Thursday, March 19, 2015

A strategy for the BJP

Despite all the comments from the so-called mainstream media to the contrary, this session of Parliament has actually been one of the best in recent history and has immensely benefited the NDA Government's agenda. Much will be said about the LARR (Amendment) Bill, and I will get to that in a bit, but the fact is that, with a day of the first half of this session left, the NDA has passed an excellent Railway Budget, is guaranteed to pass an excellent Union Budget and has converted six of its ordinances into acts of Parliament. Two ordinances are out of their select committees and should be able to pass the Lok Sabha. Simultaneously, 2G spectrum and coal auctions have gone on quite well and, for once, in a transparent manner. Despite all the loud noise about law and order, which is the responsibility of the states, the government has done very well this session.

However, roadblocks remain. The latest news is that the controversial LARR (Amendment) Bill will be kept aside for later, as the ordinance has not actually been applied to anything except highways. Instead, the GST Bill, a Constitutional Amendment Bill, will be taken up first. This is very sensible, because GST enjoys widespread favor, enough to pass the necessary numbers. It was mainly BJP ruled states that were opposed to it in the first place. GST is quite possible today and even necessary if Arun Jaitley's target of April, 2016 is to be achieved. Now is the best time to get it done, once and for all. GST will have a huge effect on business in India, including the current ones. Even without fixes to land acquisition issues, on its own GST can achieve a lot.

As for the LARR (Amendment) Bill, that has to be dealt with eventually. The BJP has lost this round - with Rahul Gandhi out of the way for reasons best known to him, Sonia Gandhi has once again managed to unite the opposition, as she had done against Vajpayee. This is not a battle of logic - which is clearly on the BJP's side - it is a battle of perception and Round 1 goes to the opposition. But, Round 2 can be won. Making speeches in Parliament is one thing, but the sad truth of our democracy is that nobody cares about it, least of all the sold out media. This battle has to be political and on the streets, it must be widespread. Logic is on the BJP's side, it must use it. People voted for jobs and infrastructure and they still want those - talk about them link it with land.

Use optics - hire a media adviser. Ignoring the media worked for Modi in Gujarat, it does not work in Delhi, the media has to be managed. There are many right-wing journalists who are quite in favor of the BJP but who are completely overshadowed by the liberal media - the government can fight this. Before it can finish off the all-powerful media estate itself, it must finish-off those most inimical to it, and building allies is one way to do just that. It is the same ecosystem that the Congress uses to sustain itself - but the BJP can take the historic plunge and make it its own, before finishing it off once and for all. Eloquent speeches help, but the real power is in the strong optics and statements.

There are some who are saying that the BJP Government is finished and the party will be wiped out in 2019. They are living in a fool's paradise and have no idea how elections work. Nobody can be written off so quickly in politics - even with its continuing debacles in state elections, the Congress is still a force to reckon with. So is the BJP. Politics can change over night and power is the ultimate tool to do that - something that the BJP has plenty of right now. But the strategy much change - do not be a passive viewer, take control of the discourse. Make your agenda your own, not that of just the government. The reasons why the BJP became and is still so popular are all there - find them again, talk about them on the streets, and victory will be yours. 

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