Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party." A phrase from a typing drill, it can well be used for the BJP today. The election campaign is in full swing in Uttar Pradesh. However, BJP is missing in action. Where are the star speakers? A party that shows its lungpower in Parliament and has some fantastic orators has not yet unveiled them, in the state that matters. The few good men and women that comprise the top rung of the BJP seem to have expended all their energy in December, battling the government on permitting multi-brand FDI in retail and then the Lokpal bill. The elephantine gait of this party is similar to Mayawati's BSP. Bhenji has been MIA from the scene too, but then again, she already has one vote bank in the bag �can we say the same for the BJP?
The lost leaders: The BJP under the leadership of Atal Bihari
Vajpayee ran a coalition government for two terms. Today, without a
strong leadership, they seem directionless
Uma Bharati has been projected as the star campaigner for the UP polls. Seriously? Look at the talent available. Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Raj Nath Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain, L K Advani, Narendra Modi (yes, him too), Nitin Gadkari. These are people who have risen from the ranks. They didn't come from some highfalutin dynasty. They were grassroots heroes, who got together under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and ran a coalition government for two terms. Today without a strong leadership, they seem directionless.
In fact, the direction could not be clearer for the BJP, just stay clear of whatever the Congress led UPA has been doing all year. We saw the UPA poorly tackling Baba Ramdev's "yog shivir", grossly miscalculating the Anna episode and finishing off the year with the debacle that was the passing of the Lokpal bill in both houses of parliament. Instead of riding high, the BJP did something just as crazy. They roped in tainted leader Kushwaha after having run a multi state, multi month, Rath Yatra against corruption. Both these gargantuan parties are so caught up in being stupider than each other that they come across as the blind men and an elephant of Hindoostan!
Rahul Gandhi had first-mover advantage, air dropping from village to village, repeating his speeches of the elephant that eats currency notes. He started too early and there is nobody other than him and his family from the Congress party in the state. In Uttar Pradesh nobody else matters in the Congress Party. That is the way it has always been. It works for the party. Right or wrong in the present system of electoral politics, where there are no primaries, and a lack of democracy, each party has its own ethos.
While all parties harangue about the Congress party's dynastic politics, they have also handed tickets to political dynasties in all the states. The Badals and the Amarinder Singh dynasty in Punjab take turns to come to power. In U.P. too, the BSP and SP have given tickets to sons and daughters of local politicians. The BJP, while dissing the Congress has given tickets to MP Lalji Tandon's son, MP Ramakant Yadav's wife and son and others. It's the same Jacuzzi and they are all swishing around. After all this, the competition between the Congress and BJP is for the 3rd and 4th place. Even with decades of electoral politics, what still works in UP is caste and religion.
Politics of identity is still viewed by the bhagwa robes or the sherwani worn; according to 'zaat' and how much of a dalit you really are; just a dalit or a maha dalit. In speeches made, there are promises of building roads, schools, trains, buses, bridges, colleges, electricity, industry, quotas and everything and more. But the people of UP don't hold their leaders accountable to promises not kept. They vote caste and they vote religion.
The fractiousness and political engineering in Uttar Pradesh saps the major parties of energy. The anti-establishment sentiment is negligible simply because Mayawati has one vote bank tied to her dupatta. Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, with his red cap, is on adrenalin high and can upset some numbers. Rahul has put in his all and will have to notch up a better score. The BJP has nothing to prove and doesn't seem to even want to prove anything to any one, any more.
Smita Prakash is Editor (News) at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash