New Delhi: The two-day national executive meet of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 1 June comes close on the heels of it forming a government in Karnataka on its own for the first time, and amid an agitation by the Gujjar community in Rajasthan, which has forced the party to shift the venue of the meet from Jaipur to New Delhi.
While poll victory in Karnataka gave it a boost, the Gujjar agitation was a reminder that the political momentum could wither away when assembly elections are held in BJP-ruled states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year.
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BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said his party would use the meet to highlight the failures of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government rather than introspect on its handling of the Gujjar agitation and other issues in the states it rules.
Naqvi said the party is likely to adopt three resolutions at the meet, which will be attended by all seven chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, besides the central leadership. Two of these, rising inflation and foreign policy, will target the UPA’s policies, while the third, on the political situation would project the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as a sure winner in the next national elections, which are less than a year away.
“The BJP has gained some ground by winning a few states, and it hopes the Congress will lose the next general elections due to inflation,” said B.G. Verghese, an analyst at think tank Centre for Policy Research. “But, over the past four years, the BJP has behaved as an irresponsible Opposition that has scarcely allowed the Parliament to function. It has been riven by internal dissensions, and gone back on its policy on Kashmir and nuclear energy,” he added.
Worse, the BJP has raised more questions about its own term in office whenever it raised issues such as the UPA’s record on internal security, or even India’s bid to get Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the Bofors kickbacks case, convicted, Verghese said.
Sudha Pai, chairperson of the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Political Studies, said that while the BJP has gained political mileage through its aggression in Parliament and outside, national interest has suffered as the principal Opposition in the Lok Sabha opposed everything the government did, mostly for the sake of opposing.
“Whether it is the India-US nuclear deal or even the need to raise fuel prices, there has been no hope of a consensus between the government and the Opposition,” she said.
However, Pai said that while the BJP began as a wobbly Opposition, it did manage to consolidate with every win in assembly elections in states. “Especially after L.K. Advani was named the prime ministerial candidate, factionalism appears under greater control,” she added.
Optimism prevails: BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. (Vijay Kumar Joshi / PTI)
Bhartruhari Mahtab, a Lok Sabha member of the Biju Janata Dal, a constituent of the NDA, said the BJP had done well to bounce back after the shock of losing the 2004 polls.
“The NDA suffered three huge setbacks when it was in power: capitulation to the Taliban during the Kandahar hijack, attack on the Parliament and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat,” said Mahtab. “Compared with these issues, the past four years have been smooth sailing.”
Yet, the NDA is a depleted force compared with the time when it was in power. While the Shiv Sena, Biju Janata Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal and Janata Dal (United) are still part of the alliance, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam teamed up with the Congress party during the 2004 polls, as did Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Pattali Makkal Katchi. Telugu Desam Party and All India Trinamool Congress have also left the NDA.
“The Congress has been done in by three ‘I’s: inflation, internal security and sheer incompetence,” Naqvi said. At the last meet, held earlier this year, Advani had given a three-pronged plank: good governance, development and national security, he added.