By Saif Khan:
The BJP seems to have figured out a win-win combination against the Congress led UPA Government. Only twice in the history of independent India, the electorate has delivered a judgement which ripped the Congress apart totally. The Congress’s performance in those polls was so pathetic and defeat so pitiful that terms like battered, decimated, pulverized and routed were used to describe its hugely unsuccessful campaign.
It happened for the first time in the late 70’s, Indira Gandhi had imposed emergency in India and had stripped citizens of basic democratic rights and freedoms. Jai Prakash Narayan launched a massive nationwide agitation against it and called for a total revolution. He asked the people to choose between democracy and dictatorship. When the emergency was lifted and Indira Gandhi decided to test the strength of the ballot, the JP movement emerged triumphant by a huge margin and the Congress was ousted from office. The message was clear; the people of India don’t like to compromise on their basic rights.
It happened again in the 80’s when all opposition parties rallied under the leadership of the then poster boy of Indian politics, VP Singh, to ensure the eviction of the Bofors-tainted Rajiv Gandhi Government from office. This time the issue was of corruption and the message sent by the electorate even subtler. The people will not even think twice before throwing out a corrupt cabinet from power. Coming back to the contemporary scenario, the Congress led UPA seems to be in a mess and the BJP has taken charge of the situation (politically not electorally). Scams involving the Coal block allocation, 2G spectrum and Commonwealth Games have provided the BJP with aÂ ready madeÂ political trump card and the BJP has skillfully managed to couple this with another powerful issue and that is of federalism.
BJP has cornered the Congress on the issue of corruption and has placed itself right at the forefront of the fight for federalism. The BJP wants to show itself as the party trying to uphold the principle of federalism against a highly corrupt and undemocratic Congress government. They successfully managed to invoke the issue of federalism and the idea of the Congress trying to strangulate it during the tussle between the Ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa and the Governor of the State of Karnataka, during the discussion on the Lokpal Bill in Parliament and the Gujarat Lokayukta appointment row.
It’s ironic to see a party like the BJP championing the cause of federalism. The saffron outfit (operating under the banner of the Jan Sangh) in the 80’s, discarded the ideology of Gandhian Socialism favoured by AB Vajpayee for the sake of a hardcore Hindutva ideology (which led to its emergence at the national stage) and cultural nationalism initially advocated by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. The remarkable thing about this fact is that Deen Dayal himself spoke of the need for India to have a unitary government because he felt that India was so diverse that itÂ wouldn’tÂ be able to sustain a federal government and it would eventually lead to revolts and secessions. It amazes me to see a party operating under Deen Dayal’s ideology of cultural nationalism to talk of federalism and make it a core agenda of theirs in its fight against the incumbent government. The BJP’s all of a sudden concern for federalism is definitely opportunistic but it is indeed a political masterstroke and can be termed as “exemplary opportunism.”
The BJP currently seems to be well placed to win the next general elections. Its electoral plank rests on primarily two issues. The first is of throwing out a corrupt central government and the second is of saving democracy from an undemocratic government trying to thwart federalism. The BJP has skilfully mixed two issues which were responsible for the Congress’s departure from power in the past and has converted them into a double-edged weapon. Only time will tell how the BJP fares in the next elections.