Sunday, June 14, 2009
Defeat of the right wing
This season seems to be the season of the right wing in trouble. In India, the right wing nationalists BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) lost for the second time in five years and in the United States the right Republicans lost for the first time in eight years.
Perhaps its Iran that survived this trend with the re-election of its current President defeating the reformist rival convincingly, though disputed.
I am noticing good similarities between the state of the BJP and that of the GOP. Both are sulking. Both are searching for a theme. Both are clueless.
But I also notice that there are some good dissimilarities too. The GOP is better equipped to recover faster than the BJP simply because its not hamstrung by the "party ways" of Indian political parties. The GOP currently is seeing a back-and-forth between leaders who represent different shades of GOP ideology who are trying to occupy the leadership vacuum. While it looks like a dust storm, it is part of a process of rejuvenation and new direction.
Unfortunately, Indian political parties still chiefly rely on dynasty's and political patronage as a driving force. Even the famous 'party with a difference', has found its 'difference' to be woefully inadequate to meet the current challenge of quickly becoming irrelevant.
I read with amusement a news report where the BJP President Rajnath Singh had issued a gag order prohibiting airing of opinion by party leaders. These people still don't get it. Openly venting is part and parcel of the healing process. By gaging these voices, you are simply postponing it for a rather loud explosion later.
The whole bunch of people on top, those tired faces returning to their seats after this defeat like nothing has happened will hurt the party more. And I never thought I will say this, but the BJP's anti-dynastic mindset has given the Congress party a one up over it. Images of all those young sons and daughters of former party leaders makes the Congress party look young and energized. Compare this with all the grey haired BJP leaders like Advani, Swaraj, Joshi, Jaitely, Singh, Sinha, Modi, etc.
I am reminded of grumpy tired old people sitting outside Walmart welcoming customers when they step into the store compared to young faces that one sees in Target. All these small things shape the mindset of the common folks.
The strength and weakness of the BJP is its ideological roots. If the BJP continued true to its original RSS brand of Hindutva, the part will shrink and become a counter weight to the left parties. A core group sticking to their guns no matter what will surely find some takers, enough to keep them in power in a few states but not at the national or even regional level.
However, if the BJP wants to be relevant and a counter weight to the Congress, then it must occupy the political space between the center and the extreme right. It is there that the anti-congress platform lies and is up for grabs.
Fortunately for the party, there is no other in the horizon that is ready or equipped to occupy this space. At least not yet.
Anyways, I really am not that concerned about what political space the BJP will occupy. I am more concerned about the lack of inner-party political tools and mechanisms to deal with such situations. Its even more shocking that having been in the opposition for five years, one would have expected the BJP to have used all this time to re-invent not only itself but also its party machinery. However, what we see here today is a rudderless, captainless ship on the stormy high seas with mutiny on everyones minds.
For the the party with a difference, its about time to do something that's totally different. Something that's radical and never seen in Indian politics today. Anything short of that will severely restrict its political ascendancy in the near future.
Fortunately for the Congress, its ruling family seems have both its heart and mind in the right place. They are making the right moves and the right noises. And their goal to becoming India's natural party of governance is laudable.
I remember vividly, when the congress party was defeated in the 90s and the BJP emerged as the largest party, there were calls in the air declaring the decline of the Congress. Dynastic politics and cronyism were held responsible for the party's decline and some even predicted that the congress will eventually splinter and die out. Those were the days when the center of the whole country had shifted to the political right and the BJP had a bumper harvest.
Now years later, the political center has moved left of its position coming right back to the Congress's political space and BJP has remained stagnant.
Its about time the BJP interpreted the tea leaves correctly.