Monday, August 25, 2014

Read the Writing

The BJP's great defeat in the recently-concluded by-elections across the country should serve as a warning to the Narendra Modi-led Central Government as well as Amit Shah's new organization in the party. Winning and losing is a part of the political game but the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were different in that they gave the BJP an opportunity to become a genuine alternative to the Congress in every respect - a party, led by a man who would be able to take India on a new path. Unfortunately, the first 100 days has largely proven to be much of the same, with whatever economic recovery having occurred being on account of the honeymoon from the victory in May.

The BJP is not the natural alternative to the Congress party, even one as weakened as under Rahul Gandhi. People do not vote for the BJP automatically when they are upset with the Congress. In that respect, the BJP is a very large regional party. It took the combined might of Narendra Modi and the RSS to give the party a national mandate, a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha. What made the difference was the idea, beaten down in rally after rally, that Modi would be different, that he would be able to break the indecisiveness of the Congress, take hard decisions and bring in a prosperity that a country like India should have. Alas, so far he has moved along the same Congress-beaten path, mindlessly blaming hoarders for inflation while maintaining the massive welfare state that has put too much money into the system without creating any infrastructure; unnecessarily showing restraint after unending provocation from Pakistan; and continuing to maintain the upper hand of the incompetent public sector in the economy.

If people wanted more of the Congress, they would have just voted for it. People wanted a change, which is why Modi was able to transcend virtually every political barrier except the religious one. Contrary to what Arun Jaitley insists, India does not want small steps that essentially mirror the indecisiveness of the Congress - they are not just ready for drastic changes but demand it. The BJP was not given a majority to grovel at the feet of other parties for an elusive and rather dubious consensus, but to push through hard reforms that would ultimately create infrastructure and jobs. The by-election results should tell the BJP leadership as well as the Modi Sarkaar that they must make an immediate course correction. While Modi is guaranteed a five-year term, if he does not deliver, the results in 2019 will make the BJP extinct. 

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