Aiming low and shooting ourselves in the foot.
A caustic look at what the BJP could have mustered, but could not. And some quick reasons why it did not turn out to script. Additionally, how we settled for the easy targets, failed the real test of UP and mucked up in Uttrakhand.
While it may be completely justified for the BJP to take pleasure in the discomfiture of the Congress in the recent spate of assembly elections, which was admittedly biased towards the UP elections result and the charge of the Rahul brigade, it may serve its purposes better to concentrate on what its own performance indices reveal.
Ignoring Punjab, where the Alaki Dal led combine romped home with a stunning majority against all expectations and only underlined its secondary role for visible posterity, the almost forgone conclusions of the Goa results where the dice was already loaded against the Congress and the Manipur results which were also equally pronounced in the status quo-ist hold of the Congress, it boils down to the two states of Uttrakhand and UP where most of the relevant lessons are to be learnt.
In Uttrakhand, the results have confounded, and whereas some have considered the verdict a pull back by the BJP in face of a near rout, others have pointed out to the failure of the state unit to sew up a reasonably integrated campaign that could easily have helped the party tide over the present conundrum. They point to the irony of the CM designate losing his seat to illustrate the dichotomy where Khanduri was indeed zaroori for the state but clearly not nearly enough for the constituency he represented! Strategically, the Uttrakhand results point to lackadaisical preparation that could not stem the tide even after a fag-end course correction. It also points to poor information gathering and analysis apart from the contradiction between the symbolism of a clean and efficient CM candidate versus an inimical state unit, proficient in internal intrigue and its self serving politics.
In UP, in the context of the results and the shift in voter preference, the traditional matrix of acute anti-incumbency is quite apparent. In 2005, Haryana had voted out the Chautala Government with similar ferocity and voted en masse for the Congress. Similar conditions prevailed then and the anti incumbency was so acute that traditional rivalries were buried to get rid of the Chautala regime. Jats voted for Punjabi candidates, Gujjars for Jats and Yadavs for Gujjars just so the regime could be sent packing.
The BJP’s showing in the elections only amplify that the strategic steps taken by the party in UP did not pay. In retrospect the data was inadequate or inconsistent with reality, the on ground intelligence spotty, the schematic arrangements did not work, the tactical moves floundered and the strategic plan was reduced to neutrality. How ever one may explain the results, it is a failure to not have read the severity of the anti-incumbent mood correctly, for in such a situation, the strategies that were planned would never have succeeded. Since the diagnosis was wrong, the prescription was misplaced. For example, in a severely polarized anti-incumbent environment, a strategy that aims for a good showing is no strategy at all. Nobody votes for number two. Voters vote to achieve ends. If you cannot carry us through, we won’t carry you on our shoulders – that is the simple understanding. The classic blunder was to let the voter and everybody else think that the BJP was in this election to merely improve its tally. Curiously, this was exactly the calculations of the Congress and they fell to the same faulty gambit with roughly the same results.
Now that the party huddles to read between the lines, perhaps it will become clear that we have opted out of the UP sweepstakes for so long that having a shy at leading the state is way off. In its place are dog eared theories and best case scenario hunting that is often so off the mark that it complicates instead of simplifies. The BJP has to see this as the ultimate challenge to its personality and its ideologies, re-evaluating its leadership choices in the state, its willingness to play into the fractional caste algebra, its image management and the growing influence of the Muslim vote.
The Muslim leadership in UP, by persisting with the old hate theory using the fear factor, has managed to push BJP in to a corner where the party must now consider the idea of a pan-Hindu front to override the caste fibrillation and counter the repeated Muslim consolidation. After all, if Muslims can federate behind the idea of community and religion, if Muslim leadership actively covets it and clerics support it, why should the same not hold for Hindus as a sect?
There is an argument that Muslims have voted against a corrupt regime much like all other communities and that their collective wish to see Mayawati go was no different than that of the other peoples of UP. That is a fact and that is not to be contradicted. It is the other, deeper issue of Muslim disaffection for all things BJP and the position that the Muslim vote will not accrue to the BJP in the foreseeable future that will stoke the fires I am referring to. In that scenario, the challenge will be squarely on the BJP – to either answer to the expedient requirements of enlarging its base and influence, using the Muslim technique of religious consolidation or come up with a strategic masterstroke which redesigns the political template in the state and re-jigs the status quo.
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