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       Saturday, June 03, 2006

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Analysis: Rahul Mahajan Notwithstanding, What actually did the BJP National Executive Debate ?

There were more news media stories on Rahul Mahajan visiting the BJP National Executive than on the Political Resolutions emerging from the National Executive. Offstumped analyses the BJP's political future and specifically its strategy for the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Two significant political conclaves occured this week at the state and the national level. Two former allies parted ways, but yet have shown little signs of having recovered from the mind numbing blow of the 2004 General Elections. The BJP and Naidu's Telugu Desam continue to flounder while the long drawn recovery from the deadly blow takes its toll.

The lesson from the 2004 General Elections was loud and clear, there are no more national issues in our national elections as much as the mianstream english media and this blog being no exception would like to believe. This decade definitely belongs to the states, and it is what happens in the states that will shape the contours of what happens at the Center. This is the lesson the BJP has to learn if it has to revitalize itself from the moribund state it finds itself in.

Flashback to 1989-1991 during the heydays of Mandal-1. The Pandora's box VP Singh opened with the Mandal Commission Recommendations saw an energized BJP unify its base and its sympathetic vote bank the Middle Class around the Mandir Issue and Anti-Minorytism. That theme has run its full course but the lessons from its success still apply. Anti-Minorytism is no longer the mantra to energize the traditional Middle Class voter bank which has its sights now set firmly on the opportunities and growth ushered in by the economic successes of the first half of this decade with the rise of the Indian Economy.

The BJP needs to refocus its strategy on unifying themes that will counter the divisive casteist agenda of the Mandal-2 political forces and has the potential to earn it back the sympathies of the Middle Class. This it has to do at the State Level with a micro focus on the states where it has the best potential to make a difference.

Smaller States - an issue dear to the BJP in the past has the potential to be that unifying theme in specific states which cost the BJP the last election - AP, Maharashtra and of course Uttar Pradesh.

Let us examine each one of these states to understand the political dynamics and how the BJP could make a difference if it got its act right.

Telangana from Andhra Pradesh

Near Death events they say can bring fresh perspective to life. In the case of Chandrababu Naidu it is not clear if the near death naxalite attack on him made much of a difference to his politics but the Near Political Death of the 2004 General Elections followed by the Municipal and District elections has completely made him lose his sense of balance.

Naidu is convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the Muslim vote cost him the last election and he will do anything and everything to get it back, including supporting Iran's quest for Nuclear Weapons and protesting Geroge Bush's visit to India, remember this was the same laptop touting Naidu who hosted Clinton and Gates.

Naidu's problem in the TDP continues to be the same that eventually saw his Father-in-Law's decline. It is a one man show, every time NTR allowed a strong personality to emerge in the Center as the TDP's representative it eventually led to dissidence resulting in the state working over time to finish that personality off, resulting in practically no second generation of leadership. Where is P. Upendra, he has vanished from the political scene (once the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha), Renuka Choudary is in the Congress, Jayaprada is in Mulayam's camp.

So clueless Naidu is a very worried man. He knows that a fractitious party has put holds on his Prime Ministerial ambitions, so for all the talk of a 3rd front he aint getting nowhere near NTR got to becoming the Prime Minister. Naidu's other problem is Telangana. If a separate Telangana state were to emerge that would be the end of Naidu's hegemony over his party for it will spawn a parallel power center and going by the history of the TDP, parallel power centers eventually will lead to a splintered party, which in this case would mean the TDP ceding the space of primary opposition in a newly formed Telangana state to the BJP. Naidu's other gamble with the Muslim vote bank is closely tied to his Telangana fears as well, since the Muslim population is more densely concentrated in Telangana than in Andhra he believes that falling head over heels to woo them would ensure political survival.

Naidu's Achilees in Telangana is the opportunity for the BJP. The party has finally shed its ambivalence and come out openly in favor of a Telangana state. The party needs to follow up this stance with a well crafted strategy, vision and most importantly able leadership to follow through like it did in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. Telangana holds the promise for the BJP to carve out for itself the political space it needs to be principal opposition and maybe in the next election the party in power if it plays its cards right. This is a cause that saw unprecedented 80% upwards of voter turnout in 2004 and has immense unifying potential against the divisive Mandal forces.

Vidarbha from Maharashtra

The very same formulation of Telangana applies to Vidarbha as well. The Shiv Sena cost the BJP last election. The NCP's clever positioning in the state allows it to occupy the space of principal opposition while enjoying the fruits of power. The BJP's only chance of wresting power back in Maharashtra lie in transforming the political debate and the Vidarbha issue has that potential. The BJP campaigned last election on the issue but did not take it up with any seriousness. The recent spate of farmer suicides have brough the focus back on this issue.

Unravelling of the United Provinces of Uttar Pradesh

UP as the acronym we all understand it today to be Uttar Pradesh originally referred to the United Provinces, a large scale lumping of regions into one big state which pretty much determined the contour of the National Government for nearly 40 years after independence accounting for the biggest chunk of Lok Sabha seats. But for VP Singh's Mandal genie breaking the Congress stranglehold in UP, ND Tiwari would have been Prime Minister in place of PV Narasimha Rao and god knows what else would have ensued. The political debate in caste splintered UP has swung from Mandal to Mandir to Bahujan to now what Plato so greatly describes in his Republic as the Tyrannical State that emerges from a Democratic State. The tyranny that UP epitomises today cannot be won by any political grouping given the zillion caste, religion permutations and combinations. The Congress with its Alice in Wonder Land like mindset is setting its hopes on the Gandhi-Nehur magic to take it back to the pre-mandal days when the 80 odd lok sabha seats were its sole property.

In the unravelling of the United Provinces lies the BJP's best chance. The BJP's campaign next year for Uttar Pradesh must be on a platform of 3 smaller states. This would change the complexion of the political debate in the state and would unify the vote bank against the Mandal-2 forces and the newly formed mulsim vote bank parties. It would offer hope to a people who have pretty much written off stable state governments in Uttar Pradesh. The opportunities for political and economic/social growth offered by 3 smaller states as opposed to this Dinosaur of a state would be a compelling theme to attract voter's attention and give the BJP its best chance at breaking through the Caste Calculus as well as having the same effect on the One Man or One Woman wonders of parallel power centers. Neither Mulayam nor Mayawati have the appetite for parallel power centers and hence the breaking up of UP will have the same effect as the breaking up of Bihar had on Lalu and the breaking up of AP will have on Naidu.

It would take creativity and boldness on the part of the BJP to craft such a platform, but then what does it stand to lose. From where it stands now, it has no hope in hell in being returned to power in UP anyway. Ayodhya is a dead issue and will not reap it anymore political dividends. What fresh thinking can it offer to a state that has written its governance off for the next decade.

The BJP needs bold and fresh thinking to base its platform on smaller states, better opportunities to consolidate its position in the hindi heartland. The campaign for Uttar Pradesh should be based on a promise of “SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL“.

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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.
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posted by Yossarin at 3:08 PM  

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