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Friday, June 25, 2021

Does the BJP stand for anything?

For weeks now,I have been meaning to draw attention to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s abysmal performance in Opposition but something more topical has intervened.

Written by Tavleen Singh
July 31, 2011 12:44:25 am

For weeks now,I have been meaning to draw attention to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s abysmal performance in Opposition but something more topical has intervened. Now that the events in Karnataka have made the BJP the topic of the week,I finally have my chance to proffer some humble advice to our leading Opposition party. First,my views on what happened in Karnataka. I have serious problems with the sanctimonious tones that the Lokayukta took when he damned the chief minister through a media trial. He is now guilty till proven innocent and this is against the fundamental principle of Indian justice. If we end up with a Lokpal,he will behave in exactly this way and those who support Anna Hazare’s campaign,should pay heed. Ironically,the BJP was almost the first political party to leap on to Hazare’s dodgy bandwagon without noticing how dangerous it is for Indian democracy to allow leftist crusaders to force their will on an elected government.

The BJP’s reckless support for Hazare and Baba Ramdev is of a piece with the role it has played in Opposition since 2004. It is as if the party’s senior leaders have no political ideas of their own and so are forced to pick them out of newspaper headlines and news bulletins on our 24-hour news channels. When the story dies,so does the BJP’s cause of the moment which is why the party that once upon a time was considered a welcome rightist alternative to Congress,looks increasingly like a bad joke.

If it was genuinely rightist in its economic views,it should have protested vigorously when the Prime Minister agreed to pour taxpayers money into schemes like MNREGA. Even its creators now admit that it has served mostly to spread corruption down to the village level. And,it has created difficulties in the agricultural labour market by handing out dole. This has caused such a crisis that the Ministry of Agriculture itself recently asked that MNREGA be suspended in seasons of sowing and harvesting. Yet,not only has the ‘rightist’ BJP remained silent about the scheme’s flaws,it has allowed it to spread to states it rules.

The National Advisory Council itself is something the BJP should have objected to but never has. From its dubious lawmakers,now comes a food security bill that makes no sense. If it is ever implemented,we might need to start importing shiploads of food grain as we used to do in socialist times when India was famous only as ‘a land of starving millions’.

If the BJP had played its role as a ‘rightist’ party,it would have noticed that in the past few months,India has stopped being an attractive investment destination. This is because of a total absence of economic reforms and because of a return to the licence raj through the back door. Dr Manmohan Singh’s second term in office has seen the closure of major projects after huge investments have been made. It has seen Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s beloved highway programme come to a virtual standstill and the BJP has remained silent.

More puzzling still is the inability of the BJP to speak up even when senior members of the Congress Party have openly declared that Hindutva terrorists are more dangerous to India than the jihadi groups Pakistan sends us. This is so outrageous that political commentators who despise Hindutva,have spoken up but the BJP’s senior leaders have remained silent. So the question that we need to ask is whether the BJP stands for anything at all? Does it have ideas on governance that are different to Congress? Does it have a vision of India that is different to Congress? Does it have a foreign policy that is different to Congress? Does it believe in free markets or a subsidised socialist economy? Does it oppose hereditary democracy?

If its senior leaders are back from Karnataka and ensconced in their comfortable homes in Lutyens’ Delhi this Sunday morning,they would do well to spend some time thinking about these questions. In trying to answer them,they may discover the real reasons why they were defeated in two successive general elections. I have space here for only a small hint. Nobody wants to elect an Opposition party that is just a bad facsimile of the Congress Party. If this is the only choice that the BJP can offer,then it will continue to remain in Opposition because if Congress has learned one thing from its many decades in power,it is the ability to create a semblance of responsible governance.

It knows the tricks of the trade well. And,judging by recent events in Karnataka,with that endless dithering over whether the chief minister should go or stay,even this is more than we can say for the BJP.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter@tavleen_singh

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