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Is the BJP heading downhill ?




Seems a pretty absurd thing to say, given that they have a commanding majority in the Lok Sabha, are in power in a number of states across the country and there is a large amount of support from people across the country. And if the Modi Government can bring around the economy, then things will be really looking up for the Government and for the party. However, there are some warnings signs that the Government does know about, but is ignoring, and in my opinion, ignoring at its peril.
The Government came to power in a groundswell of opposition to the corrupt and economy destroying rule of the Congress. People wanted a change, and the dynamic Chief Minister of a state that was leading in how to push for development seemed to be the right person to vote for. In addition, the promise to bring a slowdown or reduce the corruption that is eating Indian society was an attractive one, and this was combined with his reputation as a quick and decisive leader who could make sure that necessary steps would be taken. And so the electorate gave a large number of seats to the BJP and the coalition it was leading. In fact, the massive mandate in favor of Modi and against the Congress seems to have reduced the speaking power of the Congress and left it in a somewhat inert state.
Over the past one year, Modi has been leading an aggressive Government in terms of communication downwards (he does not believe in a 2 way communication, but certainly believes in communicating to the people through different medium, utilizing social media, and the radio for his ‘Man Ki Baat’). This was a welcome change from the time of the Congress Government where MMS would be mostly incommunicado. It also helped that there were no major scams or scandals that could be put on the Modi Government or on the various states where the BJP was in power.

And the BJP celebrated its one year in power on a high. There were some minor blemishes in terms of the Land Bill Amendment facing criticism from opposition parties, and even the GST Bill not getting passed as quickly as it was thought, but these were not serious. The Land Bill was getting done through the ordinance route, and the GST would get passed sooner or later. There was a minor problem in terms of the dramatic and shocking results of the Delhi election, which decimated both the Congress and the BJP, but this was an aberration; and such a profoundly non-realistic Government would be brought to heel soon enough.
However, soon after the Government completed one year in office, things started turning badly for the BJP. Even though it is early days to see whether Rahul Gandhi has indeed matured after his sabbatical, he seems to have inspired the Congress to take on the BJP, and they have been helped in this tremendously by the scams getting exposed one after the other. One of the problems that caused the UPA 2 Government to totally collapse into inaction was the scams that kept on getting exposed, and the resultant outcry and the opposition caused paralysis in the Government. The Congress Government had to jettison ministers and some of their politicians (or of allies) even went to jail.
And so the Lalit Modi affair caused tremendous public damage to the BJP. The exposure of the incredible conflict of interest by Sushma Swaraj in taking up the cause of Lalit Modi, and not taking this through her ministry was shocking, and caused a huge jolt to her prestige. Further, Lalit Modi took revenge on Vasundhra Raje by exposing her previous close connection to Lalit Modi, including financial benefits, and these together remained in the news for 2-3 weeks, appearing on daily news programmes and more exposes. The PR damage to the BJP was incredible, since they seemed to be going back on their no-corruption pledge by justifying whatever happened, and this directly impacted the PM. The query was that an otherwise communicative Prime Minister had become just like Manmohan Singh, keeping quiet on all this. In between, there were more controversies exposed in Maharashtra, which the BJP also defended. It honestly seemed like a re-run of whatever was happening during the Congress Government time.
And then the Vyapam scandal came to the media limelight. This had been simmering inside Madhya Pradesh for many years, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan managing to keep a lid on it. However, the spooky deaths of people involved in the scam in some way or the other, and the locals managing to keep a lid on it made it so juicy for the national media that it made headlines soon enough. And soon the pressure on the BJP to appoint a CBI enquiry got so high that there was no way that the BJP could prevent it. And the Supreme Court also got involved in the whole affair. There are more exposures of similar scams in the state, which if remaining in the public limelight, will shake the public image of the BJP to the core.
The BJP has also become like the Congress in another way. The Congress is not tolerant of any leader other than the Gandhi duo (although one call it it a trio if Priyanka Gandhi is also included); the BJP is turning out to be a similar model. The unquestioned leader of the BJP now is Narendra Modi, in a way that no other leader of the BJP has been. He appointed his close aide, Amit Shah, as the President, and the unelectable Arun Jaitley is the third arm of this trip. Any hint of dissidence or revolt by any other leader of the BJP is frowned upon and quickly put down, and it seems now the PM has finally issued a gag order. When a party that is so cadre based such as the BJP tries something like this, the message of intolerance that goes down the party line also ensures that people are not really enthused anymore, and if this happens on a large scale, the very air inside the party will start getting stale. They need to allow people inside the party to express their feelings. The recent statement by Shanta Kumar, a former leader of the party, brought down the fury of the party, with people accusing him of behaving like a Congressperson.
There are many other areas where the party seems to be behaving no different from the previous Congress regimes, but the idea of this post was not to nit-pick, but just point out some of the premium areas where people have expectations from the party.




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