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What lessons can the BJP learn from the debacle?

Notwithstanding the fact that it is sad that the Congress is back in power, there is an inexplicable tinge of relief that it isn’t the BJP, considering the kind of politics it’s been indulging in. A greater relief is the country has been spared from the scourge of the Left.

My political preference has been the BJP for long because I deeply despise the Congress and most of the other parties make me cringe, not because I’m a big fan of how the BJP conducts itself. I doubt if the BJP is going to learn some lessons from the current defeat, but here a few suggestions that I think can brighten up its prospects in 10 years.

Confront the Congress with the right facts

The BJP somehow never leverages the scores of anti-national activities the Congress constantly pursues. Take for instance the Gujarat riots and Babari Masjid demolition. The mainstream media and the so-called secular parties never tire of raising these issues whenever they want to corner the BJP. I don’t mean to justify the riots and the demolitions (they could both have been prevented had there been a will and foresight), but does the current generation know that most of the riots in the country have happened under the Congress rule? After all it was Rajiv Gandhi who first unlocked the temple and performed pooja (prayer) there.

Why cannot the BJP prepare a list of the various riots that have been sponsored by the Congress and how many people have died so far in those riots, from various communities? What about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which more than 4,000 innocent Sikhs were butchered by the Congress goons? Thousands of people lost their lives during the reign of terror in Punjab and all this happened because Indira Gandhi sent a bogeyman (Bhindrawale) to divide the Akalis.

Major Hindu-Muslim riots in places like Aligarh, Ahmedabad, Jamshedpur, Meerut, Bhagalpur and other places happened when it was the Congress government.

For almost 50 years the Congress has ruled the country. In terms of poverty and misery the country competes with sub-Saharan countries. The disparities are phenomenal: the poorest and richest can be found in the same locality. In terms of corruption the country is tagged as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Lawlessness is the norm of the day; women are kidnapped even from crowded markets. Terrorists can attack in the hearts of our cities at any given time. It’s your criminal record that makes you a worthy politician and not your social performance. The very nature of the way Congress operates pushes people towards misery and poverty.

The reason why the country got a breather was because for a small duration Narsimha Rao came to power and unlike Manmohan Singh he was not a puppet of the Nehru-family.

There are two types of people who vote for the Congress and its supportive parties: people who are not aware of where the country is going and people who don’t really care where the country is going as long as they can go on doing their usual business. The Congress prefers to maintain the status quo for obvious reasons.

Hate politics doesn’t give bigger dividends

I totally agree that “secularism” is a charade in our country and whenever you speak of Hindu suppression by Muslims and Christians you are branded as communal, but a majority of the population isn’t worried sick about these issues. They ARE live issues and they HAVE kept the country in doldrums for more than a millennium, but this is something that doesn’t hit you smack in the face in a few months. Poverty, corruption, infrastructure, health, education, law and order and justice do. People are more concerned about their jobs, rising prices, criminalization of politics, the international image of the country, terrorism and crime and social justice.

Speeches and campaigns against communities and individuals, justifiably, put people off and they definitely should, must. In our country there are multiple cultures and ideologies and minority bashing cannot take the BJP beyond a certain level, deservedly. The BJP should stop playing the same victimhood card the Muslims have been playing all over the world.

Get rid of political liabilities

Whether they accept it or not, people like Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi are liabilities, not assets, and they have directly or indirectly precipitated the downfall of the party. They are like those cricket players that focus on garnering runs for themselves without caring whether the team wins or not. Locally they may be successful, but to a larger portion of the population they are simply villains. Similarly the party should distance itself from disruptive organizations like the VHP etc. because their sole agenda is spreading a sense of insecurity in the society and without this they solve no other purpose. I am not saying that the BJP should try to appease somebody, but they are steps in the right direction in a country that has a long history of tolerance, acceptance and real secularism.

Develop a youthful image

Despite Manmohan Singh being old it was Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi who were constantly charming people. Most of its youth (or youthful) politicians were aggressively vociferous and present everywhere. The Congress portrayed itself as a youthful party ready to embrace change and represent the young India. The largest 20-something population resides in India and a majority of its members do not relate to what the BJP and its cadres represent. Beating up people during Valentine’s Day and attacking pubs is not the kind of environment that the youth of the country want to live in. The BJP and its various wings constantly seem to be living in a fear psychosis raising the dark clouds of cultural and religious invasions. They constantly feed the media with negative images and the media gleefully laps them up. The party should get rid of these smelly elements and encourage young politicians without shackling them with the chains of the Hindutva ideology. Instead it kept on defending the sorry excuse of a youthful representative like Varun Gandhi.

Do some work at the grassroots level instead of preaching all the time

Let’s face it, the Congress is a very old political party and it has its tentacles spread across the length and breadth of the country, whether it’s intelligentsia, bureaucracy, international lobbying, business and media. All TV news channels and major newspapers seem to be cohorts of the Congress. Any given day it can mobilize its millions of workers at the grassroots level and play its dirty politics.

