Can BJP dare purge party of malcontent?

The top brass of the BJP and RSS will be meeting in Delhi on Sunday to review the results of the Delhi Assembly election. It is believed they will base their review on a preliminary report prepared by the party after “extensive discussions” with the candidates who contested the poll, of whom only three won and many lost their deposit.

Frankly nothing of import could have been culled from such discussions. Most of the party’s candidates would have been too disoriented and traumatised by their lacerating defeat to talk sense. In any case, the reasons that led the party to its worst ever electoral performance since the 1984 general election are well known and need no dubious validation.

The BJP office bore a deserted look after its whitewash in the Assembly election, when it lost Delhi for five years, possibly for a decade. This offers an opportunity to the party to purge its Delhi unit of malcontent and build a fresh team with a young, credible leader. File pic
The BJP office bore a deserted look after its whitewash in the Assembly election, when it lost Delhi for five years, possibly for a decade. This offers an opportunity to the party to purge its Delhi unit of malcontent and build a fresh team with a young, credible leader. File pic

For instance, the BJP’s utterly miserable failure to communicate its message to the voting classes. At one level, the Delhi unit of the BJP ran a shoddy campaign that had neither structure nor strategy. It joined the race well after the main contender, AAP, had sprinted to the halfway mark. And then the BJP just limped along to the finishing line.

A senior BJP leader reminded me of the parable of the tortoise and the hare when I pointed out the party’s lethargic ways. I have been trying to call him since February 10 but his phone has remained switched off. I wanted to tell him the tortoise had turned turtle far far ahead of the victory post in the 2015 version of the story.

The cornerstone of any effective election campaign is communication. This is no secret and those in charge of the BJP’s Delhi 2015 campaign could not but have known this basic fact. Yet they failed in communicating their message to the voting classes.

This could have been because the party really had no message to communicate. There were no fresh ideas to ignite the popular imagination. All that we saw was an attempt to run down AAP and its chief ministerial candidate Arvind Kejriwal. It seemed as if the BJP was not fighting to win Delhi but defeat AAP.

A negative campaign never appeals to the voting classes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah should have known this. It was the constant and malicious attacks on Modi by his foes, especially the Congress, that gave him an unassailable advantage 2002 onward. What worked against the Congress in 2014 has worked against the BJP in 2015.

Which brings me to the question: Did the BJP have an agenda for Delhi? What it would do if voted to power? Or was its plate empty, worse, piled with leftovers of 2014 promises? It was frightfully silly of the party to come up with a cockamamie ‘Vision Document’; voters want to know specifics of what you intend to do, not airy-fairy highfalutin bunk.

A question that should be asked by the BJP-RSS review team — if it indeed means business — when it meets on Sunday: who re-peddled the idea of a ‘Vision Document’? A similar proposal for the 2014 general election was floated and a bogus draft produced. It was unceremoniously spiked by Modi. So how did it pass muster in 2015?

Instead of hard-selling fresh ideas to the voters of Delhi, we heard the same speeches mocking AAP and abusing Kejriwal repeated ad nauseam. The BJP could have zeroed in on a clutch of issues that greatly agitate Delhi’s voters and which have nothing to do with free bijli-paani or the price of gobi.

An example: the BJP could have addressed the problem of school admissions which drives parents across classes nuts every year. School education in Delhi is a racket run by a handful of elite schools and the State Education Department, squeezing out competition and reducing parents to tears. A credible plan to increase the number of schools would have fetched support.

But all this and more remained unsaid and undone. Squabbling local leaders of the BJP, ranging from real estate agents to power brokers to tentwallahs, entered the electoral arena with daggers drawn, determined to stab each other in the back. Knives were sharpened to cut the party’s nose to spite its face. And they succeeded.

Cadre-based parties need periodic blood-letting to remain healthy and fighting fit. The Communists called it purging the party of malcontent. BJP has lost Delhi for five years, possibly for a decade. This offers an opportunity to the BJP to purge its Delhi unit of malcontent and build a fresh team with a young, credible leader.

Anything less would be no more than mending rends in the tattered cloak called party organisation.

The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta

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