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The future of the BJP in Indian politics
Amit Srivastava | 11 May 2013

The BJP lost miserably to the Congress Party in Karnataka Assembly elections. The defeat of the BJP was expected except its degree. Corruption, infightings and bitter split along with many local issues were the reasons behind the BJP debacle. Now, what lies next in store for the BJP? Let us analyze it comprehensively.

It’s almost practically certain that Muslims as a group are never going to vote for the BJP. In fact in coming years the unity of Muslims against the BJP is going to increase with not significant equivalent polarization of Hindu voters. The trend may be observable all across India be it the North or the South. With changing times, rising and conflicting consciousness, and with Indian state and its people importing diffusiveness at alarming rates from its neighbors, rest of Asia and the globe, the Muslims’ consolidation against the BJP is going to have domino and cascading effects on voting preferences of other groups: of other minorities, backward classes, outcastes and poor. It seems that with increasing time Indians may not have much defense against their obsessive compulsions for imports even though localism is going to be simultaneously in vogue. But not to much benefit for the BJP, at least in the South.

The national Right in India is more or less in conflict with the global and regional Rights. This is the irony of Right that usually one Right contradicts another Right. The same may not be as true of Lefts and Centers. At least in degree they would defer. The BJP has some relationship with regional Rights in Punjab and Maharashtra, but otherwise it is mostly in conflict with other Rights. Also, with the passage of time there is going to be huge proliferation of political identities all across the nation as was witnessed in the Karnataka Assembly elections. With the Indian ‘first past the post’ election system the slight divisions of votes can affect the elections result significantly. The proliferation makes business sense as there is huge benefit in being in politics in this identity-driven India. One just needs to have a right combination of identities to milk the cow. Even defeated ones can get huge dividends. But the proliferation would affect both the national parties though not equally neither symmetrically.

The more damaging point for the expansion of the BJP in the South and in the North East is that it may be conceived as Hindi-chauvinist party. With the results in Karnataka Assembly elections going against it, the dream of the BJP performing well in Andhra Pradesh may not be realized. There are always the laws of containment for the growth of the BJP: that it cannot create stakes for itself without creating some for others and also if it grows in one region the likelihood for it shrinking in others is high.

The point is that even though there were not too many national issues in Karnataka Assembly elections, the corruption does not have equivalent and symmetric effect on the BJP and the Congress Party. The base of the Congress Party is high and broad enough to overcome the negativity of the corruption scandals but for the BJP remaining clean is very important. But anyone who understands the Indian system would conclude that remaining clean and pure is not always politically convenient. It is not even always possible. Therefore, fallibility is the law for majority of Indian politicians and this is truer for Mr. Gandhi than for Mr. Modi. The fact is that the BJP is lesser involved in corruption scandals but then it has ruled lesser parts of India for lesser duration as compared to the Congress Party.

The limit and containment of the BJP’s growth has another reason and this has to do with Hindu-dominated Indianness. The universalism, psychological and anthropological conformity, internationalism and unending Indian habit of seeking equality with those who are above them may erode the expansion of support of the BJP with people fearing castration of their economic well-beings and aspiration, should the external world rejects the BJP.

This is truer for Parliamentary elections. But simultaneously contradictorily it is true that the BJP’s support rests on the India’s most agile classes: the urban, middle classes and above, and the upper caste Hindus. It is the continuity of the economic activities, economic selfishness and the greed that even those who are not the biggest beneficiary of the economic integration may find the BJP’s ideals as boring, impractical, meaningless and obtrusive. The caste has its effect in the reverse direction too with not so privileged taking revenge of their historical isolation and discrimination with the BJP. The same is not true for the Congress Party.

It is the wish to be more Hindu combined with gibbonism which is going to fail the BJP. It is the fundamental theory of Hinduism that a literate, urban, upper caste Hindu sees himself a part of the cosmos. Such cosmos in reality is almost always smaller than what that Hindu believes. Taboos against the local beliefs and in favor of universal beliefs are still there among the educated middle classes and above. The BJP cannot do anything as it itself is blind by many of such beliefs. The fact is in spite of vocalism, Hindu elite is not comfortable with Hindu beliefs and this in itself is perfectly Hindu.

In order to have more meaningful presence in Indian politics, the BJP needs to prove that it is an effective alternate to the Congress Party. For that it needs to expand its base. It needs to prove that it can provide economic opportunities without any castration and isolation. But then it needs to have a broader social base. One can say that under Mr. Modi’s administration Gujarat is attracting more and more foreign direct investment. First of all Mr. Modi is Chief Minister and not the Prime Minister and secondly, it is the fear of Indian voters themselves and not any threat or blackmail by foreign investors which is harming the BJP as far as its victory in Parliamentary elections is concerned. There is another factor; the political secular convergence, whereby all parties except with the possible exception of the BJP that too to only limited extent, follow the Congress Party when they govern. This makes the distinctions and political alternatives very much redundant.

As far as corruption is concerned this is the reality of day-to-day India and part and parcel of daily Indian life. It is a bit difficult to see that sole issue of corruption could cost the Congress Party the general elections. In order for the BJP to be effective, the opposition of Hindis by non-Hindis must end. But for that Hindis need to prove themselves successful in all fields including in businesses. The fact is that more and more elections are going to be contested on local issues and therefore, self-interests matter more than ideologies. In this context Mr. Advani’s assessment about the 2014 elections not resulting in victory of either of the national politics and non-BJP, non-Congress Party candidate forming the government with the help of one of the two national-parties may turn out to be true. But then there is silver linen in the sense that the BJP is untouchable as long as the Congress Party seeks allies for forming the government in New Delhi.       

Hindus as people as a major part of their history have been Centrist in nature. One needs to understand that Centrist Hinduism can discriminate against minorities almost as much as the Right. The fact is that Indian geography would not look like what it is today if Rights were as powerful during the freedom struggle as they are today.

But equally true is the fact that in this era of globalization and defenseless Indianness, the BJP is the right and necessary force. Only thing is that the people of India need to understand the global and national politics well. The fact is that the political Right is the natural choice and as correct and legitimate choice as the Center is.