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BJP’s bluster

Thursday 28 June 2007

The Bharatiya Janata Party has determinedly sought to develop the best spin machine in the political business. This became clear during the India Shining campaign of 2004 and in the party’s posturing ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll. It is now manifest in the belligerent approach to the Presidential election. The BJP went into the U.P. election a distinct third and emerged from it even worse than expected. Of course, the party ran the most vainglorious campai gn – not just projecting an outright victory in the 2007 State contest but also claiming top honours in the 2009 general election. “The road to Delhi is via Lucknow” thundered the party’s December 2006 National Council conclave. The basis of this confidence? Eight mayoral seats won earlier in a municipal election whose key feature was the absence of the chief protagonist, the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Assembly election debacle would have made a lesser party retreat from the limelight, eschewing bombast and bravado for quiet introspection. Not the instinctively aggressive BJP.

Addressing the national executive, party president Rajnath Singh was unfazed: he characterised the U.P. debacle as a “one-time aberration.” Yet facts prove that the party is in a historic decline in India’s most populous State. In 1991, the BJP held 51 of 84 Lok Sabha seats, and 221 of 425 Assembly seats from U.P. Today it holds 10 of 80 Lok Sabha seats and 50 of 403 Assembly seats — its lowest scores in 16 years. It was left to the party’s no-nonsense ex-chief Lal Krishna Advani to put an end to the charade. Demanding an “honest introspection and self-critical analysis” of the BJP’s U.P. performance, he urged his successor to draw up a “task sheet” detailing corrective action. The less said about the quality of the BJP’s presidential campaign, the better. The party has lurched from one unprincipled position to another, now proposing Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, now pitching for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, finally reverting shrilly to Mr. Shekhawat. The party correctly argued against the advisability of a sitting President entering the contest only to back President Kalam’s candidature jointly with the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA). The intention obviously was to get the UNPA’s reciprocal backing for Mr. Shekhawat — and using that proximity to attempt a working relationship between the National Democratic Alliance and the UNPA. This stratagem has failed ignominiously. But surely the biggest blow has come with the party’s hardline ally, the Shiv Sena, deserting it for the duration of the presidential poll — choosing Maratha pride over Hindutva.

See online : The Hindu

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