I’m a big fan of BJP and will continue to be one for years to come. As a national party, BJP managed to keep its internal democracy intact for a long time. If you look at the past 15 years, BJP has had some really strong leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari. All these leaders were in positions where they could make key decisions for the party. This is very much unlike the other main national party, Indian National Congress. Except for the Gandhi family, no one else has had any say in the party during the same time.
Now, coming to the present. Upcoming Bihar state assembly elections will not be a referendum on Narendra Modi but a test of BJP’s ability to go beyond Narendra Modi. I personally feel NDA will lose these elections and deservedly so. Here are the reasons.
BJP wins only when opposition has already imploded
The 2014 General Elections were a major setback to Congress. UPA-2 had done so abysmally bad in many areas of governance that Congress party virtually conceded defeat months before the defeat itself. The only question was will BJP win enough seats to form a coalition government. This is where the charm of Narendra Modi and his phenomenal track record in running Gujarat kicked in. Not only did the BJP cross the 272 mark, they also managed to get a near 2/3rd majority in Lok Sabha.
BJP won in Jharkhand and Haryana and the main reason is the lack of credible opposition in both these states. Hooda family has destroyed Congress’s chances to such an extent that BJP made it to the helm for the first time ever in that state. Jharkhand also saw deep instability in governance due to JMM and Congress misrule. These parties never put up a credible fight.
Maharashtra was a split situation for BJP. Yes, they formed the government eventually – but that was possible only after they formed a coalition government with Shiv Sena against whom they fought the elections to begin with. So, the trio of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena was strong enough to stop the BJP well short of majority. Jammu & Kashmir was also a similar case. While the incumbent National Conference was never in a position of strength, PDP put up a strong fight and managed to beat BJP on the Kashmir side. Yes, BJP did form a government here but are the support partners in a coalition.
The less said about Delhi the better. AAP was a strong opposition only to be made stronger by some poor decision making in BJPs election preparedness. Only 3 party candidates actually got voted in.
Bihar will be a situation that falls somewhere between Maharashtra and Delhi. The opportunistic coalition of Lalu Yadav, Sonia Gandhi and Nitish Kumar is strong enough to get the slim majority to rule Bihar again. BJP does not have strong local leaders to push the party beyond finish line. Over reliance on Narendra Modi’s charisma is not going to work. While the current controversies like beef ban would not dent BJP’s chances in Bihar, their real problem is lack of credible local leaders when faced against tough opposition.
16 months at Centre and still nothing to showcase to general public
BJP government is at the Centre for 16 months now. Their biggest achievement so far has been the way Defence, Home and External Affairs Ministries have worked. Manohar Parrikar seems to be making all the right moves in converting India into a strong, well equipped and defendable nation. Sushma Swaraj and Gen VK Singh have done exceptionally well during multiple crisis situations involving Indians abroad. Rajnath Singh and Ajit Doval have had a good control over internal security – be it the reduced violence in Kashmir or Northeast or Maoists.
Problem is that these big achievements are hard to sell to general public and impress them to vote for you. People need uninterrupted power supply, medical facilities, better roads, faster goods transportation, improved railways, access to loans, jobs in industry and agriculture. BJP does not have anything to showcase in all things these basic things that people want. People cannot be swayed for long on basis of some shiny object that may become a reality in future. Tell them what you did that impacted the people’s basic needs in past 16 months – and then sell a story of how things will improve even further in future. Then they will buy it.
Why BJP should lose Bihar elections
Biggest problem BJP has at the center is their lack of progress in almost every area that falls under people’s basic expectation. A loss in Bihar will make them realize the problem in current functioning of their own government. They will then start asking themselves the right questions which will help India progress and also help them retain power in 2019 General Elections. Why did Nitin Gadkari not come come up with improved road safety bill? Why are driving conditions India so pathetic? By when can we hope to have improved electricity generation? Why has not a single customer facing thing changed in Railways? Why do our trains still use worlds most unhygienic way to dispose human waste? How should the healthcare sector improve such that the family sleeping on roadside can also benefit? Why has the Swach Bharat campaign not turned into an actual government program with resources and milestones?
Losing the Bihar Elections is probably the only way for BJP to start asking itself the right set of questions. Running after industrialists to setup factories in India can only help to a small extent. A lot depends on how BJP addresses the other issues that are clear and present danger to this nation’s progress.
Update 16-Oct: Apparently, BJP is now trying to make its local leaders the face of this election in Bihar – http://www.ibnlive.com/news/politics/change-of-tactic-by-bjp-in-bihar-focus-more-on-state-leaders-1152817.html
Update 08-Nov: BJP alliance lost the elections and the main reason obviously is the strength of its opposition. I hope they take this as a wakeup call and work on areas that have direct, positive and measurable impact on common Indians. West Bengal in 2016 is out of reach for them. SP and BSP must have understood the template to defeat BJP and hence UP will also be lost. Punjab however will be the next major state that will give BJP some reasons to cheer.