The BJP’s politics is turning out to be neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. As the elections draw near, the political schizophrenia of the saffron forces is becoming worryingly clear. The recent performance of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Karnataka was proof of this. He
confined himself to good governance and development, taking a few swipes at the Gandhi clan, as the way forward for Karnataka. And he certainly drew huge crowds. But, as was foretold, the elections resulted in a massive defeat for a BJP weighed under by corruption and misgovernance. But the Hindutva forces found fault with Mr Modi saying that he had deviated from the core issue of Hindutva. Then, the Modi government, after having sought the death sentence for some leaders found guilty in the 2002 riots, seems to have backtracked. Many feel this has been done under pressure from Hindutva forces. This is odd because Mr Modi, a canny politician, has realised that the Hindutva card is one with diminishing returns. But the VHP, Bajrang Dal and most importantly, the party’s ideological mentor, the RSS, don’t see it this way. For them, the BJP’s core competence is Hindutva. They believe that it is the dilution of this that has pushed the BJP out of power and caused it to lose steam. But it is unrealistic to think that a strong Hindutva-oriented campaign would have worked in Karnataka or anywhere else.
The Ram mandir issue, which is trotted out every now and again, will not fire the public imagination. Today, it is all about governance and corruption. The chief ministers of the BJP-ruled states realise this and they have kept away from this contentious issue. But the BJP has not yet shown that it can function independent of the ideological direction of the RSS. The high priests of the RSS are wary of Mr Modi because he has charted a course independent of them. Unlike former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Mr Modi does not run to Nagpur for advice at the drop of a hat. But without the RSS cadre, the BJP will find itself hampered on the ground. It has not been able to resolve this problem. It cannot do without the RSS and yet the diktats from Nagpur cannot be translated into political gains with today’s electorate. The BJP’s allies may not like the idea of Mr Modi rising to prominence but they are even more uncomfortable with promoting a Hindutva agenda. The BJP has not played its cards as well as it should have. The RSS being a cultural organisation, or so its claims, would have nowhere near the influence it has had it not been for the political power of the BJP. By insisting on the party sticking to an outdated ideology, it is shooting itself in the foot, not to mention hobbling the BJP. The party needs to sort this out once and for all so that people are in no doubt about its main political plank.
The party’s main opponent is clear on its aam aadmi agenda. The BJP must come up with something that people can identify with, something far more inclusive than Hindutva.