Congress turns negative into positive, but BJP faces a peril of its own making
By Prabhu Chawla | Published: 23rd December 2012 12:00 AM |
“A danger foreseen is half avoided.”—Thomas Fuller
In 2012, the Congress has followed Fuller faithfully. Meanwhile, the BJP ignored this well-tested prophesy to its detriment. If the electoral verdicts of 2012 are any indication, it is the Congress that anticipated the prevailing public anger, while the BJP failed to read the writing on the wall. Despite scams, lack of leadership, ideological confusion, an ineffective central administration and assertive allies, the Congress gained electorally while the BJP failed to even retain what it had earlier. The saffron party’s third consecutive victory under Narendra Modi’s leadership in Gujarat is hardly a consolation for its slide in other parts of India. The BJP lost both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where it had ruled for five years. It polled fewer votes and won less seats in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Assam. The BJP had a total of 276 MLAs combined in the seven states of Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which went to the hustings in 2012; its tally fell to 252 while that of the Congress rose from 215 to 254. The ignominious defeat in Assam and Himachal Pradesh exposed the hollowness of its overrated election strategists. It also proved the larger point that only strong leaders like Modi and Virbhadra Singh can win elections, and not paratroopers from Delhi or elsewhere. One cannot ignore the stark reality that the Congress has more chief ministers than the BJP at the end of this year than at its beginning. Earlier, it snatched Kerala from the Left. Meanwhile, the saffron party took pride in winning in various municipal elections.
2012 has been a Year of Consolation for the Congress and despair for the entire Opposition. The BJP may have many prime ministerial aspirants who expect the people to vote out the Congress, but it is the Congress, with just a Gandhi as its potential prime minister, that is laughing all the way to the votebank. As the BJP underplayed Modi’s victory, middle-level Congress leaders took pride in the fact that in Gujarat, the party won whereever Rahul campaigned during his whistle-stop forays. The Congress has been able to successfully exploit both the BJP’s ideological isolation and the insufferable arrogance of its top leadership. For the past 10 months, the Congress not only encouraged but also fuelled the battle for prime ministership within the BJP. Its camp followers ensured that Modi remained the factual point of deliberations not only within the BJP but also in the media. He has become the new political narrative around which the nation has been polarised. Consequently, the BJP leadership walked into the trap and started demolishing not only each other but also the organisation in various states. The battle of Assam was lost not because the party was careless, but because its Central leadership was fighting over the control of funds and publicity. Uttar Pradesh proved to be a disaster because its feuding Central leaders were promoting their own groups. A classic case is the BJP’s humiliating defeat in Himachal Pradesh, where the father-son duo of chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Anurag Thakur became puppets in the hands of a Central leader and his haywire strategy. They committed the cardinal error of targeting Virbhadra personally, rather than focusing on their genuine achievements. While Modi made his a fight between development and the Congress, the BJP strategist converted the Himachal battle into one between Dhumal and Virbhadra. The Raja of Theog won.
Yet, the BJP refuses to learn lessons from its slide. A bigger challenge lies ahead in 2013. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are going to the polls. Unless the RSS decides to purge the top leadership of the party, the saffron shadow over India’s political map is going to shrink further. With powerless and rootless Central leaders deciding the fate of the state’s popular leaders, Karnataka is likely to slip out of the BJP’s hands, signalling the end of its short-lived control over a southern state. According to an opinion poll, the BJP’s tally is likely to slip to under 50 as against over 115 now. In Rajasthan, where its chances are bright, a coterie of insecure Central leaders have ensured that its former chief minister not be given favourable treatment. It is only in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where both Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh have carved out their own invincible niches, that cult-hungry Central leaders has been forced to keep their hands off. In Delhi, the condition is pathetic. Its fat cats dictate and decide the future of others. According to one party functionary, the BJP doesn’t even have candidates for 23 of the 70 Assembly constituencies. An 80-year-old leads, because his supporters stop grassroots workers from coming up.
On the other hand, the Congress, under its 76-year-old chief minister, is already in election mode. Its poll strategy and administrative plans are well in place.Even at the Central level, the Congress has mapped out the dangers ahead in Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, since these states will set the mood for the 2014 elections. While the Congress appears to be battle-ready, it is the BJP that has already assumed that power is waiting to be plucked. It has neither noticed the troubled spots nor remembers that it is still an opposition party not on a roll. A party with a positive perception is performing pathetically against the Congress, which suffers from negative perception. Without a purge at the top level, peril stares the BJP in the face in 2013.
Follow him on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla