Bharatiya Janata Party s Lotus is in full swing in India! By winning in three States out of the four, which went to the polls in December 2003, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gained an edge over the other political party with a mass base i.e. Congress in prospects of alliance with regional parties for the general elections due next year. Media had termed these elections as semi final to the general elections. With the two biggest states in the Country, i.e. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan going for the State assembly Polls, it may indeed be considered as a rehearsal before the grand finale. Chattisgarh was going for the assembly poll for the first time after it was carved out as a new state from Madhya Pradesh. Delhi being the capital of the country was a matter of pride for the political parties contesting for the power.
In the 70-member Delhi assembly, Chief Minister Ms. Sheila Dikshit kept the Congress flag flying high by winning a two-third majority with 48 seats to the BJP’s 19. This was the sole welcome respite for Congress, which lost in all other three states. Ms. Dikshit as a chief minister had a good track record in her previous term. Victory for her proved that good governance yields victory in election campaign as well. In rest of the three states, BJP snatched power from the ruling Congress party. BJP has opted to select women chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
This round of elections was unique in recent history, as the campaign was kept anchored in local issues. It gave lot of emphasis on bijli-sadak-pani checklist. That is Power (biljli) Infrastructure, Roads (sadak) and water (pani) were the most important issues. RSS and VHP had earlier given much importanceon fanatic hinduism through Hindutva . But in these elections, issue of Hindutva was slowly out tracked and the issue of development came on the foreground. For instance, BJP chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharati started her campaign in Madhya Pradesh on the Hindutva plank but very soon was compelled to discard it because of pressure from the ground. People in the state have slowly but surely started to realize that their leaders must address the basic issues of food, shelter and clothing. That is why we observe that the BJP turned to development issues.Judging from the remarks of both Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and deputy prime minister L.K. Advani this will remain the plank for the forthcoming Lok Sabha (Parliament) elections as well. The BJP very cleverly has recognized that development has emerged as a major issue for the electorate that voted on this across the four states.
The Congress Party has still to decide whether it will face the facts boldly, or indulge in the usual cover-up exercise. The future of the Congress Party will lie in its ability to face the facts and take remedial action that will clear the path to the Lok Sabha polls. At present, the future looks extremely bleak for the Congress Party. Party presidents Sonia Gandhi along with her followers are trapped in a dilemma. On the one hand the party does not have any other compatible leader who can be projected as Prime Ministerial candidate on the other hand the party herself has left with no firm support of mass base politics.
Elections 2003 have shown that the voters are drawn to visions for development in which they have a tangible stake. After a decade and more of often-painful economic reforms, the voters have announced their preference for progress over populism. It is ironic that the Congress, whose own government at the Centre kick-started those economic reform, has to rewind further back in history to supplement outdated populism. It is also suffering a lot because of the myth it used to believe that a charismatic leader, one touched by the Nehru-Gandhi mystique, is enough to rally the crowds and guarantee votes. Therein lies most of the trouble. By allowing the central high command to dictate, by allowing mechanisms for intra-party democracy to erode, they have stopped debating over developmental issues.
BJP will be in an enviable position to attract regional and splinter groups, not to mention runaway Congressmen, to join the ruling National Democratic Alliance. The BJP that has won three of the four states is a more professional organization that is attuned to the changing lay of the land and flexible enough to alter its strategy accordingly. It is a party that is more and more mainstreaming every day. It has been very accommodating, more like what the Congress once used to be. BJP has projected various regional leaders at the national level. Take the example of Venkaiyah Naidu, who could rose as high as to the position of party president. Representation is being offered to various castes and sub-castes in the country. This has changed the apparent face of the party, which earlier was known as a party dominated only by Brahmins (so called higher-class people) and focussed only on urban middle class and trading-professional community. But now it has created a mass base of its own in all most all parts of the country.
Another important highlight of these elections: only BJP and Congress have been in the limelight of election 2003. Regional political parties could neither create a qualitative impact during campaign, nor could yield sizeable strength in the election results. Interestingly, both Congress and BJP share all most same economic policies. Both support liberalization and globalization of the economy. Both chant the principle of pro-poor policies but in reality basic issues of human life like education and health are neglected once in the power.
As BJP has secured power in the three states, it has to face the challenge of fulfilling the aspirations of the people. It has given high promises of good governance to the voters. What people want is fulfillment of those promises. In a way this a golden opportunity for BJP to change rectify their tarnished image due to Gujrat carnage!
Yogesh Kolte email@example.com