Monday, March 17, 2014

BJP - short and medium term goals

This is kind of a speculative post and some random thoughts based on current fast changing political moves. In summary, it is becoming more and more clear that NaMo has a long term plan for BJP and India - atleast 10 yrs

* Quite a lot has been said already about Narendra Modi contesting from Varanasi - that the BJP wants to gain maximum seats from eastern UP and western Bihar. Quite possible and nothing wrong in it, but what many of this media analysis has missed is Modi's agenda for India beyond just the BJP winning seats. Remember the BIMARU states. Madhya Pradesh under Chouhan has tremendously progressed since. Rajasthan is back with BJP and this time around Vasundhara seems to drive a development agenda. The states formed out of the BIMARU - Chattisgarh is picking up and with Raman Singh's ambitious Raipur development agenda, it is bound to pick up faster. Once Bihar got rid of Lalu from power, it had started signs of coming out of the dark ages, but not at a pace matching with what it is capable of. Unfortunately UP has been the least changed and that is where Modi is hoping to make a difference. He realizes that if a strong India has to be built up, UP has to be "cleaned up", including the Ganga !

* So the plan will be to get maximum MPs for BJP , do good work for 3 years through them and then try to gain back power in the state in Mar 2017 elections. Kalyan Singh would be 85 yrs old by then, so it will be interesting to see who the State Leader would be. 3 years is quite a lot of time to see who will emerge

* Delhi seems another interesting case - with Dr HarshVardhan moving to Loksabha, it will be interesting to see who BJP's chief minister candidate will be. Most likely Delhi elections will be later this year. Social media is full of speculation that it may be Kiran Bedi - we will have to wait and see .

* In Uttarakhand too, former CMs of BJP are contesting for LS . It is likely that for the 2017 elections, BJP may want younger leaders to emerge and be the CM candidate

In short, there seems to be an underlying strategy that Modi is adopting, slowly but steadily - to usher in fresh blood at the state level, and move some of the experienced to the Lok Sabha

* What about Rajya Sabha ? With Jaitley moving to LS, BJP will need a good orator in RS . Well, frankly , the party doesn't need a mass leader - Jaitley never was one - but needs more of an intellectual there. Moreover many of the current Congress leaders in LS may end up running away from or losing this LS elections and end up being nominated to RS - BJP needs a sharp person to take them on in RS. My own feeling is that Subramaniam Swamy may fill that place in. Though Swamy is popular among Tweeples and in intellectual circles, he may not be popular enough among the common man to be able to win from an LS seat, say in Delhi, where his supporters wanted him

* What about states with weak BJP presence ? BJP will want a TDP government in Seemandhra and in turn getting TDP support for NDA. Similarly a TRS govt in Telengana and support for NDA. Both seem reasonably likely. If these alliances can be continued in the ShivSena model - where BJP continues to play junior partner but neverthless has a significant clout on its own as well - it will be long term beneficial for the party's South India influence. For TN , Modi for now may want to test the waters with the non-conventional (for BJP) alliance that it has built up , see the result and then decide on a future strategy for long term growth of the BJP. In many other places like Kerala, Assam, Bengal, Odisha, NE , the BJP is going alone, hoping to get as many votes as possible (and in some cases a few seats) and then build on that for future.

* Finally, what about the overall National plan. I still strongly feel that NDA may end up with a 240-250 this time, take outside support from parties that would want some one other than Modi as PM, which in reality will be a blessing in disguise if NaMo decided to dedicate his time to build up the party along the lines that I have mentioned above, while continuing to be the Gujarat CM till 2017 December when elections are due. He could take up the mantle of PMship in 2018 (he will be 67 then), preparing the party with a much bigger base for 2019 election (or a snap poll if any of the NDA allies pull out and make it fall), continue to be PM till 2024 (he will be 73) and retire

This is not to suggest that BJP should give up mission 272+ . Keep trying, but know that other possibilities exist as well


Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Tamil Nadu will be most exciting for me to watch in GE2014

As I was browsing news on a Friday night, I happened to hit upon this piece . Interestingly it in the morning I had seen another news bit . For a moment I had thought that the firstpost news was the same as I saw in the morning, so much for the Rajnath Rajinikanth closeness in names. When I looked carefully, I saw that Alagiri has actually offered support to the BJP . This is another twist in the already interesting Tamil Nadu battle for Loksabha 2014

With the political scenario fast changing, it is yet to say that the alliances are final in Tamil Nadu, but for now it appears that it will be AIADMK vs BJP-MDMK-PMK-DMDK vs DMK - three cornered. There is indeed the Congress , Communists, Chaoists (you know who), but as long as they stand alone without an alliance, they are most likely to lose their deposit. In fact there are some smaller parties also in the rainbow alliance that BJP has knitted in Tamil Nadu. The seat sharing is not yet final and official, Tamil Nadu goes to poll on Apr 24 (ref: ) so it should be out in a week or so. Deep within, this seems to be the state that I am most curious about. Read on

First and foremost, it is a state where BJP has nothing much to lose. So it is more or less tension free to follow it. In fact I am even interestingly watching how the alliance will split the seats - with DMDK demanding 14 or so, MDMK and PMK perhaps asking for close to 10 each, BJP will be left with just 5. So is it worth the effort for BJP ?


