Hindsight is a wonderful instrument; it gives you telescopic vision. Unfortunately, for the BJP, battling not so much against external threats but against various parts of its own body politic, even the distance that time provides to make clear judgements and learn from them has not come in good stead. A month after the Congress surprisingly pulled the carpet from under its feet in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is still lurching from one end of its ship to another. With party seniors having already washed their dirty linen in public, the two-day national executive meeting that ended on Sunday had the air of a funeral wake about it. In the overall din, one heard L.K. Advani speak about how the idea of Hindutva — a word that has meant too many things to too many people — needs to change with the times. He pulled out quotes by former RSS chief Balasaheb Deora to invoke the notion of a “changing, evolving” Sangh parivar. All this is very well, but without any specific changes in its ideology brought on the table, it seems that Mr Advani is preaching to the converted, although a rattled one.
A working democracy like India needs a strong Opposition, something that we haven’t seen for a while now. Instead of launching into a semantic discourse on Hindutva — a regressive notion that has thankfully served its electoral shelf-life as witnessed by issues that dominated the last elections — what the party leadership should be doing is to provide a strong signal that the BJP ship is far from sinking, but is unloading unwanted passengers and stowaways. But that’s only part of the political reconstruction that’s desperately required. Along with firming up the party structure — and connections between various levels have indeed snapped — the BJP also needs to tell its traditional supporters what its larger agenda is, whether it be national security or the economy.
As things stand now within the BJP, it sadly resembles a squabbling bunch of people who have not got their share of spoils because there are no spoils to share. If senior party leaders look beyond their noses, it will become evident to them that the BJP may be down but far from out. Once again, India needs a strong Opposition. The only way that can be restored is by the BJP realising that its future doesn’t lie in engaging in old debates but in taking on the challenges it faces today and dealing head-on with the future.