(This post was written around 15 days back. Before Anna was finally told to shut up by both the Public and the Law of the land, and before Congress had pulled off a potential political masterstroke by pushing a weak Lokpal through Parliament. If it had passed, the credit was of Congress' and since it failed, it can conveniently blame BJP for it. But still I feel that this post might have some relevance.)
Bjp as a political opponent often tries to dig a hole for Congress. Now, all the opposition parties world over try to do the same. Where BJP is different is that BJP keeps jumping into the same hole before Congress even gets a chance to do so.
It did so during the nuclear deal issue just before the 2004 general elections, did the same in 2004 general elections, repeated in 2009 , during the FDI debate and to put it concisely, several times during the history. And it does nothing to convince me that it will not do the same in 2012 elections. It painted a rosy picture in 2004, something common person could not identify with. In 2009 it bitterly opposed a nuclear bill which was set into motion by its very own government back during 1999-2004. And then it launched an even bitterer, personal attack on a person whose honesty and integrity back then was considered sacrosanct. Moreover recently it stalled the functioning of the parliament over over a bill which proposed introduction of FDI of 51% in retail. While it was not a particularly bright move from Congress who itself had stalled reforms throughout 2004-till date , BJP had actually supported 100 % FDI while it was in government and had proposed introduction of 26% FDI in retail in its 2004 election manifesto. What was even more puzzling, as many other experts noted as well was that after 7 days in which BJP did not allow Parliament to function, when it finally did, Shushma Swaraj blasted the government in a calculated, voluble and scathing speech. I mean , what is the point of shouting in streets, when you can give a more purposeful shout in Parliament where it all matters? For all its political inconsistency, occasional hooliganism and frequent vandalism, BJP possesses much powerful orators than the ruling coalition. Yet it often deprives itself of the chances to best use them. That is why I say that it keeps jumping in the hole.
Sometimes it jumps into the hole to dig it further and then finds that there is no way out of it as it did in 2009. All it had to do was attack a policy-paralysed, left-stricken government and it failed spectacularly. And the less said about the manner in which it has handled the Anna “movement”, the better. Completely marginalised in a straight confrontation between the Congress and Anna , it could never decide and still has not that which part of the fence it wishes to stand on. Of course, with the brain freeze it is frequently prone to , it could never envisage that a middle path could exist. But this post is not about Anna and his shenanigan , but about how BJP in 2009 erred and why it will repeat that in 2014. Because the situation is the same in certain respects. BJP did not have a clear leader then and does not have one now and will find very difficult to find one in 2014. And though the Congress is in a much bigger mess now that it was in 2009 when the mess was not visible, the next elections are due in 2014, by which time the public memory can forget an entire war, let alone something stupidly called “Second Freedom Movement”. And that is what is worrisome. BJP has never been the one to learn from its mistakes. Actually no political party in India is such.
A big mistake BJP committed in 2009 was that it sort of projected a 82 year old Lal Krishna Advani as it PM candidate. Sort of because later YashwantSinha projected Narendra Modi as PM candidate. By having Advani , BJP alienated two class of voters- the young , urban voter (those who vote), and the Muslims. And then by proposing Narendra Modi as candidate , it drove Muslims away in flocks not only from itself , but from the entire NDA. BJP thinks that the lack of the Muslim votes can be offset by the majority of Hindus that live in India. But it forgets the fact that majority in India are Hindus, not fanatics and we are relatively comfortable with Muslims living with us. Further nobody likes to believe in somebody who says that handing over of 3 terrorists in IC 814 Kandhar case happenedwithout his knowledge while he was the Home Minister . So, that cancels two of them. . Shushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley cancel each other. They wont let each other be the PM. Some like Pramod Mahajan and Sahib Singh Verma have died. So who does that leave? Actually, we might be close to seeing Mayawati’s dream of becoming PM of India being realised sooner that what we thought. Given the fickle nature of Indian political parties and Congress’ public anti-BSP stance for now, it might well be possible. So, what can BJP do to save the tiger from being replaced as national animal by the elephant? Just look a little further east for its search for the next PM candidate. Actually no further than Nitish Kumar.
Now, there are two kinds of people in this world. One who understand economics and the others who don’t (Like me). Those who don’t understand economics are fed up of this Congress government over the humongous amount of corruption it has perpetrated. Those who understand economics realise that the corruption is just a trivial matter in front of the grave policy lacunae afflicting the government and the nation. During the 2004-09 term , it could blame the Left for the vacuum, but thereafter it had only itself to blame. Actually historically Congress has never been much reform minded. Indira’s “Garibi Hatao” significantly bent the back of the Indian economy and even 1991 reforms were brought about under significant pressure from the World Bank and IMF when the government realised that it didn’t even have sufficient foreign reservesfor 15 days of imports . The problem with Congress’ populist measures right from “Garibi Hatao” days to NREGA to the recent food security bill has been that always it has sought to redistribute wealth without caring for additional generation of resources. It has only given rise to inflation, not poverty alleviation.
Sorry for digressing. Now coming back to Nitish Kumar, he is the exact antithesis of two things this Congress Government has come to represent – Corruption and Inaction. One can argue that Manmohan Singh is as honest a person as Nitish Kumar, but Nitish Kumar has been much more successful in keeping other around him honest as well. Secondly, he has taken Bihar from a land of buffalos, scams and caste massacres to the state with the second highest growth rate in India. As reflected in the last sentence, the denominator Nitish Kumar had to work at was comparatively low, but still it has been a significant achievement. But, still BJP obviously will not have him as its PM candidate as he is not from BJP, but JD (U). In India, political appointments are not made by cutting across the party lines. If that were the case, Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have been the External Affairs Minister in Indira Gandhi regime and Manmohan Singh the Finance Minister during NDA rule. But that simply doesn’t happen. Also, JD (U) is far less pushy , far too regional and far too unlike BSP to push for one of their own to be the Prime Minister.
So finally we have these four scenarios –said so for the want of a better word - which might be at hand in 2014 elections, though it is too early to call yet.
1. Congress . Given its track record of the last 8 years, beleaguered, the extent of which might not be very publically visible and hoping to survive due to this.
2. BJP. Granting Congress its very wish by messing up again. Actually sometimes it seems to me that it is ironically what a leaked Wikileaks cable described Sonia Gandhi as – “She never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
3. A so called “civil society” which will most probably go on campaigning against Congress in most states including places like Karnataka which has a very corrupt BJP government in place. And it will have people believe that Politicians are the most evil of the species who ought not to exist in a country like ours. The only problem is that India happens to be a democracy and then fail to realise that in a democracy, come what may, always it will be a politician who will be the most powerful. The "Civil Society" will also fail to realise that in a democracy, our best chance is not some quasi-powerful or all powerful body like Lokpal, but to have honest, efficient and responsible people in our political setup. We simply need a better set of politicians. As we do not have much choice there. But this "Civil Society" will do its best to convince honest, efficient, responsible people that Politicians are hooligans and Politics is not for them, while we need the exact opposite.
4. The general public who will believe in the above mentioned “Civil Society”.
Can't decide which is the worst.