I think the following factors may have weighed in - on the one hand, Jayalalitha - known as a friend of Modi even when Modi was at the peak of his being criticised - and AIADMK in spite of being seen as a potential NDA post-polls seemed to be in no mood to have a pre-poll alliance.  It must have been futile for BJP to try. Though perhaps a good number of AIADMK volunteers and supporters themselves may have been in support of a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, Jayalalitha wants to get the maximum seats on her own to be an important player in the center, if not a PM candidate herself. BJP naturally did not want an alliance with DMK which is on the down-graph and also immersed in corruption. It is here that the rainbow alliance idea seems to have kicked and here is what BJP would gain

1) Unlike a case where BJP may have been a junior partnet to a big party like AIADMK and there by not able to assess its own strength and grow alliance with smaller parties will actually help it to grow, if properly dealt with.

2) How much ever Jaya is friends with Modi, in politics there are no permanent allies. So while keeping the post poll alliance with Jaya still a possibility, BJP through its pre-alliance also is perhaps hoping to try to get as many seats as possible so that Jaya doesn't end up with a 35 kind of number and making her a real big player. Jaya with a 25 will much more easier for BJP to handle. This is not to say that BJP will be happy to covertly help DMK bag the rest of the 14. On the contrary it will be trying its best to have this pre-poll alliance bag atleast 10 of that 14

3) A third factor, which actually may have been the most dominant is Modi's general line of thought in this election - Congress Mukt Bharat . Imagine if it were Congress who had come up with an alliance like this, it would have still kept the party alive in the state. By taking along all these parties, Modi has almost ensured that the Congress party is decimated in the state - in fact its leaders like Chidambaram, Jayanthi Natarajan et al are running away from even contesting . DMK-Congress alliance is still a possibility though such a move will mostly hurt the DMK more.

4) The only times BJP won seats in TN were in 1998 in alliance with AIADMK and 1999 in alliance with DMK. In 1998 it got to contest 5 seats of which it won 3. In 1999 the numbers were 6 and 4 respectively. Coimbatore, Nilgiris and Trichy were won both times by BJP and in 1999 there was additionally Nagercoil. In 1998 it came second in Chennai South and Nagercoil, while in 1999, it came second in Sivaganga and Tenkasi. That adds up to 3 (won twice) + 1 (won once, second once) + 3 (second once) = 7 seats. Even if it gets to contest that many in the ranbow alliance this time, it is more than what they got to contest in 1998 and 1999 , so its still a gain in that sense. How many of these will finally be won will be interesting to watch. Interestingly both MDMK and PMK were part of the BJP alliance in 1998 and 1999, but the "main party" - AIADMK and DMK respectively are not this time !,_1998,_1999

InterestinglyMDMK-PMK were in DMK alliance in 2004 (alliance swept all 39 seats) and in AIADMK alliance in 2009 (alliance got 12 seats) , and this will be the first time they are going outside AIADMK/DMK, so it will be much more of a do-or-die battle for them as compared to the BJP

So put that all together and it looks like the BJP strategy could range anywhere from "not bad" to "brilliant" - we will know on May 16 !

post script: If BJP seals a pre-poll alliance with TRS in Telengana and TDP in seemandhra, it will almost ensure a 272+ for NDA.. well almost !

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BJP and Indian politics - transforming each other

Year 1989 was an exciting year for me - we moved into a new house and I also started following Indian politics as a boy, old enough to understand the basics. I think I still quite vividly remember how I found a small pamphlet in the local language, that was perhaps distributed along with the  newspaper, talking about Ram Janmabhoomi movement. I can't recollect if it was under a BJP banner or an RSS or any of its offshoots, but I do remember sitting in a chair in the front portion of the house and reading it in one stretch .. and then rereading it

It must have been the moment when one more of the many thousands or lakhs from "my generation" was being transformed into a "right-wing India Nationalist" . And that was to stay and grow,  so far for 25 long years.

