Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Next Vajpayee for BJP ...

I will come straight to the answer. It has to be Sushma Swaraj. Let’s consider the second rung leaders in contention for the top posts in the BJP.

Rajnath Singh – We have clearly seen that he has failed as the President of BJP. Not just because of this loss, but because he was not able to lift his party in his home state, UP. On top of that, he doesn’t possess a pan-india appealing personality. There is a higher probability that the neutral voters will reject him instead of siding with him. He has a very hardliner image, and has practically overseen the disruptive opposition over the past few years. His presence as the BJP head might enthuse the cadre, but his presence as the Leader of Opposition will dampen the citizens. For sure.

Arun Jaitley – He is Urban, and that's what will hold against him. He cannot sway a gathering of rural people with his oratory. He is more of an organizational man than a people’s man. He hasn’t won too many elections till now. He has been incharge of some really succesfull party victories in Assembly elections, but his recent behaviour during 2009 polls doesn’t inspire any confidence about his performance at the national level. His choice for the post of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha did raise a few eye brows (justifiably so), but it's best he remains the stragetist because that's what he can do best.

Venkaih Naidu – He too has the image of a hard liner. I have heard him speak many times, and I must say he has a lot of clarity in his thought process. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen an electoral success for fairly long time. His failure to build the party in the Southern states is a black mark, and it was under his presidency that the BJP lost the 2004 elections. Venkaih Naidu can be best used to articulate the policies of BJP, but it is difficult to envisage him in a role wherein he will decide on their implementation.

Narendra Modi – Arguably, one of the best administrators of this country, but his entire political life will be haunted only by the anti-Godhra violence. None of his developmental programmes will take a front seat while in campaign for an all India election. The Congress, the Left, the media will all focus only on one single issue, and that is what will become his bane. Outside Gujarat, it is extremely difficult for Modi to obtain votes based on developmental agenda.

The likes of Vijay Malhotra, Naqvi, Javedkar can never be serious contenders for this post. The “lost generation” of the BJP – Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Murli Manohar Joshi are automatically out of contention. That leaves us with Sushma Swaraj.

Sushma Swaraj has been Chief Minister of Delhi for a while. She was also a minister in the Vajpayee government. More importantly, she is now the most moderate face and the only strong woman in BJP. She has the capability of gaining an All India appeal. A case in point is when she gave Sonia Gandhi a very tough fight in Bellary, Karnataka. She learnt Kannada in no time, and started speaking fluently in no time! Her presence has a much stronger appeal than the combined presence of the other leaders mentioned above.
She cannot enthuse the cadre as much as Vajpayee did, or for that matter she might be the ideal person the cadre wants to see at the top. But, there are enough leaders to cater to the cadre. It is not the cadre that the BJP should fear of losing; it is the undecided voters that it should fear. Sushma Swaraj should be made the Leader of Opposition. There are rumours going around that Rajnath Singh might become the LOP if he has to step down from the post of BJP President. Nothing will be more suicidal than that.

After becoming leader of opposition, Sushma should start touring the entire country and start building an image for herself. The speeches should not be negative, but promising in content. Her approach in Parliament has to be co-operative, and at the same time should not be seen as mellowed down. Being a good orator, she can win many debates hands down, but the important thing is to carry that message outside of Parliament too.

BJP lost partly due to the bad image that was projected in the media too. The media managers did not draw up plans to counter attack the ruling party, once they were attacked. This cost the BJP a lot, especially with the urban voters. Sushma Swaraj is the only person in BJP who can bring back those votes, because she is the only person who can show a lot of promise. The rest of the lot cannot. The neutral voter is looking for a fresh face that can bring back the previous sense of decency to politics, and from BJP only Sushma Swaraj has that image.

What about the next Advani then? The answer to this question was lost along with Pramod Mahajan. Only time will tell now...


Balaji said...

yep, I agree. Sushma Swaraj is the right choice.

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Arun said...

The current 'Single Hindu Party System' ignores the plurality of Indian politics. It is time for the Sangh to consider starting its own in-house Left-of-Center party instead of having to rely on unreliable partners like JD(U), BJD and TDP.

Some suggestions:

A new Left-of-Center party, overseen by the Sangh, to complement BJP.

New party to be initially confined to states where BJP is absent (Kerala, TN, AP, Orissa and WB - total 164 seats in Lok Sabha)

BJP to co-exist in these states, but as a junior partner.

Emphasis on Swadeshi economics and sustainable living; occupy part of the Leftist space.

De-emphasis on Article 370. Mostly irrelevant in these states.

No stigma of Babri-demolition. No association with lunatic fringe.

Till it can stand on its own, the new party can ally with regional parties like TDP, BJD, JDU. Act as a bridge between BJP and regional parties opposed to Congress.

For some leaders (like P A Sangma), it will provide an alternative if they find BJP attractive but do not want to associate with it.

Summary: Let the BJP remain rightist Hindutva party. New party to carry along moderate Hindus and expand the support base. It will be like twin-engines taking Hindu interests forward.

I, Me, Myself ! said...

Thanks Arun for your comment. Actually, my intention in hoping for the rise of BJP is not to take "Hindu interests" forward, but to build a strong opposition to this weak government. It was mainly because the opposition lacked proper strategy and counter-campaign planning that Congress got the good-boy-that-the-country-needs image.

Effectively opposing some of the sad policies of this government requires a stron opposition, and right now I see that only the BJP has the strength to do it. However, what it lacks is the leadership required to do it.

Taking a hawkish stand on everything will not help, especially in this world of biased media which will go ga-ga over small bickerings itself! Hence my recommendation of replacing Vajpayee with Sushma.

Your point on having a third alternative while the BJP sticks to its core fundamentals does sound good, but I think it will take longer than expected for such a party to gain ground. Unfortunately, as of today, we can only play with the cards we have been dealt :)

- Sudhir

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