? “It’s all over the place... on TV, in newspapers. Look, we all know what he has said.” End of debate. Clearly she didn’t know what Mr Varun Gandhi had said, nor did those in media who painted him as a monster and thus sought to hobble the BJP.

The second myth that did the BJP in is the so-called ‘consciousness’ of India’s middle class whose concern about real life issues like terrorism, inflation, job loss, credit crunch and corruption, vocally articulated by those who claim to represent ‘civil society’, has turned out to be totally bogus. Nothing else explains why the middle class should have voted for the Congress and thus endorsed its poor record of governance over the past five years. We can only surmise from the voting preference of the middle class that people who are educated, well-informed, and alert to what’s happening around them, are least bothered about corruption in high places, the relentless loot of public money, the sagging physical infrastructure, the dire straits into which the previous Government has led the national economy, the repeated terrorist attacks and India’s diminishing stature. Indeed, middle class ‘morality’ and ‘consciousness’ have turned out to be figments of our collective imagination; the next time you hear somebody waxing eloquent on how Transparency International has rated India as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, or how our country has become the favourite destination of terrorists, kick that person in the face. There is no percentage in being polite.

The third myth is about ‘good governance’ fetching votes and electoral victory. Had this been true, the BJP’s tally in Gujarat would have been much higher than 15 and Mr Naveen Patnaik’s BJD would not have swept the polls in Orissa. It would be gross exaggeration to suggest that the BJD Government has delivered on its promises or turned Orissa into a wonderland of rapid development and galloping progress. India’s single largest FDI, which was to have come by way of Posco’s steel plant, remains on paper. There has been no perceptible decline in poverty in Orissa. Anybody in Bhubaneswar will tell you about rampant corruption in the bureaucracy and how BJD Ministers had their snouts in the trough. Yes, Mr Patnaik’s image remains untarnished, but so does Mr BC Khanduri’s, yet the BJP lost all five seats in Uttarakhand. If quality of governance was really a criterion in deciding the people’s choice, the BSP’s vote share would not have increased in Uttar Pradesh, taking it way ahead of others. That this did not translate into seats is because of the quirks of the first-past-the-post system.

Yes, the Congress has won a stupendous victory. But for all the wrong reasons.

[Reader response to this comment as it appeared in last Sunday's Pioneer has been overwhelming.]

Friday, May 22, 2009

BJP's mantra: Sit tight, do nothing!

Here's an update from Uttarakhand: Chief Minister BC Khanduri has managed to cling on to his chair. So, all that talk of 'moral responsibility' was so much bunkum and no more. The MLAs are a divided lot. Most of them are unhappy with Khanduri for a variety of reasons, all of which coalesced to cause the BJP's rout in Uttarakhand. But possibly many would want the status quo to be maintained lest they lose their own chairs! Person, power, perquisites, party. That's the new order in the BJP. So much for its high falutin claim that the party comes before individual.

Yashwant Sinha has been upfront with his comment on the election results. "We were not clearly focussed on issues, and we need to define our ideological line." The issues were there, staring the BJP in the face. But it went off on a tangent, hunting for hidden gold in Swiss banks, armed with entries culled from Wikipedia.

In the middle of the campaign, a bright spark came up with a mind-boggling idea: Every BPL family will be supplied with a smart phone when the BJP comes to power! There was no shortage of 'vision' -- strategists were in a trance -- all of which became the focus of the campaign. The issues were ignored.

Arun Jaitley told mediapersons on Friday (May 22), "The biggest challenge for the BJP is to learn from the verdict and conduct itself as a responsible Opposition." Learn what? But you can't ask that question as it would discomfit a whole lot of people and leave the flatterers in the Leader's court distraught.

Rajnath Singh has ruled out any formal, structured inquiry into the BJP's pathetic performance. Instead, according to him, leaders will 'quietly' visit constituencies and get 'reports from the ground'. And then the party will 'quietly' bury the findings of those sent to snoop and sniff around.

The last time the BJP did any honest introspection and made an effort to study the party's performance in a general election was after the 1984 poll when the BJP was reduced to two seats. That report helped the party to strategise and leap frog to the frontline of Indian politics. Others may have forgotten about that report, surely LK Advani hasn't.

The lotus-eaters are content to dream of 2014...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blame it on the media!

In defeat, don't introspect, just be disingenuous. This appears to be the prevalent view in the BJP post-May 16. We are yet to see any sign of the leadership looking within, shortlisting the strategic blunders it committed and setting themselves to the task of taking corrective measures.

True, it's been less than a week since the BJP was trounced in Election 2009 and reduced to 116 seats (its worst ever performance since 1991) compared to the Congress's 206 in the Lok Sabha. Flatterers in the party will say: You possibly can't review, re-assess and re-strategise in less than seven days. Point conceded: Having taken years to get where the BJP has got, it will take some doing to get out of the rut.

But surely a week is a long time to indicate your intentions? That is, provided you have any.

Instead, we have seen the stalwarts of the BJP's Delhi unit, who having led the party to a wipeout in last winter's Assembly election have now led it to a repeat wipepout in the general election, blaming the BSP for the BJP's defeat! Their logic: If the BSP had not polled so poorly, the BJP would not have lost. So if you must blame anybody, blame BSP. It will take some effort to work this out; I shan't even try to do so.

Similarly, a chorus is now being heard, blaming the media for the BJP's poor performance at the national level. The media, especially television channels, are 'biased', they 'promoted' the Congress, they 'ran down' the BJP, etc, etc. So slyly pass on the buck, don't let it stop with you.

Here's an alternative view, counterpoints to what is now being put out, shared by those who aren't skilled in the art of flattery and are loath to acquire that skill:

1. Media is bad, media is terrible. But those from/on behalf of the BJP who appear on television shows and seemed to have become part of studio fixtures during the election campaign (barring honourable exceptions whom we need not name) deserve the Golden Pumpkin award. Every word they utter turns away voters. They don't do their homework, are weak on ideas, have poor command over language and end up looking silly.

2. Boycott media. That's a scream. Many BJP leaders would have sleepless nights unless they saw themselves on TV channels and their names in newspapers. Never mind the vacuity of what they say.

3. Media abuses BJP. Yes it does, but the BJP leaders seem to love it when journalists snigger at them, the more they snigger, the more they are feted. Anchors and channel owners, editors and senior journalists who have nothing but contempt for the BJP are invited home for breakfast, lunch and dinner, taken on campaign trips, and showered with praise and more. They can walk into a BJP leader's drawing room any time of day and night. But a karyakarta who toils 24x7 for the party because he/she believes in the party's 'ideology' and travels all the way to Delhi for a one minute darshan will be shooed away by guards from the gate.

Meanwhile, it seems there is talk of appointing Mr Shanta Kumar as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. I guess it's all about being 'first in line', which is determined by age and not ability. Recall the example of Prince Charles, the 'first in line' to the British throne who now spends his time growing lettuce and carrots, waiting to wear the crown one day.

Reach for the remote control...

Update! Hold the remote!

After writing this blog entry, I saw an interesting news story filed by PTI on the messy situation that prevails in the Uttarakhand unit of the BJP. Chief Minister BC Khanduri, after accepting moral responsibility for the party's rout in the State and offering to resign, is now digging in his heels. Here's the PTI report:

New Delhi, May 21BJP president Rajnath Singh today (May 21) appointed two observers to meet party MLAs in Uttarakhand to elicit their views on a possible successor to Chief Minister BC Khanduri who 'quit' taking responsibility for the party's rout in Lok Sabha poll.
Khanduri, in a last-ditch bid to hang on, changed tack today issuing a statement saying the BJP's defeat in the State was due to failure to "educate" voters about his Government's "good work".
Rajnath appointed senior BJP leaders Gopinath Munde and Thawar Chand
Gehlot as 'Central Observers' who will visit Uttarakhand tomorrow (May 22) to
hear the grievances of the party MLAs and report on whether Khanduri
should be replaced.
After the party failed to win even one of the five Lok seats in the State, Khanduri had offered to resign owning "moral responsibility" for the debacle.
However, today Khanduri made a desperate bid to save his post, claiming
though his Government had done "exceptional" development work, "voters had not been educated about it leading to the loss in these elections".
"We were not able to properly educate the people about our development and welfare works to convert our performance into votes," he said in a statement.
"We were not able to reach out fully to the people and propagate our development work due to the election code which remained in force for nine months in the last two years due to various elections," Khanduri added. (PTI)

Now, reach for the remote!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stumped BJP flounders

Kanchan Gupta / Comment

After losing the 2004 general election, the BJP had gone into denial mode. After comprehensively losing this year's general election and scoring the lowest tally since 1991, the BJP has gone into inaction mode, hoping the problems that led to its defeat will just disappear and the hugely disastrous Election 2009 strategy will turn into a winning gameplan by 2014!

It won't happen that way. It's a pity that the party refuses to accept and internalise the fundamental message of this election: Voters are not enthused by a leadership which cannot connect with India's youth and its aspirations. As a young colleague at my office said, "How can I relate to someone who was in his early 20s when my father was born?"

In sharp contrast, the Congress glitters. It's brimming with youth power.

If presence in the blogosphere could win a party elections, the BJP would be occupying the Treasury Benches in Parliament today. But who is to tell the BJP's leaders that there's a vast difference between virtual reality and reality? When flatterers crowd the court, the story can be no different from that of the emperor without clothes.

As I have written in a previous blog, Mr LK Advani, who led the 2009 campaign and was projected as the BJP's choice for the Prime Minister's post, has reversed his noble decision to step aside as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. He will now remain Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, and hence the BJP's prime ministerial candidate till such time another name is announced. We are told that he had to give up his decision to step down from the Leader of Opposition's post, which would have raised his stature immensely, under 'pressure from the party'.

Whoever becomes Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha will remain in the shadows; the others will be mere back-benchers. The so-called 'GenNext', well into its late 50s, will remain 'GenNext' for the foreseeable future. I can't see leadership passing into the hands of 'GenNext' in Parliament and outside any time soon.

A bit like the Prince of Wales who is still waiting to don the crown. His Website says, "The Prince of Wales is first in line to the British Throne." Similarly, many in the BJP are 'in line' for the top job. Charles, by the way, was born in 1948. If he can nurse hope, so can BJP's 'GenNext'.

Sense and sensibility have ceased to matter in the BJP. Look at what's happening in Uttarakhand where the Congress won all the five parliamentary seats. It's a resounding rejection of the incumbent BJP Government in that State.

Chief Minister BC Khanduri was prompt in accepting moral responsibility and offering to step down from office. The party accepted the offer. Five days later, he is still in office.

He could well argue why should he alone be the fall guy for the party's abysmal performance. Others who are clearly to blame for leading the party to its humiliating defeat are sitting pretty, pointing fingers in every direction except at themselves.

Presumably they still hope to make it to power in 2014, by when I will be a grandfather.