Over the years, I read much more on Ayodhya dispute, was more than convinced that injustice has been done to the Hindus, felt glad that at least one political party in India had taken up the cause. Interestingly however, I realized that it was not the only issue that BJP had stood for - over the years, there were many more issues that I learned about - be it Kashmir and article 370, be it Uniform Civil Code or be it corruption in Congress party, minority appeasement and so on. It may be right to say that I learned the basics of Indian politics "through" BJP

photo taken from: 

 For a moment, think about the circumstances under which it was born - Indian politics dominated by Congress, essentially the Nehru family. A Nation unable to break away from the shackles of a misguided socialist model. Corruption already creeping into politics, and so also factors like caste and regionalism. When BJP began its journey, it did not project any of these as the main issue - what was projected was hindutva - and it was perceived as a male dominated, North-Indian hindutva party. 25-30 years later one sees what appears to be a different BJP - development oriented, with quite a good women representation, and continuing to appeal to the Youth of that generation. Has the party drastically changed or has it been a slow transformation ?

Here is how I look at it - the core of the party hasn't changed. Well, one might ask hasn't hindutva, Ayodhya and so on been kept in the back ? Having seen the party for 25 years, I think the core of the party - the part which remains unchanged - is Nationalism - to put it in a more popular phrase these days "India First". Take any issue, the ideal stand that BJP would like to take is driven by just this little policy - India First. Be it Kashmir or Uniform Civil Code or economic policies and so on. What has changed over the years however, are the manifestations of this "India First" core - things that the party wanted at different point in time to be its image.

In the late 80s and early 90s it was Ayodhya and Hindutva as the party believed that for India to be stronger, its majority, the Hindus, have to unite above caste and regional barriers. In the late 90s and early 2000, the party projected itself as a credible alternative to Congress party at the National level and a party ready to rule at the Center, and not just sit in opposition. The decade of 2004-2014 at the surface appears to be a dull period for the party, but look carefully, the party has been transforming its image to one that is highly development oriented, and able to govern key states with great leadership skills. In fact the last of the factors - transforming itself from a party known more for its National politics, to one that has been capable of giving strong state governments, has been an amazing one. It did appear to fumble a bit in the early 2000 period  - with Keshubhai Patel changed in Gujarat, Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur changed in Madhya Pradesh - but once it reached a 'steady state', we saw them win the states for a third time in Gujarat, MP and Chattisgarh. Even in states where it alternately seems to lose power, it seems to be losing by a small margin ( Rajasthan in 2008, Uttarakhand in 2012, Goa in 2007) and winning by a big to huge margin ( Rajasthan in 2013, Uttarakhand in 2007, Goa in 2012 ) (Hyderabad rally)

One also sees the emergence of a new generation of leaders from within, without really shaking up the older generation as much as media and many others have always predicted it to be. The first generation - the Atal, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi types - perhaps were much more "idealists", and the newer generation, one might say is perhaps much more practical. But at the ideology level ( yet again, "India First") I do not see much has changed. The youth appeal - may have temporarily taken a beating in the mid of last decade, but it seems to be back, though in a different form ( with quite a dominance in social media for example) . It may still not be a fully women-supported or minority supported party, but sure enough there has been significant transformations in those areas as well . South India was considered never "reachable" for BJP, it did rule Karnataka and is making gains in AP/TN

Along with its own transformation, though keeping the core intact, it indeed changed Indian politics itself. Congress has remained the centrist party (in my opinion, the party without much of strong policies, and hence the never die party because a good number of India people are like the "I do not want to think too much types") . Parties have come and gone and still keep coming up to occupy the left-of-center space, and by that I mean most regional, caste based parties as well, because for me, right of center is "India First" and any regional or caste base party beats that purpose and hence is naturally the wrong side of center. BJP has remained the only genuine "right" of center party

This is not to say that all has been good with BJP. As a supporter, one always wish it had done better. Though corruption during the NDA regime has been almost neglogible and corruption within the party itself has been quite low except in certain regions for a certain amount of time, the well-wisher always wants to see it completely clean. One cannot blame a Kerala volunteer, unhappy that even after 34 years of existence, BJP couldn't still win even an assembly seat. True, miles to go still, but overall I would say, the party has reasonably well. And I sincerely believe that just like the few fumbles that it had initially in managing state governments was immediately transformed into lessons learned, the next time BJP (or NDA) gets to power in center, will be an even better govt than before

And now it is at the threshold of yet another National election. Though expected to do well, the battle ground has become much more vicious. TV channels "generating" tweets that it assign to senior BJP leaders to show that there is infighting, self-proclaimed "honest" new entrants chanting  lies and distorted facts non-stop and the media giving non-stop coverage for that, the Congress party always on the look out for its "dirty tricks". The BJP leadership and volunteers has so far done okay and now with a month to two left for various phases of the poll, it is entering the key time - it is the time to wrap up the candidate selection, step up the door to door, make sure no big blunders are committed and to go the extra mile to be prepared to counter any further attack from the other parties. As a long term follower, I sincerely hope that Bharat Mata will bless the party whose very existence is to serve HER