Obama’s saffron lesson
By Ravi Shankar | Published: 10th November 2012 11:30 PM |
The arithmetic of political ambition is what generates the numbers of triumph. There is a lesson in Barack Obama’s second victory for the BJP. An astounding 93 per cent of black voters and 69 per cent of Latino voters in America voted for Obama. In 1998, with Ram as its mascot, the BJP won 26 per cent of the popular vote. In 2009, it had fallen to 18.8 per cent. Eleven per cent of Muslims voted for the BJP in 2004, an improvement of 8 per cent. Now with Ram Jethmalani as its mascot, and Nitin Gadkari as a bigger enemy than the Congress, the BJP seems set on a suicidal course of action for 2014. Obama went to war with the Republicans, with the full confidence that he didn’t need the minority white vote; in fact, he is the only US president who got elected even after losing the white vote by double digits.
Hence, the BJP, instead of trying to craft a secular face and hoping to regain the 8 per cent of the minority vote it lost in 2004, needs to consolidate its Hindu equity by 2014. Inclusive secularism is redundant. Obama won by polarising America. Narendra Modi is sure to polarise the Indian popular vote. Those who attack Gadkari are afraid he may support Modi for PM; statistical analysis shows that Modi could boost the BJP’s vote share by over 25 per cent. Muslims comprise one-eighth of the Indian population, and Muslim hostility cost the BJP only 0.36 per cent of the national vote in 2004. Ironically, opinion polls show that Muslim support for Modi in Gujarat has gone up from 14 per cent to 26 per cent.
The great surrealist Salvador Dali said that intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. The BJP’s political canvas is becoming increasingly surrealistic as the prime ministerial ambitions of its leaders are destroying the intelligence needed to retain and enlarge its committed vote base. Gadkari has based his 2014 strategy on the principle that politics is not based on seniority, but on the charisma of a leader to win votes and a track record that proves efficient, modern government. However, the BJP that prides itself as a party with a difference is proving to be a party with too many differences. While the Congress defends the Gandhi Parivar on yet-to-be-proved charges of corruption and shady land deals, the BJP is falling over its own two left feet to opportunistically snipe at its own president from a moral high ground provided by a feverishly ambitious loose cannon named Arvind Kejriwal.
Loose cannons were what destroyed the Republican chances in America’s 45th election. The GOP lost America by pandering to the white Bible-belt and ignoring the new, multi-cultural US. The majority of Americans see Republicans as anti-women, anti-poor, racist and pro-big business. Republican Senator Todd Akin caused a public uproar by claiming that women can’t get pregnant if they are raped. Senator Richard Mourdock said babies born of rape are a “gift from God”; it’s no wonder that 68 per cent of single women voted for Obama. Obama is clear about his constituency—women, Latinos, blacks, gays and the educated white middle class—which brought him to power first in 2008 and now in 2012. Nine in 10 blacks, seven in 10 Hispanics and three in four Asians voted for him. So did 70 per cent of Jewish voters despite his oscillating stand on Israel versus Iran. Exit polls showed the non-white vote share increased to 28 per cent of which 80 per cent went to Bo.
More than 80 per cent Indians are Hindus. It is time the BJP took a hard look at its own constituency that brought it to power in 1998. From ‘Yes We Can’, Obama’s new slogan is ‘The Best is Yet to Come’. The BJP has to be forward-looking than see enemies within; it has to recognise what’s best for it instead of undermining its best chance, and simply hope for the best.