The BJP also has the disadvantage of an extremely divided Hindu vote bank and this is not the problem when it comes to minorities. Christians, Muslims and marginalized Hindu communities consolidate the Congress vote bank. The BJP on the other hand lacks this reach and needs to work harder at achieving it. Instead of marginalizing minorities and disadvantaged communities the BJP should get all of them together to build a solid and dependable following. This can be achieved by working with the communities and helping people perform their day-to-day activities easily. The party must directly get involved with the people and issues that really make a difference. For instance, instead of opposing the loan waivers to farmers the party should closely work with the farmers so that they are able to pay back their loans. Similarly instead of targeting the Christians for converting Hindus they should work to alleviate their conditions so that there is no need to convert. Why always blame other communities and religions when your own religion doesn’t give dignity and protection to its people?

Develop parallel, vocal intelligentsia and media

The only intellectual in the party who is a bit vocal and cannot be shouted down easily is Arun Shourie. The rest sooner or later begin to sound like morons on various television debates. It is not completely their fault as most of the anchors make sure that the debate is eventually swayed in the favor of the Congress, or the Left, but still it is very difficult to cow down a person who knows his or her facts and believes in them.

Just have a cursory look at various articles published in the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Guardian; most all of them are perpetually bashing the so-called “communal and nationalistic” BJP and they don’t have a single word to say against the Congress or some other party in spite of the fact that the various versions of the Congress have been screwing the country for more than 50 years. The BJP is the favorite whipping boy and in fact it has become a fashion among the “writers” and “journalists” to blame the BJP for all the problems the country has. One article even blamed the Hindu nationalists for the formation of Pakistan because the Muslims felt insecure and marginalized because of them. How absurd can you get? But then where are the alternative voices?

The same goes for history and social sciences. Historians and social scientists with Congress affiliations have been twisting and distorting Indian history for ages and people complain that scholars with opposing or alternative views are not published and they don’t get the fundings to demolish the scholarly misconceptions. The greatest problem is that we are always going for shorter solutions and don’t aim for long-term goals. If Advani can have a gold rath (chariot) then a scholar should easily be able to get the funding he or she needs to publish his or her book. If Arun Shourie can get his books published, why cannot other scholars? The problem is not money, the problem is attitude. Hire the best scholars, hire the best PR agencies and create your own lobby groups in various countries and I am sure that the BJP can achieve that.

Parzania, the film that was made on Gujarat riots attained national and international exposure but Amu that was made on anti-Sikh riots of 1984 was snubbed by the Indian media. Why isn’t there a parallel force to promote such films and books?

Use the Internet to create evangelists

The Obama campaigners used the Internet to their great advantage and the IT wing of the BJP wanted to replicate the same feat, without replicating the needed hard work and sagacity. They literally spammed the entire Internet as far as the Indian demography was concerned. There was so much Advani on the Internet that even those who were ready to consider the BJP as a viable alternative decided to vote against the party. Instead they should have used social media to interact with people. They should have created online forums where voters could interact with top BJP leaders and directly ask questions. They should have written and distributed informative articles using various social bookmarking websites. They should have been the ones starting campaigns like “Jagore”. Even Amitabh Bachchan manages his blog better than the BJP campaigners. Not a big part of our population uses the Internet but in elections every single vote counts.

Hit the streets

I have worked with a few NGOs and have found that the best way to raise awareness is by organizing street plays. They should organize interactive street plays in which they can dispel the various myths that are propagated against it. Various party leaders and concerned citizens should get together and raise awareness. Plays and songs should be written to reveal the true colors of the Congress and the like-minded parties. During India’s independence struggle songs, plays and poems played an indisputably important role.

For the next 10 years the BJP should forget about elections and simply focus on building a party the people of the country can see a healthy alternative in. If it keeps struggling from one election to another it’s going to be impossible to come to power and bring about a positive change.

Vote Report India

Vote Report India Here’s another website tracking the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, called Vote Report India. It will basically report violations of the code of conduct happening all over India.  The website packs lots of information and updates. The About page says:

Vote Report India will partner with citizens’ networks, human rights organizations, and journalists to contribute direct SMS, email and web reports on violations of the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct (PDF). It will then aggregate these direct reports with news reports, blog posts, photos, videos and tweets related to the elections from all relevant sources, in one place, on an interactive map. The interactive map will allow tracking the irregularities in the campaigns leading up to the elections, the voting experience on the day of the elections, and the results themselves.

At one level, Vote Report India will serve as a critical initiative aimed at nurturing transparency and accountability in the Indian election process. At another level, the platform will provide the most complete picture of public opinion in India during the elections.

Vote Report India is a non-partisan all-volunteer collaboration between software developers, designers, academics, and other professionals to bring transparency to the 2009 Indian elections.

You can see the core team supporting the website here.