Tag JDU

Rethinking BJP 5

Aug29

Three months back Pritish Nandy wrote a hard hitting article ” The irrelevance of BJP” lamenting on its state of affairs with a view to bring it out of its stupor. On the other hand Rajesh Jain, India’s numero uno digital entrepreneur and also a leading light of the ‘Friends of BJP’ has long maintained that it would be too much for us to expect the rise of another National Party in our lifetime, so we are stuck with the choice between the two mainstream political parties –  Congress and BJP. Both got me thinking on what would it take to revive BJP. BJP after all is not just a Hindu nationalist party of right leaning individuals. Its our only hope for creating a bipolar polity in out country. It is almost 30 years old (if we disregard its previous avatar of ‘Janasangh’), yet it has just managed to cross the Vindhyas to form a government in Karnataka. There are still many regions and states where it does not have a presence and several others where it had a  dominant position earlier, but is now in decline. Hoping another new, emergent party to match the national presence of Congress might be  nothing short of asking for a miracle.

Indian Politics BJP Lotus

That BJP is in shambles, there is no doubt. Loosing two elections in a row seem to have brought it down to its knees and  exposed all the chinks in its armour. From being a party of youthful leaders most of its youthful leaders have shown themselves to be made of clay. They specialise in bringing down each other while giving a walkover to the ruling party. It has miserably failed to be an effective opposition even though they have been handed price rise as an issue on the platter.

Its time, BJP rethinks its vision as a party right of centre that aspires to dominate Indian Politics as one of the two major national parties.  While its roots and ascendancy did lie in being a pro-Hindu, anti-Muslim party, going further it may need to do a rethink.  In a country where a large majority (almost 90%) of politicians are all hindus, being pro-Hindu does not count for much. Whatever boost it got from the Ayodhya issue can hardly ever be replicated again,as people tend to quickly return to their normal state after the aberrations of agitations like L. K. Advani’s Rath  Yatra subside. As for being anti-Muslim, they needs to do a dispassionate analysis of the baggage that it brings and its advantages, if any. It may have helped them consolidate their position in Gujarat to successfully ward off the challenge from Congress in successive elections. But while they won the battle in Gujarat, they lost the war of India. From Trinamool Congress to Biju Janata Dal, they lost critical allies as a result of their stance on Gujarat issue. Even now, this issue remains the sore point with their only remaining major ally, Janata Dal United (JDU) in Bihar. Its longest standing pro-Hindu ally, Shiv Sena on the other hand is turning more and more into a liability rather than an asset. In the process, BJP has failed even to become the epicenter of the non-Congress, non-left opposition. The biggest worry for BJP should be that even in opposition, anti-BJP-ism is a bigger draw than anti-Congress-ism. For those who think that Gujarat can be replicated in India, they need to draw lessons from the Communist plight in West Bengal. Indoctrination such as Gujarat or West Bengal, only has a limited shelf life and can never be replicated nationally. Every party can have a set of moderates and hawks, however its important to reign in the hawks or they will eat up the party itself.

In its desperation to play the Hindu card BJP might have failed to notice another virtue within its fold – its track of ‘Good Governance’ . Most BJP governments have provided clean and efficient governance. Even in states where its government was ousted due to defections such as Goa and Jharkhand, its earlier performance is remembered fondly.  So too in coalition governments, the BJP ministers normally come out in flying colours. It was also the first one to use BSP – Bijlee, Sadak, Panee (Electricity, Road, Water), issues of everyday concern to win elections in M.P.. Its Golden Quadrilateral road project is still acknowledged as one of the most ambitious infrastructure project of modern India. Its decisive nuclear action has had far reaching implications stretching long beyond their reign. It needs to draw upon all these experiences and consolidate them to appeal to an electorate that is tired of mere identity politics and is looking for real solutions to real problems.  While its earlier claim of ‘a party with a difference’ may have withered off, it should now re-brand itself as the party with governance.  The coming elections in Bihar where its ally Nitish Kumar is attempting to put governance as the central issue, may turn out to be a test case for the entire country whether governance can take on the more emotive issues. If he succeeds, he might become a trend setter. Therein might lie a ray of hope for BJP too.

Shades of Chanakya 3

Dec18

It is for not for nothing that Nitish Kumar was called ‘Chanankya’ of undivided Janta Dal in the early ’90s. In his present avatar too, he has mixed up a fair dose of realpolitik with his developmental plank. From the very beginning of his term he strategically targeted the vote banks of his two chief opponents in the state – Lalu Yadav (RJD) & Ramvilas Paswan (LJP).
New Bihar Graphics
He began by assiduously wooing the Muslim Community to break the Muslim-Yadav (MY) axis of Lalu Yadav. Apart from symbolic gestures of admitting a large number of Muslim Leaders to his party (JDU), attending Muslim festivities, drafting a Muslim bureaucrat for the critical Home Secretary position ( rarity for a BJP ruled/partnered state) etc., he also has also launched several schemes for the Muslim community (such as ‘Hunar’) and recruited ‘urdu’ teachers in bulk . He took credit for finally convicting the main accused of Bhagalpur riots of 1989 and distributing relief to its victims on the lines of Delhi 1984 Sikh riots. He has cleverly positioned himself as a ‘doer’ versus Lalu who he says, only provided ‘lip service’ to the community. His recent decision of allocating 250 acres of land for establishing a center of Aligarh Muslim University in Bihar too, has been a step in the same direction..

At the same time he also targeted the ‘Dalit’ vote bank of Ramvilas Paswan. He first broke off a large chunk of the community by branding them as ‘Maha-Dalits’ as they had not received the benefits due to them while all their benefits were being cornered by the more well off communities among Dalits. A separate “Mahadalit Vikas Mission‘ was founded under his supervision and a flood of schemes have been launched to directly target succour to this community. To add injury to salt, he has slowly expanded the ambit of ‘Mahadalits’ leaving only the ‘Paswans’ in the dalit community. This move has been greatly resented by Ramvilas Paswan who has seen his electoral fortunes dwindle.

He has even tried to neutralize Congress with his demand for a special state status for Bihar. He strategically voiced this demand just before the declaration of the results of General Parliamentary Elections, at the time when Congress was fishing for more allies. The Congress was initially sympathetic but backtracked later after they were able to cobble up a comfortable majority on their own. Nitish now periodically uses this demand as a stick to beat Congress apart from his usual lament of insufficient central assistance. He has not even spared his partners in the government – BJP. Starting off as junior partners with BJP in the undivided Bihar, he has slowly pushed them to a corner and assumed the role of big brother in the state. He also asserts his authority clearly in matters of protecting his secular credentials such as the recent land allocation to AMU.

Internally he has moved swiftly against detractors in his own party. Early dissenters like Upendra Kumar Kushwaha were promptly shown the door. ( He has recently rejoined Nitish after unsuccessfully trying his luck with NCP for past 4 years). Even the party patriarch, George Fernandis who was also the convener of NDA, was kept at bay. Fernandis was denied a Loksabha ticket on grounds of ill health, though he was later accommodated in the Rajya Sabha. Other detractors such Nagmani were thrown out or the ones like Prabhunath Singh were neutralised through election defeat.

However despite all his brilliant strategies, Nitish received a body blow in the last bye-election for 18 assembly seats in September 2009. He along with BJP could only manage to win 5 setas whereas RJD+LJP won 9 and Congress 2. This has exposed his razor thin lead in the deeply divided caste equations of Bihar. While the marginalisation of Ramvilas Paswan has pushed him firmly into the Lalu camp, the rejuvenation of Congress nationally and the decline of BJP (his partner in the state) together have the potential of stinging him badly in the next assembly elections slated for late 2010. Only saving grace for him is that there is still another year to go and if he heeds to the warning signals of the recent bye-election defeat, he can still re-work the magic next year.

Part: 1 2 3 4 5

Changing Bihar, slowly 14

Nov9

Note: This is the first part of a multi part series on Nitish Kumar and his efforts to build a New Bihar.

When Mayawati became Chief Minster of U.P. for the first time, she shook up the entire bureaucracy and police by shifting more than 150 officers in one day. When Lalu became CM, he soon landed up at the Patna Medical College Hospital with the media in tow, to inspect whether Doctors were attending duty properly. He publicly rebuked those who were found derelict. He did the same when he became the Central Railway Minister, by ordering the office gates to be locked after the scheduled time so that the habitual late-comers could not get in. Yet, when Nitish Kumar became CM of Bihar in November 2005, after 15 long years of Lalu-Rabri rule, there was hardly a flutter.

Bihar CM Image

Save one or two key bureaucratic changes, there were hardly any changes anywhere. So much so that even the official residence of Chief Minster, 1 Anne Marg, continued to adorn the outgoing Chief Minister, Rabri Devi more than two months after he was sworn in. People started to wonder what, if any, were the changes. Nitish Kumar went to work with practically the same bureaucratic and executive team as his predecessor. Sure there were reshuffles later on but the pace was unremarkable. He started off by conducting long meetings with the senior bureaucrats that routinely went on till late nights. The bureaucracy was rattled a bit but not too much thinking that the initial enthusiasm will soon run out of steam. They were, however, in for a rude shock. Nitish was digging his heels for a long seize, not a guerrilla war. Assiduously he went to work to put the state back on track, bit by bit.

One of the first challenges was to stabilize law and order situation. However here too, those who were looking for some high profile, quick fix solutions, were disappointed. In fact the first full year barely saw any change. High profile kidnappings and murders continued to rattle the state. Nitish came in for criticism for his pre-election claim that he will fix law & order within three months.  Change however, started to become visible later after a few cases were cracked by the Police and the accused were charge sheeted promptly. Another significant change appeared in the form of unshackling of several upright senior Police Officers who had been completely sidelined during the Lalu Rabri era.

Another turning point was the gusto with which the state embraced the centrally sponsored Fast Track Court scheme. More and cases were transfered to the FTC especially those belonging to high profile criminal politicians ( even those from his own JDU Party) . Suddenly things started to look up after the conviction rates started to inch up. In the past two years 2006 – 2008, more than 26000 convictions have taken place. Several dreaded political criminals have been awarded capital punishment and lesser sentences. Today, even thogh the law & order situation may not be ideal, but at least it has turned a corner . A clear proof of this is that Bihar has already ceded its monopoly over prime time television news to a lot of other states. No news is indeed good news.

Part: 1 2 3 4 5