Elections 2009, a close comparative analysis of the two major political parties (to help you choose)

Posted on March 27, 2009 in Politics

-Anshul Tewari

Now that the Lok Sabha elections are around the corner, we bring to you an analysis of the two major political parties in India, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress.

It often happens that our vote is influenced by a number of factors such as family, peers, our mindset which favours a particular political party, media and a number of other factors. But, now is the time to make your vote count. Now is the time to vote for the person whom you think is right. So, to make things easier for you we bring to you a comparative analysis of BJP and Congress, so that you vote for the one you think is right.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)/National Democratic Alliance (NDA):

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), formed in 1980, is a major political party of India. Designed to represent the country’s majority community and centre-right in nature, the party advocates conservative social policies, self reliance, robust economic growth, foreign policy driven by a nationalist agenda, and strong national defense. The party has a strong relation with the Sangh Parivar, in which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plays a leading role.

The BJP, in alliance with several other parties, was in power from 1998 to 2004, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister and Lal Krishna Advani as his deputy. It is the biggest constituent of the National Democratic Alliance which currently is in the opposition.

Let’s have a look at the party’s achievements during its ruling period from 1998 to 2004

-Vajpayee was responsible for three efforts to build peaceful relations with Pakistan. In 1999, he rode on the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus, and signed the Lahore Declaration with the Pakistani Prime Minister, committing India to peace. In 2001 Vajpayee invited Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, to Delhi, though the summit failed. And despite the terrorist attacks that froze relations for two and a half years, Vajpayee, in a speech to Parliament in August 2003, spoke of his “absolute last attempt of my life” to foster peace with Pakistan, de-freezing relations and invoking praise from world leaders.

-In 2004, the Government signed the South Asia Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, a decision intended to vastly benefit over 1.6 billion people.

-BJP’s political alliances and their consequent dilution of hindutva ideology created a noticeable rift between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party in ideological terms.

-The RSS, from where a good deal of BJP leaders have migrated, has sought the party to take a more aggressive stand on ideological issues such as the building of the Ayodhya mandir and the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code. It prefers a swadeshi economic model of “Hindu socialism”.The BJP as part of NDA while in power at the Centre could not pursue ideological tenets such as Ayodhya or the Civil Code to ensure that its allies continued their support.

To read a complete list of NDA’s achievements click here.

There have been a few points of criticism and controversies which go as follows:

The BJP seems to be inclined towards the Hindu majority population of India. It’s policy towards the Muslims is still handicapped by its political and ideological baggage. BJP leaders had once been wooing Muslims on the claim that the Government led by it improved the Indo-Pak relations. BJP leaders presumed that the improvement in the Hindu-Muslim relationship implies that the Muslim’s of India are influenced by Pakistan.

Party’s policy of Hindutva, which according to the BJP is not a religion. It is a religionised version of Indian nationalism. The party has certainly not done enough rethinking on this concept of nationalism and has not defined the status of religious minoroties such as the Muslims and the Christians.

Ramjanmabhoomi: The party has been criticized for its direct involvement in the movement which culminated in the destruction of the disputed structure called Babri Masjid in favor of building the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, which also led to communal violence. However, BJP said that it wanted the demolition of Babri Mosque through lawful process.

Communal violence: In 2002, The BJP had to deal with communal clashes that took place in Gujarat, after an attack by a Muslim mob on a train comprising mostly of Hindu pilgrims. As a result, communal clashes erupted in Gujarat with the Muslim minority being targeted by mobs for retribution. The state government of Gujarat, in BJP control under the leadership of Narendra Modi, has been accused of helping the Hindu mobs, a charge it denies. The National Human Rights Commission criticized the government, pointing to “a comprehensive failure on the part of the State Government of Gujarat to control persistent violations of rights”, while a judicial commission headed by G.T. Nanavati, a former chief justice of the Indian Supreme Court, constituted to examine allegations of Gujarat state administration’s involvement in the riots of 2002 said that there was no evidence to implicate either Modi or his administration in the riots. Nevertheless, the central BJP-led government in Delhi condemned and called an end to the sectarian violence. Some of its National Democratic Alliance allies demande Modi’s resignation and he did so before his party came to power again in the next election obtaining 127 seats out of the 184 seat legislative assembly. The issue is hotly-debated with one side contending that Narendra Modi and the BJP encouraged sectarian hatred, while the BJP itself vehemently denies the charge calling it politically-motivated posturing for Muslim votes. This issue was brought to the forefront when Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Indian National Congress, called Narendra Modi a ‘merchant of fear and death’ in her party’s 2007 Gujarat legislative assembly election campaign, a election which the BJP won again with a significant majority

Infighting: The party has seen the rise of regional ‘personality’ politicians with their own followers, and instances of infighting amongst the central leaders were publicized by the media. The aggressive courtship of celebrities, industrialists, sportspersons and other popular figures by the BJP has been a bone of contention with the RSS. After the BJP lost at the centre, some party leaders believed the reluctance of the RSS and its associate organizations to support an ideologically different party had led to the loss. This eventually led to the emergence of Rajnath Singh, a leader very close to the RSS, to the party President’s post in 2006. Unfortunately, his tactics of re-involving the RSS at every level of election management was disastrous in his native Uttar Pradesh, while strategies based around personality politics and economic reform led to victories in four other states that same year. Following this turn of events, the RSS publicly announced it would further limit its involvement in the BJP’s decision-making process.

India shining advertisements: There has been controversy over the India Shining advertisements as whether the governments, States or Centre are not permitted to use taxpayer’s money to promote any political gain. The BJP government has spent an approximate cost of Rs. 500 crores for the advertisements campaign during 2004 Parliament elections.

-Lesser evil between BJP and Marxists: In 2009, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was reported as saying that the BJP is a “lesser evil” compared to the Marxists, something which provoked a debate in the local Church. The cardinal, while speaking after the release of his biography, asserted that “the greater threat will certainly be the Marxist one, because it is much better to live under those who believe in a God of love and mercy than to live under those who don’t believe in God and will do anything to bring about social justice, social equality and destroy all differences of class and caste.”

In the most recent contesting campaigns for the Lok Sabha elections, a number of controversies have followed the L.K. Advani led BJP. Varun Gandhi, a young party leader allegedly gave hate speech in Pilibhit, against the Muslim community. He later on denied to have given an speech even after being proved guilty. This has given motivation to other party leaders.
Mr. Advani has been hitting Congress at a personal level calling Dr.Manmohan Singh as the weakest PM and claiming that Mr.Manmohan does what is told to him by Mrs.Sonia Gandhi.

The party is currently hitting on the youth and the rural population as a majority for their vote bank, both being easily influenced. Some in the name of Ram and some in the name of development and security (which the BJP can prove only after it comes to power).

The BJP came out with anti congress ads in the newspapers at the time of the 26/11 attacks, which according to many was a part of its blame game and cheap politics.

Indian National Congress (i)/United Progressive Alliance (UPA):

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is the present ruling coalition of political parties heading the government of India. The coalition is led by the Indian National Congress (INC), which is currently the single largest political party in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the parliament of India). The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, and the Council of Ministers are drawn from members of the UPA. INC’s President, Sonia Gandhi, serves as the Chairperson of the UPA.
The Congress has been able to cast its impact at the grass root level with its “Aam Aadmi” policy

Let’s have a look at the achievements of the UPA government (2004 to 2009)

-The party is comparatively a younger party, to which the youth of today can easily recognise itself.

-The signing of the 123 agreement so as to meet India’s power requirements.

It has restored secular and Constitutional values in governance. It has also made administration markedly more transparent. The Right to Information Act, 2005 is a historic legislation. It is enabling lakhs of our citizens in villages, towns and cities to demand responsiveness and accountability from public officials and government at all levels.

-It has enacted the path-breaking National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is being implemented in all districts to provide 100 days of legally guaranteed employment to each rural household seeking employment in public works programmes.

-It has started and achieved considerable progress on the ambitious Bharat Nirman programme to transform rural India by expanding and providing irrigation, all-weather roads, houses for the poor, drinking water, electricity for all poor families and phone connectivity in all villages.

-It has brought comfort and hope to crores of our farmers and their families by (i) increasing the MSP and procurement prices; (ii) by waiving loans to the tune of Rs 65,000 crores; (iii) by increasing three-fold credit from banks and reducing interest rates on crop loans; and (iv) by extending irrigation facilities.

-It has launched the National Rural Health Mission which has already made a positive impact by improving the quality and accessibility of primary health care in villages. More children are now being delivered under the care of trained health professionals. Around six and a half lakh women have been trained and posted as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs).

-It has significantly empowered the weaker sections of society by (i) giving scheduled tribes and traditional forest dwellers rights over land they cultivate in forest areas; (ii) by providing reservations for OBC students in all professional institutions; (iii) by passing a new law to protect women from domestic violence; (iv) by giving women equal rights to inherit property; and (v) by enhancing hugely the scholarships for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities and OBCs to pursue college and university education.

-It has imparted a new momentum to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for primary education. It has also introduced a cooked mid-day meal scheme in all primary schools that feeds 15 crore children every day. At the same time, it has for the first time in five decades, increased the number of colleges, universities, and institutes of technology, management and information technology. The investment in higher education in the XIth Five Year Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12) will witness a huge increase — five times the investment in the previous five years.

-It has delivered five years of record economic growth. This has enabled an unprecedented step-up in government spending particularly on (i) education and health; (ii) on agriculture and rural development; (iii) infrastructure like power and railways; and (iv) municipal services in towns and cities. This economic growth has enabled the introduction of the Aam Admi Bima Yojana (life insurance cover) for one and a half crore landless households, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (medical insurance cover) for six crore unorganized sector workers living below the poverty line and the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension scheme for elder citizens over 65 years of age and living below the poverty line.

-It has initiated the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with an outlay of Rs.1 lakh crore in 63 cities for upgrading infrastructure and for providing basic services to the urban poor. Work amounting to over Rs.42,000 crore is in progress covering areas like water supply, sanitation and urban transport. 14 lakh houses for the poor are under construction. Governance reforms under JNNURM has increased the availability of housing in the 63 cities. A major programme for improving power supply in 1,420 towns and cities has also begun.

-It has ensured that all States in the country received financial resources from the Centre for development schemes and programmes at a scale never known before. Unlike the NDA’s record during 1999-2004, no State has faced discrimination in the matter of funds from the Central Government. Sensitive States of the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir have benefited enormously and are seeing development activities on a very large scale. For the first time, the Backward Regions Grant Fund with an annual allocation of over Rs 5000 crores for 250 of the poorest districts is being implemented through panchayats.

-It has earned for India a new respect and stature internationally. Civil nuclear agreements have been entered into with many countries entirely on our terms. India has today a place of honour in every global forum. The sustained campaign led by the Congress President has resulted in the declaration of Gandhi Jayanti as International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations.

-It has considerably strengthened the country’s capacity and capability to deal with both external and internal security challenges. New battalions have been raised and new hubs for anti-terrorist forces created across the country. A new National Investigation Agency has also been established. Significant success has been recorded in the fight against insurgency in some northeastern States and J&K. The record turnout in the recent assembly polls in J&K by people braving calls of boycott and threats of violence is a tribute to their desire for peace and a vindication of the approach adopted by the Indian National Congress and the Prime Minister personally. The security forces have also successfully foiled the plans of Naxalites to expand their nefarious activities.

