To all but those who have not been following events over the last week, it is clear the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in trouble.
The “Hindu Nationalist Party”‘s claim to power has been patently rejected by a proudly pluralistic electorate. For a party which has boasted of its rise from two seats in Parliament to 182, it has been downhill since its 1999 tally, its seatshare falling by 44 to 138 in 2004, and by a further 22 to 116 this time round. Its national voteshare has dipped from 22.2% to 18.8% in every single State of the Union except Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka where it showed a small increase.
On the one hand, L.K. Advani ‘s cheap, negative and personalised campaign seems destined to carry him into Google cache as the perennial prime minister-in-waiting. On the other hand, the prime minister-in-midstream, Narendra Damodardas Modi, is facing three identifiable impediments. His own State is no longer so secure, the BJP’s voteshare diminishing slightly from 47.37% to 46.52%. His national appeal on the basis of the “development agenda” has been exposed as hype; of the 300-plus rallies he addressed, BJP won but 37 seats (against 75 for Rahul Gandhi‘s 102 meetings). And slowly but surely voices opposed to Modi’s execrable brand of hate politics are being heard from within his own party, many of whom who have an eye on the chair Modi is eyeing.
Worse, the BJP seems to have painted itself into a corner as a party whose only USP is verbal and physical violence (Kandhamal, Mangalore, Varun Gandhi), and whose vision is inextricably linked with a long ago past (think Ram Janmabhoomi, Ram Sethu) when a younger, impatient, forward-looking country wants a break from divisiveness and backwardness of all kind. The so-called “party of banias” has lost all metros (except Bangalore) and the self-proclaimed “party with a difference” has for years and months offered no viable alternative to the Congress; just a supercilious, resentment-filled justification of everything because “Congress did this, Congressman did that”.
Stranger things have happened in politics, of course, but is it all over for BJP’s brand of politics? Will it ever come back to power?