There was an air of sobriety at the BJP’s two-day national council meeting. It seemed that the main opposition party has at last overcome the trauma of the 2004 Lok Sabha defeat and its bewilderment over the 2009 set back. It is now determined to go into the electoral battle without unreasonable expectations. The party wants to reach the modest 272 mark which defines simple majority in the Lok Sabha. There are no tall claims about decimating the ruling coalition. And they also focused on the Congress which is in a weak position after 10 years in power and ignored the newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has been dominating news debates in the metros.
Perhaps this is the right strategy because in a battle there is a need to focus on a single target.
The AAP is as yet a non-existent target on the national scene. The Congress remains the arch rival.
The economic and political resolutions passed on the occasion were quite matter of fact, which outlined the follies of the decade-old UPA government and they also looked into the future. Arun Jaitley moving the economic resolution spelt out the long-term challenges and hinted at possible long-term solutions. He talked about the need to increase the share of manufacturing in the GDP, which in turn would help in shifting the 60 per cent people dependent on agriculture into industry and services. Sushma Swaraj moving the political resolution refrained from her characteristic rhetorical flourishes, and countered Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the opposition stalled parliament and did not help in legislation that would benefit the people. She pointed out that it was the opposition that helped in passing the land acquisition bill and the food security bill, and that it was the opposition that forced the passage of lokpal bill.
The two leaders did not waste time in castigating the Congress. Neither did the party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi — apart from pointing out the contradictions in the Congress’s protestations of democratic traditions. Modi spent quite some time in his keynote speech on the things that need to be done in the economy and in the polity to make India a developed country.
There was a sense of seriousness and determination in the deliberations. The main opposition party has displayed confidence that it can realistically replace the Congress-led UPA in power.
Electoral outcomes are notoriously unpredictable. But political parties have to fight elections with a certain sense of self-belief. The BJP is showing the right amount of self-belief and it is going about the business of fighting this Lok Sabha elections without too much extravaganza. The party leaders have sensed that the people are ready for a change, and that the people are actively considering alternatives. The BJP wants to place itself strategically in the people’s frame of vision and it hopes that the people will choose the party.
There is the fierce desire to get back to power which it had tasted between 1998 and 2004. The party is also realistic that it will not be able to win the election on its own and that it needs allies.
BJP leaders have consistently avoided talking about Hindutva or the core agenda, and instead addressed the challenges on the economic and governance fronts. When pressed about core beliefs, party leaders insist that they are wedded to them, but there is no attempt to foreground them. The party has not yet won over new allies apart from the existing ones, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal. It is however keen to show that it is not a hidebound ideological party and that it would form alliances based on developmental programmes. The BJP is avoiding everything that would give a handle to its ideological opponents.