It’s always hard for a party, which is on a winning spree to face the fact that the magic formula might not be working with the same effectiveness as before. In fact, the formula might be in need for alteration. That in itself is shocking. Invincibility is a curse. Or the belief in one’s invincibility. The BJP has a thing or two to learn from the ‘Delhi Debacle’. Exit polls indicate the AAP is set to form a government in Delhi. As this column recorded last week, the new kid on the block has clawed its way back into the hearts and minds of Delhites, after seeking forgiveness for its past mistakes.
BJP’s candidate for Delhi CM, Kiran Bedi greets supporters after casting her vote at a polling station in New Delhi. Exit polls show that the ‘master-stroke’ of pulling in Bedi into the party a day before projecting her as Chief Ministerial candidate was a horrendous miscalculation. Pic/AFP
And that’s what politics ought to be, isn’t it? No permanent friends, no permanent enemies. No absolutes. The way to survive an election loss is to regroup, recalibrate and work with renewed gusto. A small time-frame is available to lick one’s wounds. But a long grieving period or plunging in pathos due to dispirited leadership can prove disastrous for any party. One could end up like the Congress Party. That is a sure shot example of what a party should not do in defeat. And the AAP is an example of what a party must do in defeat.
The exit polls show that the ‘master-stroke’ of pulling in Kiran Bedi into the party a day before projecting her as Chief Minister candidate was a horrendous miscalculation. The problem with these kinds of miscalculations is that the BJP bigwigs have begun to think that they just ‘know’. And who can blame them? When they had begun to win state after state, the media and the cadres had started believing that there must be some deep mysterious calculation that goes into the selection process. And by the time the voices in the party against the candidate became loud, it was too late to change. The BJP, like the Congress party, is quite opaque when it comes to running the party.
Maybe it’s the Delhi Devil, which hits all ruling parties; they start behaving like they are to the manor born. They retreat behind high walls, adopt imperious airs and the posse of guards and sycophants around them make them inaccessible. This is true of every political party that has come to power at the Centre. Without an exception. Yes, including even Mr Gujral, Mr Gowda, Mr Charan Singh or Mr Chandrashekar in their short time periods.
There are minders who suddenly crop up, shielding their masters from the hoi polloi. Sifting through the call-on lists, the media interviews, and the people from the constituency. Keep the riff-raff away from mantrijis. In doing so they mistake the grain for chaff.
And then comes the bloodied nose. Like an election defeat. The minders and the spokespersons and rent seekers will quickly put on the rose tinted glasses on the noses of the ‘high command’ and say it was an aberration, doesn’t matter, Delhi is not India, the media is a monster and so on. But the seniors in the BJP who have waited it out for ten long years know that no loss can be dismissed. Every election must be a learning experience.
Brilliant marketing can camouflage flaws for a short period. Riveting speeches can hold attention only for so long. Jingles jar after a while. The full-page advertisements by business associations just made the BJP look like the erstwhile Congress. Only the faces were different. The bombast seemed the same. This is an impatient India. Everybody is accustomed to switching channels. Option is just a click away. Whether on a computer, the TV remote or an Electronic Voting Machine.
The think tank in the BJP knows that it has to win every state election in the next four years in order to have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha to push forward legislations. The ordinance way is not feasible even though, despite being brazen, it is appreciated by many as a way out of policy paralysis that can set in if the opposition keeps blocking business in Parliament.
The BJP will have to stay the course of putting its all to win every election. What happened in Delhi was not good for it. But it should not deter the party from learning from its mistakes and setting right the wrongs. Don’t be in a hurry to go into mission mode on every task. Listen to people. Don’t just talk. We know you do it well. But it does get tiresome after a while.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash