BJP snatches defeat from the jaws of victory

After the BJP's stunning defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha election when Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Government was sent packing despite his soaring popularity, the party leaders were paralysed for a long time, unwilling to accept that they had been voted out of power. As a result, there was neither introspection nor course correction.

Thus, it came as no surprise that the BJP should have failed miserably to chalk up a decent tally in 2009. With a declining number of seats and allies deserting it, the BJP decided to analyse the results, introspect and learn the right lessons so that the errors of 2009 would not be repeated in 2014.

After much preparation and homework, the top leaders of the BJP met in the sylvan surroundings of a popular hill station to review the party's poll performance. At the last minute, the review did not happen, or at best happened in the most desultory manner.

The gathered leadership instead debated the merits of expelling Jaswant Singh from the party for his laudatory book on Jinnah. It provided an escape route from the onerous task of hair-splitting clinical analysis of the election results. Some banal statements were made and the matter allowed to rest.

Then 2014 happened. The BJP swept to power riding the Modi wave. In Delhi, it won all seven Lok Sabha seats with huge margins. The party led in 60 of the State's 70 Assembly constituencies. With such a splendid victory, there was no question of undertaking a post-poll analysis.

The winning spree continued through a clutch of State elections. Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand were won handsomely. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP scored sufficiently high to stop both the National Conference and the PDP from forming the next Government. The victories were accompanied by the Congress's decimation.

Till the BJP stumbled and fell on its face in Delhi. What was meant to be an easy victory turned out to be a total rout on Tuesday. The BJP barely managed to scrape through in three constituencies. The remaining 67 were bagged by AAP. The Congress scored a big fat zero.

The staggering scale of the BJP’s defeat and its inevitable ripple effect on the coming elections in Punjab and Bihar cannot but have left both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah flabbergasted, unable to comprehend what went wrong. All stops were pulled and Modi led the campaign from the front. Yet the BJP lost.

The party has been prompt in saying that it will look into the reasons of the crushing defeat it has suffered. But making the right noises does not necessarily mean that there will be either introspection or inquiry. For that could lead to some embarrassing and self-incriminating conclusions. Here are some of them.

One, the party entered battle with neither strategy nor tactics. It was ad hocism all the way. Candidates were named at the last moment. The local party organisation was in a shambles and not even patchwork repair was undertaken.

Second, to minimise the damage potential of the jostling factions in Delhi BJP which had more Chief Ministerial aspirants than party workers, Kiran Bedi was para-dropped as the CM nominee. For a moment it seemed
a masterstroke. Then it turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.

Third, the famed RSS network which is enmeshed with the BJP's cadre base seems to have turned ineffectual in gauging popular mood. Hence the feedback to the leadership was not merely flawed, it was bogus. It was a case of the delusional reporting to the disconnected.

Fourth, eight months is a long time in politics. Modi had sufficient time to take visible action on curbing corruption in Delhi's three municipal corporations, all controlled by the BJP, which have come to symbolise the utter rot in the system. It directly impacts voters in every social segment in Delhi. But no action was taken.

Last, the BJP's 32 MLAs elected in 2013 disappeared from the scene while AAP's 28 MLAs were out in the streets. Similarly the BJP's seven MPs forgot the voters who had elected them. The blame for this is as much that of the individuals as the collective leadership.

Reality dawns the morning after disaster. It is possible Modi will act ruthlessly against those who led the party to this humiliation. The proverbial night of long knives may yet happen. But will it? Or will Delhi be glossed over with everybody pretending it did not happen.

The writer is a senior journalist based in NCR. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta. You can reach him at kanchangupta@ rocketmail.com

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