And I was born in 1961.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't believe it, says Karunanidhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK paterfamilias M Karunanidhi on Tuesday (May 19)refused to 'believe' that LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran had died, saying it is "not yet confirmed".
Referring to news emanating from Colombo about the dreaded terrorist Prabhakaran, a darling of the DMK, being killed by the Sri Lankan Army while he was trying to escape from the war zone in an ambulance, Mr Karunanidhi said, "The news is not yet confirmed. I have nothing to say now on this issue." He added that pro-LTTE leaders in Tamil Nadu have issued a statement saying that it is a "Sri Lankan lie" that Prabhakaran has been killed.
Does Mr Karunanidhi know what the Government of India does not know? The implications are rather serious.
The accompanying visual is an image taken from video footage released by the Sri Lankan Army on Tuesday, May 19, 2009: It shows the body of Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So, Advani won't quit after all!

Kanchan Gupta / Comment

Here's the news of the day from the BJP front, as circulated by PTI:

Advani to continue as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha
New Delhi, May 18 (PTI)
Grappling with the aftermath of the election defeat, BJP today (May 18) persuaded LK Advani to continue as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha probably with a view to avoiding jockeying for the post among its next rung of leaders.
81-year-old Advani, who had decided to step down from the post after his bid for Prime Minister's post failed, was "requested" by the party to stay on in the new Lok Sabha.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said Advani has agreed to continue as Leader of BJP's Parliamentary Board. "Therefore, it is understood that he will also be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha," he said.
On Saturday, as the results trickled in Advani had expressed his desire not to become the Leader of the Opposition. He had asked the Parliamentary Board to choose another leader but it did not agree with his request and keeping in view his insistence, the party president was authorised to talk to him to change his decision.

My mailbox is flooded with e-mail from well-meaning individuals, including those who do not vote for BJP, expressing a wide range of emotions, excluding anything that remotely resembles joy, in response to Mr Advani's decision to continue as Leader of Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, after declaring that he was stepping down.
Mr Gopi Maliwal's mail, which is the mildest of the lot, reads, "What is the difference between BJP and Congress then?"
Well, I can't answer that question; it's for the BJP to deal with it.
However, here are some points on the issue that come to mind:
1. Mr Advani presumably based his decision to step down from the post of Leader of Opposition after election results were announced last Saturday (May 16) on two factors --
a. Since the BJP campaign was entirely centred around him, and he led from the front, he was obliged to accept moral responsibility for the party's defeat;
b. It is only fair that having failed to win a mandate for the party in 2009, the 'seniors' should make way for the next line of leaders to take over so that they can fashion the strategy for the 2014 electoral battle and the Assembly elections that will be held in between now and then.
Mr Advani's decision to step down was noble and laudable. It was both dignified and morally correct. It was what was expected of him.
2. Between Saturday evening and Monday morning, Mr Advani was 'persuaded' to change his decision. He finally decided to stay put as Leader of Opposition, "bowing to pressure" from the party. A critic said, "Actually, it is the other way round. The party has bowed to pressure..." The crudity of the comment is indicative of what is bound to follow by way of reaction.
3. I personally feel Mr Advani would have gained in stature had he stuck to his decision and gracefully allowed the long-overdue transition to take place. The harsh truth is that young India wishes to see a young BJP. This is one of the seminal messages of Election 2009.
4. I find the reason for Mr Advani being 'persuaded' to reverse his decision, and his 'bowing to pressure' from the party, that is, to "avoid jockeying for the post among its next rung of leaders", rather specious. If true, it shows the 'next rung of leaders' in very poor light. The 'next rung' will now have to live with this slur.
I am reminded of what is popularly attributed to Louis XV: "Après moi, le déluge."
Meanwhile, as Shammi Kapoor famously sang, "Tally ho..."

Bonfire of Left vanity

Kanchan Gupta /Comment

Early Saturday morning, CPI(M) cadre who had gathered outside the counting centre at Dum Dum parliamentary constituency not too far from the seat of Marxist power in West Bengal, decided that they need not wait for the result to be declared to begin their victory celebrations. After all, the CPI(M) could not lose in Dum Dum. So, they set off crackers and jubilant supporters raised stirring slogans. That was before counting began.

By mid-day, all that remained of the celebrations were tattered red flags being kicked around by triumphant Trinamool Congress activists. Along with other bastions of the Left, Dum Dum too had fallen to the mighty Mamata Banerjee wave.

True, Mr Saugata Roy has won in Dum Dum with a slender margin of 2,550 votes, but the margin of victory in this constituency is inconsequential. What is of import is the defeat of Mr Amitava Nandy of the CPI(M).

If the Trinamool Congress winning Dum Dum has come as a surprise, so has the victory of its candidates in constituencies like Jadavpur, Krishnanagar, Hooghly, Diamond Harbour, Uluberia, Serampore and Birbhum. These constituencies were considered impregnable fortresses of the CPI(M). They have now been breached by a middle-aged bard, a matinee idol fallen on bad times, a fading Tollywood star, a part-time human rights activist and well-past-their-prime politicians who ‘shone’ in the 1970s during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.

Anybody who contested on a Trinamool ticket has been declared a winner. Among those who have had to suffer the ignominy of defeat in their presumed strongholds are — or should it be were? — stalwarts of the CPI(M). Mr Roop Chand Pal, we can be sure, will take a long time to reconcile himself with the new reality, as will Mr Hannan Mollah and Mr Santasri Chatterjee.

There is understandable disbelief at the CPI(M)’s headquarters in Alimuddin Street. When I met him days before the first round of polling, the party’s State secretary and Polit Bureau member Biman Bose told me that the contest would be tough, but the Left Front’s tally would not go below a certain level. “People are talking of the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance winning up to 10 to 12 seats. That will not happen. It’s an impossibility.” Mr Bose was not being insincere in his assessment or misleading me on purpose. He was obviously unable to gauge the extent of popular resentment — you could blame it on him or local party leaders. They either kept the truth a secret or couldn’t care less, firm in their belief that in the end, the people would meekly go and vote for the CPI(M). This is the way it has been for the past 32 years.

In an assessment of the possible election outcome, which factored in the Trinamool Congress’s expectations, I had made bold to suggest that the Left’s tally could come down from the 35 seats it won in 2004 to 22 seats in this election. In the event, even that was way off the mark: It has come down to 15 seats, with the Trinamool Congress increasing its tally from one seat to 19 seats. The Congress has not gained from this election; it has merely held on to its 2004 tally of six seats. But the SUCI has walked off with one seat, creating a record of sorts. The 42nd seat has gone to the BJP, courtesy the GJMM: Mr Jaswant Singh has won, as predicted by this newspaper, with a huge margin.

The Left today stands forlorn in a corner, shamed and shunned by the same people who earlier enthusiastically voted for the CPI(M), regardless of the candidate. For, let there be no mistake about those who have turned on the Left with such ferocity: They are supporters, sympathisers and supplicants who have turned renegade. Without their vote, the Trinamool Congress would not have been able to tip the scale in its favour.

In Kerala the Left may have suffered on account of infighting within the CPI(M). The unedifying sight of supporters of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan pouring scorn and ridicule on party State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and of street-fighting between the rival camps could not have encouraged people to vote for the Left.

But in West Bengal the story is vastly different. Apparent divisions and differences in the party were set aside, if not papered over, before the election. The party’s senior leaders reached out to those who had distanced themselves from the CPI(M) but could influence voters. Forgiveness was sought for alleged and real sins of omission and commission. A full review was promised of all contentious policies. Cadre were instructed to turn out in full strength. The CPI(M)’s fabled party organisation, which is virtually a parallel administration, was pressed into service.

All this and more did not help. The party has suffered its worst ever defeat since 1977. The Congress’s performance in 1984, when it won 16 seats in the election held after Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination, pales into insignificance when compared to the Left’s rout in this election. If the trend which began with the Left losing comprehensively in last year’s panchayat elections continues, then the CPI(M) could well find itself in the Opposition after the 2011 Assembly election. Ms Mamata Banerjee does not subscribe to the virtues of understatement. But she can’t be faulted for declaring that the “Communists are now a political minority in West Bengal”.

It’s difficult to say which comes first after being in power for 32 years: Conceit or deceit. What can be said without fear of contradiction is that the CPI(M) in West Bengal today suffers from both. Nandigram is not merely about a botched attempt to acquire land for industry; it is an idiom of the Left’s political bankruptcy. Singur is not about the Left embracing capitalism but promoting crony capitalism.

The ‘Party’ that once claimed to represent the people’s aspirations is now despised by the same people. Fear of the ‘Party’ has given way to courage to stand up to the ‘Party’. This could well mean unsettling the political stability that has prevailed in West Bengal and disturbing the status quo. The ‘change’ which the Trinamool Congress promises remains undefined and untested. But people are willing to take the risk.

Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should be a worried man.

Response to BJP's defeat

The following are some of the responses I have received to my analysis of the Election 2009 results, "A battle is lost, not the war":

Utter surprise
By Vijay Gupta on 5/17/2009 10:38:37 PM

This election has been an utter surprise to everybody; the winners, losers, and even the general population in particular. It was the ballot box keep staring on everybody with great suspense on their self; however, the people have spoken. It is a lesson for everybody to be learnt now, and will be the lesson for the future as well. The title of this article is very appropriate. Learn, learn, learn, from the past, use it in the present, to make the future bright.

It is not the BJP
By Indira on 5/17/2009 7:54:52 PM

I do not think BJP lost because what BJP did or did not do. BJP has million shortcommings, but it is patriotic, indian culture and has the vision for the future. No party comes close to BJP on this. The party - Congress-- that won is anti-national, has no respect for the culture, the country and behaves like they own the country. I think BJP lost becasue, the people of India themselves are very much like congress, so thye feel comfortable with congress.

Winning elections made easy
By Suraj Singh on 5/17/2009 7:33:56 PM

Normally returning officers declare the serial number assignments after the last day of withdrawal of nominations, which happens about two weeks before polling. ROM chips with mischievous codes can be readied within hours after the candidates’ serial numbers are known. During the two weeks before polling, the malicious ROM chips, or the motherboard, or possibly the whole control-unit, whatever appears easier, may be caused to replace the original ones.

BJP needs a dose of sincerity
By Bhuvan Chaturvedi on 5/17/2009 6:42:18 PM

The single most important factor for the BJP's diminishing returns is its lack of sincerity or hypocisy about hindu nationalist issues. I witnessed how under 18 youngsters in UP in the early 1990s would risk going to jail by voting for the BJP by impersonating absent voters because they believed the party, once in power, would construct the Ram temple, do away with caste-based reservations, repeal articles 25 and 370, bring in a uniform civil code etc.

A battle is lost, but not the war
By Dyutimoy Chakraborty on 5/17/2009 6:02:16 PM

BJP failed because it failed to understand the Public mood. People are no longer swayed by others failures, they want to hear what different you will do. BJP's campaign unfortunately stressed on Congress's failures rather than their visions and commitments for the future. Played the Afzal Guru case too much to publc discontentment.. The middle class didnt blame Congress for the economy because its a global phenomenon. But campaigning should be positive rather than negative.

BJP never lose the war on Pseudo secularism
By Dr Raman on 5/17/2009 5:46:45 PM

Good analysis. However, this analysis overlooked few aspects like back-stabbing of RSS in several parts of India. Since Sri Advani made praising comments on Jinnah, several RSS leaders are holding grudge against him and working against party in every election. Secondly, poor are bribed by congress & youth are more concerned about western lifestyle than country's inernal security and corruption. Last but not least, media worked against petty issues related to BJP and Advaniji and diverted nation'

A battle is lost but not the war
By Lt Col Luv Kumar Shinghal on 5/17/2009 5:42:21 PM

BJP has millions of following in India & abroad. Its amongst the two largest national secular parties. Results for election in 2009, and poor showing of BJP has been the biggest surprise to everyone including all exit polls. BJP has ruled the country for 6 yrs and very secular in character. Its sad that all other parties try to project themselves as secular. Rejections and defeats are part of life and learn from the mistakes made and come back stronger and try to perform much better next time.

Exit Polls & EVMs
By Salauddeen on 5/17/2009 5:31:14 PM

Exit Polls are an absolute necessity when EVMs are in use, especially the kind India prefers which have NO PAPER TRAIL! (In the USA, if an EVM result is disputed one can check the paper trail.)

Exit Polls do not have 50% margin of error!

What now?
By Anjan on 5/17/2009 2:59:54 PM

Will India now cease to be a secular state? Will it be partitioned again into Islamic states in next 5 years?

By R J Sahu on 5/17/2009 2:56:23 PM

Were the EVMs dispatched from foreign countries just before the election?

Jai Ho Gandhi Dynasty!
By Hriday on 5/17/2009 2:18:20 PM

Ram's comment is spot on. We Hindus must be most slavish, spineless race on this earth. We despise ourselves, love all things 'Phoren' & praise Islam & Christianity.The pseudo-secular forces have overcome, for the time being, patriotic forces in the country.The BJP needs to reinvent itself by engaging with the rural masses & the enlightened urban people. Isolate the phoney Urban elite who have sold their souls to the sinister pseudo-secular political parties. We need to fight back.

A real doubt
By vijay on 5/17/2009 1:37:21 PM

In security studies, political economy and international affairs one becomes aware of strange happenings.The role of media and certain religious groups (which sometimes have strangely cooperated with communists) in usurping or destabilizing the sovereignity of nations is well known. Quite a few people who would have voted BJP were not on the electoral roles, people abroad could not cast their votes easily and it is certainly possible that something could have been done to the evms.

Never down and out
By shashi Singh on 5/17/2009 12:58:49 PM

BJP should rise like a phoneix from the ashes and take control. It needs to get media friendly and campaign on issues for the young,

By Yogi on 5/17/2009 12:51:56 PM

I too opine in line with Ganesh and M.Patil that something must have gone wrong the EVMs. Who knows with what kind of corrupt methods these EVMs and the handlers and technicians of these machines were handled.

Mr. Kanchan Gupta, thanks once again for such a brilliant article in your series. But as you said "It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA"....

BJP will neverdefeat
By Ravi on 5/17/2009 12:41:08 PM

To cut the very root of dynasty politics,regionalism and devolution of more power to states must be required.BJP supported and promoted regional parties and smaller states.There must be aggresiveness from the states where BJP is ruling against Centre for more power to states.In non BJP states, BJP must promote and support regional parties and smaller groups like one in "goorkha land".To prevent the spreading of "dynasty virus across UP, BJP must agitate for trifurcation of the state.

The war is yet to begin...
By Babu V.K on 5/17/2009 12:30:36 PM

Fully agreed with the writer.. It is going to be a long struggle. At least now we have a very strong presence of a National Party BJP to stand up aginst Congress Ltd. company and its sycophancy. The way forward is to stick with basic ideology, be clear and create a real perception about the party. Never follow congress way of thinking.
Sincerity will surely pay off. Try to create a counter force in the 'third estate' to propagate the real/truth of any contraversial policies etc.

It's defeat of RSS not BJP
By Pradeep on 5/17/2009 12:14:46 PM

Its a defeat of RSS not BJP .IN future
RSS must send its true best young honest highly educated and well versed in chankya politics in BJP to save India from hindu baiters. Till the RSS in India hindus are safe this i personally feel.
Unless u have best spokeperson and media support ur all work will not become fruitful to make India a safe heaven for hindus as well as all relegions of world

Two reasons to doubt
By Ganesh on 5/17/2009 11:07:05 AM

The results and the public mood in the country do not seem to corraborate each other.Either the BJP support is only on blogs and papers or there is something seriously wrong with the EVMs.
The strong performance of mediocre incumbant govts like Maharastra,TN and AP gives much fodder for thought as far as EVMs are concerned. With CEC of doubtful integrity at the helm all is not as rosy as one might expect.Two cases of recounting have resulted in reversal of results.

A battle is lost , not the war
By V Gopalakrishnan on 5/17/2009 9:57:35 AM

True, for BJP there is nothing to be ashamed of sitting in opposition. But this time they should function and prove themselves to be a constructive opposition working in the interest of the country and earn more respect from the people of India. The parliament should be allowed to function smoothly without those 'Hungama' we have been seeing for the last five years. And for the congress party , they also should be educated on what is true secularism. For that matter all these politicians.

BJP -does not get it!
By Rangaesh Gadasalli on 5/17/2009 8:05:30 AM

Kanchanji's analysis is very correct. The media and the press's misinformation campiagn against the BJP and its topleaders has never been attacked and neutralized by the BJP/ their use of varun Gandhi's arrest and quotiing Nitish and sharad Yadav's quotes in mischiivous way to project a collapsing NDA was never attacked by the BJP/

Arun Shourii's comments on Modi as future PM and the shekhavata and Jaswant family sabotaging BJP prospects in Rajastan were never tackled effectively.

By raghu on 5/17/2009 7:57:03 AM

Advani said he will get all Swiss black money back.You should do that after you come to power.Perhaps lots of bussiness people voted congress,that is full of corrpupt who all have Swiss accounts!BJP needs lessons about how to fool the masses.

A battle
By ram on 5/17/2009 6:05:07 AM

It is great time for ALL who hate Hindus simply because they are Hindus the most despised dark or colored race of pagan religion.Time for White Chiristian west & Islamic Pak & Chinese commies to band together secretly & give the Indian Hindus the Final death blow.This is THE opportunity for these axis of evil whoALL hate hindus (Who hate themselves) to finish off the indian hindus once & for all!Hope they will do it soon.The slavish race has no right to even exist!

By uma shankiar vajpeyi on 5/17/2009 5:41:13 AM


BJP has to become competitive in more states
By asha on 5/17/2009 5:15:44 AM

The BJP has to become competitive in all states - TN, Kerala, Andra, West Bengal, Assam, Orrissa,... It cannot hope to increase its tally if it remains restricted to a few states and at the mercy of allies.

Get back to the game
By Malaviaka Patil on 5/17/2009 1:48:54 AM

To get back into the game, BJP must

(1) Ensure that they have visual media presence. That is the only way they can counter the negative image propagated by the Dynastys retinue.

(2) Eliminate voter fraud. Check those EVMs. How do they know that there is no Trojan software in it? In US they always have a paper trail to check the fidelity of electronic voting.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

A battle is lost, but not the war

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given to moments of jocular frivolity at times of great stress, for instance on the eve of election results. At the fag end of the 1999 election campaign, a senior journalist asked him what would rate as one of the most banal, if not asinine, questions: “Mr Vajpayee, who do you think will emerge winner?” Without batting his eyelids, Mr Vajpayee replied, “Of course the BJP.” That was contrary to what opinion polls, including one commissioned by his party, were saying: The Congress, according to pollsters, had an edge over the BJP. Later that evening, I made a passing reference to the ease with which he was predicting a BJP victory in the face of a concerted Congress assault. Mr Vajpayee laughed it off and then said, “Nobody can predict the outcome of an election, never mind what politicians and pollsters say.” Placing three fingers of his right hand face down on his left palm, he added, “Any election is like a game of ‘teen patti’ (three-card game). Till such time you turn the cards and see them, you can only guess what has been dealt to you. Similarly, till the votes are counted, nobody can say with any certitude what lies in store for the contestants.”

On the face of it, such wisdom may appear commonplace. After all, veterans of electoral wars would be the first to agree that no battle is won or lost till the last vote is counted. Yet, come election time and every politician and pollster tries to outguess the voter, more often than not coming to grief. The 1999 opinion polls, including the one commissioned by the BJP, turned out to be way off the mark. The BJP and its allies were returned to power with a majority of their own; the Congress had to eat humble pie. So also with the exit polls that were telecast 72 hours before the results of the 2009 general election were declared on Saturday — they didn’t quite forecast such a stunningly stupendous performance by the Congress and the BJP’s astonishing failure to meet its own expectations, fuelled by internal assessments that failed to reflect the popular mood. Whoever predicted on the basis of an ‘exit poll’, and thereby made the party look silly on Saturday, that the NDA would get 217 seats compared to the UPA’s 176 owes more than a mere explanation.

The Congress, no doubt, has won a splendid victory; not to accept this fact would be sheer cussedness. Having said that, it would be equally incorrect to subscribe to the view that at the moment the Congress is riding the crest of a tidal popularity wave which in the coming days will turn into a tsunami of support for the party. Yes, the Congress has made stupendous gains, but a close scrutiny of the results will show that they are not entirely at the expense of the BJP. Nor have the gains accrued to the Congress on account of either policy or programme. For instance, the Congress has picked up a large number of seats in Kerala and West Bengal for reasons that are entirely different. In Kerala, the Left has paid a huge price for infighting within the CPI(M) that has spilled into the streets: A divided cadre couldn’t get their act together. In West Bengal, the Left has been decimated because popular resentment with the CPI(M) for the various sins of omission and commission of the Marxists reached tipping point in this election, helped in large measure by the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

In States where the BJP has lost seats to the Congress, the credit largely goes to saboteurs within the party. It is no secret that a section of the BJP worked against the party’s nominees in certain constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the reasons that led to the BJP’s defeat in last year’s Assembly election remain unresolved. In Uttarakhand, infighting has led to the BJP’s rout. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP could have won in Udhampur and Jammu if the local party units had not abandoned the candidates whom they saw as ‘outsiders’. In Maharashtra, the BJP failed to correctly assess the strength of Mr Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has turned out to be a spoiler in Mumbai’s urban constituencies where the party stood a good chance of winning. By default, the Congress has benefited on account of the BJP’s deficiencies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP clearly failed to sense the shift in voter preference and ended up under-estimating its ability to pick up additional seats which have now gone to the Congress, swelling its national tally.

These reasons apart, at the end of the day what emerges is that the Congress has reached where it has on account of four factors whose impact could not have been predicted at any stage during the campaign when popular mood is palpable. First, the ‘Chiru factor’ has put paid to the TDP’s hopes of staging a comeback. The Congress has gained in the process. Second, the ‘Vijaykant factor’ has spiked the AIADMK’s electoral prospects. The ‘Black MGR of Tamil Nadu politics’ has turned out to be a classic spoiler. Third, the ‘Mamata factor’ was never seriously factored in, especially by the Left, while calculating the possible outcome of this election. Ironically, the amazing collapse of the Left has worked to the detriment of the BJP. Fourth, the ‘urban factor’ continues to elude logical interpretation. If the voting trend is any indication, we must come to the conclusion, and regretfully so, that India’s middleclass is no longer guided by the moral compass. Nothing else explains why corruption should cease to be an election issue and the brazen exoneration by the Congress of those who have looted India fetch no more than a cynical, couldn’t-care-less response. It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA Government and the pitiable state of internal security. We would have thought that these are concerns that agitate the middleclass the most since they shout the most about corruption, price rise and terrorism.

There is, however, no percentage in looking back. The BJP remains a national alternative to the Congress, more so after this election which has pushed regional parties and their identity politics to the margins of national politics. The BJP’s tally is nothing to scoff at. There is no shame in sitting in the Opposition and preparing for the next battle. Elections come and go, but parties remain. It is for their leaders to use the interregnum to reflect on mistakes, regain organisational strength and revive hope among the faithful. There are, after all, no full stops in politics, and life does not come to an end with the declaration of results.

Friday, May 15, 2009

For god and US

With Taliban gaining a strong foothold in the country's north and northwest, Pakistan faces balkanisation

By Ahmede Hussain

With half of the country about 1000 miles apart, Pakistan, at its very birth, has been a deformed baby. Its founding fathers tried, however unsuccessfully, to unite the nation on the basis of religion, which soon turned out to be futile for the nascent 'Islamic Republic'. Bengalis, which formed the majority of the country, found themselves culturally alienated from the Punjabi-dominated culture that the establishment tried to impose on them in the name of Islam. It gave birth to the Language Movement, which saw disenchanted Bengalis, once one of the driving forces behind the anti-British Pro-Pakistan movement, take to the streets to make Bengali, not Urdu the state language.

The logic behind making Urdu the national language of Pakistan was a warped one--it was seen as the mother tongue of the Muslims, contrary to the 'Sanskritised Bengali', which the Punjabi elite considered the language of the Hindus. They ignored the fact that Urdu had never been the mother tongue of anyone in Pakistan; all the major ethnicities--Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, Pakhtuns, Seraikis and Balochs had their own languages; Urdu, on the other hand, was the language of the gentry in Hindu-dominated Uttar Pradesh. The Bengalis eventually broke away from the brutal, oppressive Pakistani regime through a bloody war of independence.

During Bangladesh's Liberation War, because of the struggle's Left lenience, the US helped the marauding Pakistan army with arms and military hardware. At the fag end of the war, the US sent its Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to stop the war, prompting the Soviet Union to turn up with a nuclear submarine. In fact, Bangladesh's birth has been a major blow to the US foreign policy in the region. To make matters worse, the Saur Revolution in 1978 brought Marxist People's Democratic Party to power in Afghanistan; the overthrow of friendly Shah regime in Iran had added to the increasing anxiety of the US; the war in Vietnam the US feared that the entire South Asia and Far East might turn Red.

So when some of the Afghans took up arms to fight the invading Soviet Red Army, the US poured millions on the Mujahideen cause, arming the Afghan guerrillas FIM-92 Stingers, personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missiles, which made life difficult for the communists. The Afghan freedom fighters, as the western media portrayed them, underwent armed training in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan was one of the biggest front states in the Cold War. The country later also became biggest casualty of the proxy war between the US and USSR. Dissemination of Jihadist ideology spread in the country fast and it refused to stop even when after the Afghan War I stopped with the brutal execution of Mohammad Najibullah, the last Soviet-backed President of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Talibans, Afghan students who took lessons in different madrasas across Pakistan, suddenly overpowered the US-backed Northern Alliance; the latter became extremely unpopular among the masses for the rapes, extortions and arsons that its members had perpetrated during its short rule. The first military offensive that the Talibans launched was in October 1994 in Maiwand, Kandahar. Within a year, the group was in control of half the country.

For the next seven years, Afghanistan never made it into the headline of any international newspaper. The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001prompted the US to go to Afghanistan again to slay the monster it had so diligently created. Even though the US-led Afghan War II has ousted the Talibans from power, it has failed to neutralise most of them. Most of the Talibans went into hiding, even though the US won the war, there was no casualty on the Taliban side.
Over the last eight years when the world's attention has been focused on Iraq, the Talibans have regrouped, making a safe heaven in the North-west Pakistan, especially in the picturesque Swat valley. Their ideology knows no boundary and the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans have joined hands in their war against Pakistan, Afghan and the US armies in the region.

Encouraged by the Obama administration's policy of holding dialogues with the so-called 'moderate Talibans', the Pakistan government has held several round of talks with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Taliban umbrella group in the country. According to the deal that has been struck at that time, the Pakistan government will enforce Sharia law in the Swat valley, in lieu of which the Talibans will lay down arms. The law has been enforced in the valley, once famous for its diamond mines, but the Taliban promise of cessation of hostility has never materialised. Instead the Talibans strengthened their position in the northwest, and last week they, led by its area commander Maulana Fazlullah, ran over Buner, which is only 60 miles away from the capital Islamabad.

The group has eventually withdrawn from the area, but what the head of police of the country's Northwest Frontier Province has said last week is even more alarming: The Talibans have infiltrated deep into the country; their presence can be felt as far away as the Punjab, and they may have chemical weapons under their belt.

What is alarming about Pakistan is that because of years of militarisation and corruption all its democratic institutions have fallen apart. Pakistan is now a failed state, tittering on the verge of disintegration. Some recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan have shown that its civil and military administrations are gradually loosing control over the country, an ominous sign for the reason as in its armoury include nuclear weapons. The Pakistan army's handling of the Swat crisis has raised questions about its ability to launch a war on the Talibans.

Demographically speaking, Pakistan is now dangerously divided. In the last elections, the Muslim League (ML), which is centre of the right, has won most seats in Pakistan; the People's Party, ML's secular counterpart, won in Sindh; the Northeast Frontier Province, the hotbed of Taliban activities, has surprisingly elected the Left-leaning National Awami Party.

The US, Pakistan's long time ally, has so far limited its presence into a string of missile attacks on the country's Taliban prone areas. The policy no doubt has failed; more US intervention in the country cannot be ruled out, and it may include direct military presence. Pakistan's fate now hangs in balance--it can be Talibanisation or Balkanisation, or, worse still, both. Only a united effort by the democratic forces in Pakistan can avert the catastrophe that is literary 60 miles away.

Star Weekend Magazine, Dhaka

The night before...

The 24x7 TV channels have revised their estimates of which party is getting how many seats, but while most suggest that it's a close race, NDTV says the UPA has a huge lead. By noon on Saturday speculation will come to an end and we will know who has won how many seats, which does not necessarily mean who gets to form the Government.
Some quick points for whatever they are worth at this hour:
. As in 2004, this time too Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu could turn out to be the gamechangers.
. Other States to watch out: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Assam.
. Left may not fare as badly as it was expected to. Which could change the post-poll scenario.
. Orissa may throw up some surprises.
. BJP could emerge as the single largest party and the NDA as the single largest pre-election alliance. Does this mean a NDA Government?
. The answer to this question lies in the new chant we hear from the Congress: The President should invite the party which can ensure 'stability' to form the next Government. That's a new one!
. By this time on Saturday, we will have the numbers before us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

GENERAL ELECTION 2009: Who's the winner?

On Wednesday, May 13, the final and concluding round of voting for the 15th Lok Sabha was held, bringing to an end a mammoth, two-month long exercise to elect a new Government. The results will be declared on Saturday, May 16.
There is, of course, intense speculation as to who will emerge as the front-runner: The Congress of the BJP. Everybody is reconciled to the fact that as in 2004, this year's too shall be a fractured mandate. Neither the Congress-led UPA nor the BJP-led NDA will secure anything proximate to a majority in the Lok Sabha. Which means, by Saturday afternoon the great hunt for 'post-poll' allies will begin in right earnest.
So, what does it look like after the fifth round of polling?
On Wednesday, 24x7 news channels went to town with their exit polls. Here's what they had to say:

Congress + Allies 185-205
BJP + Allies 165-185
Third Front 110-130
RJD+LJP+SP 25-35
Others 20-30

.Headlines Today
Congress + Allies 191
BJP + Allies 180
Left 38
Others (incl BSP) 134

.India TV
Congress + Allies 195
BJP + Allies 189
Left /Third Front 113
Others 14

Congress + Allies 199 [Congress 155]
BJP + Allies 191 [BJP 153]
Left /Third Front 104
Others 48

Congress + Allies 195
BJP+Allies 189
Others 14

.Times Now
Congress + Allies 198 [Congress 154]
BJP + Allies 183 [BJP 142]
Left /Third Front 112 [Left 38]
Others 50

.Star News
Congress + Allies 199 [Congress 155]
BJP + Allies 196 [BJP 153]
Left /Third Front 100
Others 48

At the risk of looking silly on Saturday, here are my projections:

Congress + Allies 165-175
BJP + Allies 180-185
Left 30-35
AIADMK 20-25
BSP 20-25
TDP 10-15

I will update my figures on Thursday.

Exit polls in 2004 had projected the BJP-led NDA as the winner. When the results were declared, the prediction came untrue: The Congress and its pre-election allies got 216 seats against a projection ranging from 170 to 205 seats. The BJP-led NDA secured 187 seats against projections of 240 to 250 seats.

Iran discovers new Zionist conspiracy!

Following are excerpts from an Iranian TV report on swine flu, which aired on IRINN, the Iranian news channel, on May 6, 2009:
Reporter: "Every so often, diseases develop in different corners of the world, and disappear after wreaking damage to the tune of billions of dollars. After avian flu, the time has come for pigs. It is a disease that afflicts pigs, but because of the physiological similarity between humans and pigs, this disease afflicts humans as well. Now, the main actors in this great movie must go into action. The director has fulfilled his role very well, and gathered the boldest and most famous actors for this blockbuster.
"The international news networks air the trailers of this movie for free. With the outbreak of this disease, the American president went into action, and said in a sensational speech: 'My government has consulted health officials, and they have not advised the closing of the U.S. borders.'
"In his speech, Barak Obama mentioned a medicine called Tamiflu - but what exactly is Tamiflu? Who are the compassionate manufacturers of this medicine? This great pharmacist is none other than Rumsfeld, the former American secretary of defense. He is one of the shareholders, and an active and influential member on the board of directors of Gilead Science, which is the main provider of medicine for this disease.
"It should be noted that the Gilead Sciences is a Jewish company. Its name, in Hebrew means "holy place," and all its shareholders are Zionists."
"The US is One of the Few Countries With an Arsenal of Viruses
Dr Ali-Reza Mehrabi, ShaidBeheshtiUniversity: "The United States is one of the few countries with an arsenal of viruses. It is one of the countries with the largest arsenals of smallpox.[...]
"It is interesting that last year, [Rumsfeld] bought, if I'm not mistaken, 18 billion dollars worth of new Gilead stocks.[...]
"If we accept the assumption that work was conducted in a laboratory in Mexico - whether in a pig farm or some other place - the mere fact that this substance found its way out, even if by mistake, shows that the U.S. is conducting experiments in a peripheral country, rather than on its own soil. In this case, the U.S. might have lost control."