Saturday, November 14, 2015

BJP after Bihar


Bihar election is over. BJP lead NDA experience a crushing defeat. A lot of analysis has been put forward by different analysts. Ms. Sagarika Ghose wrote that Mr. Nitish Kumar's personality and charm with women had done the job. Mr. Shekher Gupta believes, Mr. Modi's honeymoon post 2014 national election is over. Another commentator, Mr. Ashok Malik, argued that Mr. Modi has to get into governance mode sooner than later and start delivering. Prime Minister must work as if it is his only term. I think most of the commentators have touched upon real issues that has been confronting BJP in general and prime minister in particular. Many even started discussing possibility of forming an alliance of like minded anti-BJP parties in upcoming state and central elections.   Experience point out that in India experient with ideologically disparate alliances has not been very successful. Yet unless Mr. Modi and his party does not do a course correction, it is possible that Mr. Modi may not get a second chance in 2019 general election. The following are my thoughts :

 I think one of the reason, Mr. Modi got a massive mandate in 2014 general election because he presented an alternative vision in front of the nation, that of development, jobs, and raising poor from the shackles of poverty by empowering them. It can be argued that 1.5 years may be too short  a time to get out of a mindset created over 60 years. Somewhere down the road it was forgotten that mandate was not for politics of intolerance, politics of division and politics of intolerance. Prime Minister reiterated the same in his speech in Bihar election campaign.

Prime Minister is one of the most articulate politician in the country. He can charm people when he wants to. Tumultous response in public functions abroad testify to this. Prime Minister expresses his opinion on a range of subjects on social network. He can condemn tragedies around the globe. Yet the same Prime Minister did not utter a word of condemnation on brutal lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. Our Prime Minister was not hesitant to show his sensitive side in Face Book headquarter in California. Yet the same Prime Minister does not utter a word on farmer suicide! Is our prime minister forgetting that Indian citizens had voted for him. Any amount of adulation by crowd is New York,  Melbourne, London will not help him in election, let it be state or central.  

It appears that in his quest to protect his image as a clean person, Prime Minister has given an image of being inaccessible and aloof. Prime Minister does not interact with media often while in India. In this day and age of 24/7 TV news, by not managing discourse Prime Minister is losing the battle of perception. Congress party has learnt the art of managing media narrative. By cultivating high profile intellectuals, writers, editors, congress party has mastered the art of managing media narrative. Despite, so many sins congress is considered a secular party. Anything party leaders say, gain traction with media. The same is not true with BJP.In other mature democracies too, politicians talk to media at regular intervals. White House even throws party for media where President of the US interacts with media. Without having a media manager and without interacting with news channels, BJP will completely loose the battle of perception. Same bad news can be made to sound worse or neutral depending on how one delivers and how one analyses.

In two state elections where BJP got a drubbing, the party ignored local leadership. I think, PM Modi, like Indira Gandhi, wants hand picked people who will follow his agenda. However, in 2015 such a an idea may not work. There has to be leaders who can be projected to be honest, sensitive and cognisant of local sense and sensibilities. In Bihar election, it appears that Prime Minister harped on lack of electricity, where every Bihar house hold gets at least 20 hours of power supply. 

It is also possible that thought process of Western Indian may be different from the same in the East.  It may be possible that Bihari and East Indian voters may prefer peace over prosperity. As a result Modi's fast development did not get traction over Nitish's inclusive growth but slow growth. India is a very heterogenous country. One size fits all may not be the correct strategy for all elections. There comes the need for locally grown leadership. 

I think it is important that Prime Minister carries on with his development agenda. Prime Minister must work to smoothen his image and convey his message by showing more empathy for poor and weak at the same time showing his iron fist for the corrupt and venal.
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