Monday, December 31, 2018

Why did the BJP get badly defeated in Telangana? What are the lessons the party needs to learn from this defeat?

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference: 

While many analysts are busy delving into the reasons for losses of the BJP in the three states where they lost power, it is my strong belief that the biggest lesson for BJP lies in its severe drubbing in the Telangana election. You may wonder what lesson is there to learn when the party was nearly non-existent there? That is precisely the lesson the party has to learn from the woeful performance in Telangana. Allow me to elaborate.
What did the BJP have in its favor ever since Telangana was formed? Or what points could it have used to gain in strength, and at least try to relegate Congress to third position?
  • It was the first national party that declared its support for a separate Telangana state (even before the TRS was born)
  • When MLAs from all parties were flocking into TRS, BJP was the only party whose MLAs stay put. None of the 5 MLAs joined TRS.
  • Many central schemes for which they could have duly taken credit. Or even challenged when KCR was appropriating the credit for sharing of some schemes.
  • Active participation in Swachh Bharat.
  • A dwindling Congress across the country. Could have sensed a great opportunity to relegate Congress to third position.  
  • A growing BJP across the country. Could use this opportunity to showcase what the party is capable of doing, if given a chance.
  • Non-dynasty party
  • On the forefront to protest some of TRS’s policies – for example: crackdown on media and protestors.
  • Seriously analyzed the jolt it got during the GHMC elections (Won only 4 (+1 TDP) corporator seats out of 150).
  •  It should have fought for correction of electoral rolls. (For more on this, read this:
Instead, during these four years, what did the party choose to do?
  • Focus excessively on MIM (and Razakars).
  • Focus on celebrating September 17th as Hyderabad Liberation Day
  • Focus occasionally on family rule of the TRS party
  • Almost always react very late to any event in the state
  • Near negligent use of the social media for messaging – it’s almost as if they thought SM didn’t even exist.
  • No articles in the media, a very placid screen presence in TV, no captivating orator to rouse the crowd!
  • Didn’t learn anything from GHMC drubbing
During the elections, what was the party associated with?
  • Razakars and Hyderabad Liberation Day.
  • Name change of a few places.
  • Multiple rallies by almost all big leaders of the party.
From the results, it is quite evident that the party leadership has woefully failed on many fronts. At multiple public meetings, the example of how the BJP was once a 2 seat party in Karnataka and Tripura, and how the party in Telangana will reach to the same heights *in the future* is mentioned. However, the leaders seem to have forgotten that there must have been stupendous hard work AND strategizing that made BJP rule in states that it never thought of before!
Telangana presented the biggest opportunity for BJP to grow. If not to power, at least to the main opposition party. If not to the main opposition party, then at least to double digit numbers. The state unit does not keep pace with the central unit. The speed, the efficiency and the urgency with which the central units work is in total contrast to how the state unit works.
Is all lost? What can be done now?
  • In the words of Arun Shourie – bombard the headquarters! The party needs a fresh face; a rousing orator; an inspiring organizer to take it forward.
  • The election has unearthed many leaders – it is high time they take the center stage.
  • Differentiate your leaders in TV debates – it’s very difficult to tell the BJP spokesperson apart from the others. For example- always wear the party flag/symbol on you – makes it so easy to identify.
  • Go bombastic on a positive message of Modi’s achievements – you will easily find lakhs of MUDRA and Standup India beneficiaries – bring them to the limelight. 
  • Create catchy and attractive slogans. For example, the candidate from Kalwakurthy gave a slogan – “KCR ka maaya, koi nahi paaya” – I wonder why that slogan wasn’t popularized?
  • STOP talking about Razakars. No one cares.
  • Write articles in the print media; question the government *before* other parties react; be in the media every single day.
  • USE SOCIAL MEDIA; I repeat again – USE SOCIAL MEDIA! And by this I don’t mean just twitter. Make small video clippings of the points you make in TV debates; small clippings on key speeches by many of your leaders; graphics that show case specific benefits Telangana has accrued because of Modi’s policies.
  • Learn from your counterparts in other states.
During the various exit polls, when someone predicted that the BJP’s strength will go up from 5 to 7, there seemed to have been jubilation in the leadership. I was aghast – is this something to be jubilant about? An increase from 5 to 7 seats? If this is the kind of planning the party is doing, it will take another generation to even reach double digits!
I know the central unit likes to think big – but in Telangana, the BJP must first think of usurping the Congress space. The defeat to Congress is a huge blow to it. Their leaders are down, tired and exasperated. That space is available for grabs – if the party misses this great opportunity, then it will continue to remain a single digit party!


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