It is quite evident even to a casual observer of India’s affairs that all is not well. The systematic collapse in governance is not restricted to a specific area but is all pervasive. The Congress led ruling coalition has failed to deliver on many counts including its inability to introduce critical reforms much needed for the economy to grow. As if this is not enough it finds itself mired in corruption of colossal proportion which has no less than the PM looking ugly. Dr Manmohan Singh once touted as the mascot of the thinking Middle Class, in hindsight is the worst thing that could have happened to India. He has not just devalued the office of the Prime Minister but has put a question mark on definition of morality in public life too.
What worries me immensely though is the lack of a national narrative – a vision for India, what we stand for and what are the values we won’t compromise on in any circumstance. It is perhaps for the leaders of any country to build this narrative. Unfortunate as it may be, the fact is that we haven’t had credible leadership in a longtime. Unfortunately India’s contemporary history and discourse have been dominated by Pandit Nehru and his progenies. Successive members of the family have pursued a socialist agenda under the pretext that it is what will help India emerge from poverty. However the truth is that it has been an instrument of power in the hand of the family and nothing more. From Indira Gandhi’s famous “Garibi Hatao” campaign to “Congress Ka Haath, Aam Aadmi ke Saath” are reminiscent of the bogus efforts made. The fact remains that India had 150 million below poverty line in 1947 and the number now stands at 600 million. Critical statistics on literacy, child malnourishment and infant mortality aren’t encouraging either. We remain an abysmally poor country in spite of the progress we have made.
In his book “Origins of a Political Order” Francis Fukuyama states that the three components of a modern political order are — a strong and capable state, the state’s subordination to a rule of law and government’s accountability to all citizens. India unfortunately shows signs of failing on all these counts. India is unfortunately becoming a soft state, unworthy of being on the global stage it supposedly stakes claim to. Given the inherent limitations of our democracy elected representatives are sadly not held accountable for their non performance.
The present dispensation has failed us far too often. The Congress for its astute politics is not the best option to rule unless it refashions itself as a progressive party focused on India’s development. Unfortunately there is no incentive for the Congress to do so since it perceives no threat to its position. The young Gandhi scion widely perceived as future PM has shown no vision either. To believe that he will materially alter the course of India would at best be naïve and demented at worst. It would also be acknowledging that his forefathers are responsible for the mess India is in, which is blasphemous. No Gandhi has can ever do wrong !
This leaves the onus of emerging as an alternate to the BJP. India’s Hindu National Party as some like to call or India’s Right Wing party as some others see it. The time is ripe now than ever before. Never before the credibility and confidence in Congress has been so low across the country. People today are more informed and judgmental about things than they have been before. They want an alternate to the mis-governance, corruption, rent seeking and exploitation. They are yearning for change and are looking for options.
The BJP must grab this opportunity and position itself as a party remarkably distinct from the Congress. A party that believes in free markets; individual liberty and freedom; strong defense and foreign policy and is committed to highest standards of probity and transparency in public life. So that its position looks genuine it must demonstrate its commitment to the values through the work its various state Governments are doing.
This however is an easier battle to win. The bigger issue is to pick a leader for 2014. Lack of a clear leader is leading to confusion among the cadres and BJP sympathizers. One reason why Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM is because people wanted to see him in the top job and worked tirelessly to that goal. Who do they work for now ? It is imperative that BJP elect someone who can fire the imagination of people in this decade. This decision should however be BJP’s own since those who don’t make it to the top slot need to commit their support to the leader. After all Obama did invite Hillary to be Secretary of State after he rose to Presidency.
This decision in absence of Primaries is often a complex one. It involves dealing with layers of complexity and vested interest in a rather unstructured system. In a country obsessed with a political culture of pleasing everyone all the time the task becomes all the more daunting. But a call will have to be made soon. A ship without a captain is most likely to lose course. Adding to the complexity of decision making is the media which is dominated by Left Liberals and loathe anything native and right wing. According to them BJP doesn’t have secular leaders. They are either communal or non-secular and hence they are not fit to rule this country. Thus irrespective of the choice of leader he or she is likely to be labeled as communal or worst fascist.
The choice therefore should be determined by who the cadres would work for and people would vote for; someone who can ensure BJP on its own is a compelling proposition for the allies; someone who can polarize (and this is not a dirty word) the voters; someone who can give hope to people that the dilapidated system of governance in place today can change; someone who can ensure India has a position on the high table in world politics; someone who can articulate a comprehensive vision for India’s development; a leader whose call can inspire a new generation of experienced and accomplished professionals to commit themselves to the cause of Nation building ; someone who aspires to bring change in a lifetime. This certainly isn’t too much to ask for !
Anyone aspiring for the leadership and indeed PMship will need some time to put the house in order in the run up to 2014. The choices for BJP at this point are defined however a decision needs to be made. This is a responsibility the BJP must not abdicate in favour of an ally if it eventually wants to see bipolar politics in India.
Will the BJP rise to the occasion ?