There have been a few points of criticism and controversies as well, which go as follows:

-During the discussion for the vote of confidence, BJP MP’s produced cash in the parliament, as viewed on Lok Sabha TV, alleging a bribe by the Samajwadi Party to vote for the government. The BJP claimed to have documentary evidence in a “cash for vote” scam and submitted a report before the parliamentary committee probing the matter. The BJP also wrote a 17-page letter to the Parliamentary committee headed by Congress member V Kishore Chandradeo in this regard. Arun Jaitley said Samajwadi MP Reoti Raman Singh had offered his party’s MPs the cash on the night of July 21. He also alleged that SP leader Amar Singh was behind the entire episode. Jaitley said: “The investigating agencies did not do their job. So we inquired into the matter and gathered documentary evidence in the case.” He alleged the ‘cash for vote’ scam reflected the subversion of the Indian Parliament, as well as a section of the media.

-The winter session of parliament in October 2008 came under intense criticism from the Left parties and the BJP to demand a full fledged winter session instead of what was seen as the UPA to having “scuttled the voice of Parliament” by bringing down the sittings to a record low of 30 days in the year. The tensions between the UPA and the opposition parties became evident at an all party meeting convened by Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee when the leader of opposition, LK Advani questioned the status, timing and schedule of the current session of parliament.

-In early November 2008, months before a new general election, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, along with other Bihari MP’s, threatened to resign en masse from the central government as well as with their MLA’s in bihar and jharkhand if the central government did not steps to arrest Raj Thackeray under the NSA for the recent actions against north Indian students in Maharashtra, as well as to initiate a CBI inquiry in the killing of a bihari on a Mumbai. The opposition BJP termed this “another spell of rhetoric” on the issue of attacks on north Indians in Mumbai.

-The party earned a bad name from a number of political parties as well as citizens when it signed the Nuclear Deal with the USA without giving proper information to its allies or the citizens of India.

-The party allegedly has a slow pace of reaction towards political situations and takes time to tackle the same at a faster pace.

-Many say that the party lacks orators.

-The growing inflation rate

-the 26/11 attacks which claimed the lives of many and the unpreparedness.

To tackle the personal comments by BJP, the Congress is also attacking BJP at a personal level, calling it a corrupt party. The Congress is taking every possible opportunity to criticise the BJP for each of its election related action.

SWOT analysis


On balance, the UPA government has performed well. No tangible anti-incumbency in urban areas. Its leadership comes across as better equipped to handle challenges on the foreign policy and economic front.

With infighting, weak organisation and dependence on allies in crucial Hindi heartland states such as UP and Bihar, the party could be its own worst enemy in Madhya Pradesh and may not be able to retain its impressive 2004 tally in Andhra Pradesh.

Welfare schemes of the UPA government could fetch electoral dividends.
Allies are hemming it in in the pre-poll scenario and deserting it in the post-poll scene.

Bharatiya Janata Party

Strength :
Its allies are dependent on the BJP for a majority in states such as Bihar, Orissa and Punjab. BJP state units are strong.

The big picture does not favour the BJP. It has lost to the UPA the talking points on which it hoped to badger the government: Terrorism and inflation. Its national leadership is divided and does not inspire confidence.

The Congress state units are weak.

Allies are acting pricey in seat-sharing talks and could desert the BJP in the post-poll scenario if its numbers are not impressive.

We, at Youth Ki Awaaz request you to read the analysis carefully. Both the political parties have been equally successful but it is on us to decide as to whom do we want to lead India.

The country currently needs development at the grass root level, rural employment, decrease in the inflation rate, stabilisation of population growth and elimination of social evils such as gender bias, discrimination, communalism, and others. The contemporary citizen wants to see an unbiased government at the center. We want a party who can take all regions, religions, castes, sects and people together towards development. Will any of the above, BJP or Congress be able to fulfill the Indian dream? So, who would you vote for?

DISCLAIMER: The research material used in this analysis has been derived from a number of websites, http://www.bjp.org, http://www.aicc.org, and http://en.wikipedia to name a few.