As the Modi-led BJP government enters its last lap of governance, it has begun to prepare itself for the next general election by launching its outreach programme. Their leaders are hitting the road and going back to the ground, asking for support from various sections of the society.
We don’t know if it was a move planned well before the BJP faced a humiliating defeat in the by-election, thereby failing to form a government in Karnataka. However, what it does indicate is that the party understands the importance of reconnecting with the people, after the Opposition
parties have began to forge an alliance to fight the BJP – and thereby present a credible alternative for the people of India.
Given the social composition of India, the alliance which has emerged due to the growing power of the BJP (as an election-winning machine) has enormous potential to give a stiff competition to the ruling party in the 2019 election. However this will require a lot of courage from the leaders of alliance to not only reform their individual parties and leadership style, but to also train and discipline their cadres for cooperation and management purposes in the upcoming election.
The biggest challenge before the leaders of alliance is not one of deciding on the numbers of seat to be distributed among them Rather, it lies in preparing an ideological plank that can survive the BJP’s ideological combine of a modern outlook with their politics aimed at future generations. In the last four years, the BJP has successfully transformed itself from a ‘holding-back’ type of outfit into a ‘forward-looking’ party. Until the individual parties in the alliance transform themselves accordingly, they will have little chance to survive (let alone win) the upcoming contest.
The pasts of the individual parties in alliance will obviously be a continuous reference point in the coming election campaign. Unfortunately, for most parties in the alliance, their history hasn’t been a good, let alone glorious, one. The parties that sprang from the socialist movement, for instance, have become ‘family-stricken’. Their socialism extends, at most, to their family and caste members. To worsen things even more, almost all these parties are headed and run, de facto, by someone within the family leadership. How will these parties, who have seemingly never seen inner-party democracy survive the competition from a party which has been managed and run by professionally-trained cadres who have prepared themselves by facing the heat and dust of the Opposition rule in the last five decades?
Personally speaking, I think that the Congress, which supposedly works in a democratic manner, will also be in the stands for choosing a president that comes from the Gandhi family and for having various other leaders who have been a part of the political elite since ages. Thus, in the 2019 election, people will be offered a choice between the seemingly ‘democratically-functioning’ BJP and an alliance of a few families for their survival in politics.
Politically as well as socially, the parties in the alliance individually represent the sectarian interests of one or two castes and communities. It is no secret that whenever these parties have come to power in their respective states, they have ensured that particular communities are given benefits for cultivating a ‘patron-client’ relation.The BSP, for instance, has cultivated a huge vote-bank among the Jatavs in UP. Similarly, the RJD and SP are known for favouring Yadavs and Muslims in UP and Bihar by distributing public offices, contracts, among other such opportunities.
In my opinion, this culture of having clientele will barely stand ground against the ‘for-all’ culture of the BJP that it has seemingly developed under Modi’s leadership by successfully shrugging off the Brahmin-Baniya image of the 90’s and becoming a ‘catch-all’ party. In the 2019 election, the voters will be given a choice between a party gaining ground nationwide and parties with
sectarian and particular interests.
Thirdly and most importantly, the alliance has very less to offer to the economic agenda for
the country. Not many can deny that India, in its present state, can ever think of going back to the old socialist welfare state model. If anything, the India of today requires attempts which will take the economy to newer heights by pushing second-generation economic reforms with full steam.
It is not surprising that the BJP, which used to oppose FDI in retail, has changed its stance after assuming power. It has not only understood the need to cast away an old socialist regime of large government spending through high borrowings but has also continuously made efforts to reduce the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio by rationalising subsidies, stopping leakages and pushing towards a self-reliant economy. Disinvestment in unprofitable units, and the merger of the under-performing companies and banks are all steps that the BJP government has taken. It is also ready to expand the tax base of the country by launching another set of reforms for bettering the tax-to-GDP ratio of the country. The BJP has done way too much on the economic front that Congress, or any other party with the socialist hangover and the fear of losing an election, would probably have taken two terms to complete.
Thus, the voters of 2019 will be offered the choice of:
1. Electing a party that believes in the future and has everything in its basket that a new India demands.
2. Or they can elect those who want to keep the good only to themselves and deprive others of the same.