[ What would we prefer a permanent opposition that exactly mirrors all our thoughts or a government that implements atleast half of those ?]

This post is a short reaction to the recent criticism of the BJP for not publicly embracing the “rightist” positions on many issues of national importance by Tavleen Singh of The Indian Express and the prescriptions to brand building by Sri Chetan Bhagat in The Times Of India or this post at firstpost. Tavleen Singh has often been critical of the UPA policies and Sri Bhagat has openly advocated in favour of Sri Narendra Modi to be the next PM candidate. Given this background I would look at their criticism and prescriptions as those coming from a well wisher. Their criticism and expectations from the party are justified and they represent a small section of the pro-BJP constituency that seems to be disillusioned with the party off late. I know that this is not the most favourable time to make the below points, but give these arguments also a fair share of your mental energies.

There is an expectation from the BJP to occupy the right of center space in the Indian political spectrum and advocate for policies that confirm to these positions. The party certainly needs to do a fresh thinking on how it articulates it’s positions both inside and outside the Parliament. A few commentators, like Mrs Singh, are left dissatisfied with the party when they do not frontally and openly criticize something like the MNREGS and demand it’s withdrawal. What I fail to understand is why as learned columnists they do not recognize the past track record of the NDA government when it comes to fiscal management or of the present BJP ruled state governments. It was the NDA government that passed the FRBM act in 2003 with a vision of curtailing govt debt and creating an investment friendly environment. When Sri Yashwant Sinha advises the govt to move their expenses from revenue expenditures to capital expenditures it becomes absolutely clear to me what his message is. A few other party officials like Smt Nirmala Seetharaman have penned articles where they trace back many problems of the rural economy to this govt program. Now I have to pose this question to Mrs Singh or to the person who wrote the article at firstpost. If indeed you were so committed to establishing a puritan “rightist” narrative in India how could you (and other committed soldiers of right) not hold fort when Indian Express decided to give space to Smt Nandini Sundar to publish this ; only to be humiliated later by her in such scathing terms. If an English language daily can come under pressure (internal and external) or feel the need to accommodate the other side, I can only appeal to you to be more considerate about a national political party. The simple truth which we (rightist commentators, firstpost and myself) must acknowledge is that we have failed to build a constituency for the kind of narrative we wish to listen. Hence we also do not have the luxury of expecting the party to present our case (which it is largely doing) in the language and precise terms of our choice. Simply put “our failure” is on two counts :

1. We have not managed to grow our constituency. Where as our analysis assumes “us” to be the core constituency of the party.

2. We are trying to force the debate along the lines which suggest that we are completely oblivious to point # 1.

I am not trying to place the party beyond criticism but only suggesting that it is not fair to set such specific and tightly defined thresholds. The party should provide an opportunity for someone like Shri Narendra Modi who has succeeded in creating an excellent climate for industries and investment in Gujarat to someone like Shri Raman Singh who oversees what is claimed to be the nation’s most successful PDS schemes. I concede that there are indeed many shortcomings in the party and underscore the need for urgent and effective communication with the people of this country. Before concluding , I would once again appeal to the “rightists” not to torture the “right-most” available party into once own personal ideological cubicles. What would we prefer – a permanent opposition that exactly mirrors all our thoughts or a government that implements atleast half of those ?

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Manohar Seetharam

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