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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  What could possibly ruin the BJP’s dominance one day
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What could possibly ruin the BJP’s dominance one day

The BJP has raised a nation where the majority behaves like a minority. This is hard to sustain

The success of Modi’s BJP in part emerges from the fact that he was not the second-best candidate at the time of his ascent. Premium
The success of Modi’s BJP in part emerges from the fact that he was not the second-best candidate at the time of his ascent.

It appears that many politicians across India who are not with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) live in fear of imprisonment, chiefly for corruption or old crimes. It is odd because, until recently, it was uncommon for politicians in India to be so vulnerable to the justice system. They were protected by an unspoken code. To the extent it was possible, politicians in power guarded their own kind, including the ones not in power. Some did end up in jail. Current home minister Amit Shah was imprisoned in 2010. But those were anomalies in the system. Shah’s tremendous rise explains why. Power is temporary; powerlessness is temporary. Politicians needed to have each other’s back. So what has changed now? Under BJP rule, that code of professional courtesy has vanished.

The reason, I believe, is that the party is so confident of being in power at the centre for the next “30-40 years," as Shah put it, that the benefits of radiating fear outweigh the risks of breaking a shadowy old code. For the top rung of the BJP, antagonizing other politicians is not a high-stakes gambit.

The BJP is mighty. Even in Karnataka, where it lost elections, it did not lose its voter base; it gained urban voters. As things stand, it is hard to see how the party can lose the general elections next year. It is pragmatic and led by a superstar. Indians may not adore Narendra Modi the way Tamilians loved M.G. Ramachandran, because Indians are not so naive anymore, but Modi is a bigger draw at the polls in many parts of India than MGR ever was in one.

But the end will come for the BJP one day because that is the way of the world. And when it comes, what would be the reason? What could destroy the BJP’s dominance in the future? There would appear to be a host of reasons, but reasons are never equal. It is always a single cause that has an outsized impact on an outcome. What could it be?

An obvious cause would be the departure of Modi from politics. The party surely does have a secret succession plan, but that cannot save it from the curse of the second-best—a phenomenon where strong satraps fight for the throne but no single person can vanquish everyone else, and a weaker leader is hoisted to the top as everyone’s second-best idea. This has been the curse of the Congress party after the demise of Rajiv Gandhi.

The success of Modi’s BJP in part emerges from the fact that he was not the second-best candidate at the time of his ascent. After the party was rattled by a major defeat, the strongest politician in the next generation asked the old lot to fade away, and he quickly become the party’s mascot.

After Modi, it is highly likely that the BJP’s chieftains in the second rung, all equals, will squabble over who should take over. The party would then succumb to the most phoney political ideal in India—that we are “not a presidential system," that a party need not pitch a prime ministerial face for elections, that the prime minister should be chosen after the results are in. This has been the doom of the Congress, and will likely be the doom of the alliance that is forming against Modi for 2024, and could also be the doom of the BJP after Modi.

But can confusion over leadership alone ruin the BJP ? What about the fact that the BJP represents the modern average Indian, even in the south, in a way no other party does. But then, the Hinduness of the BJP may cease to be special in the future because every party that matters would have a Hindu hue, like the Aam Aadmi Party today does.

The transformation of India from a farcical ‘secular’ republic in theory into a melodramatic Hindu nation in practice hides a weird quality of BJP politics. Hindus do not have real grievances anymore. The BJP has created the world’s only nation where the majority behaves like a wounded minority. That is hard to sustain. The cultural war is over and Hindu dominance has won. There are no open wounds anymore. Already, issues like this-mosque-was-a-temple-once or that-artefact-is-an-idol do not gather political momentum.

When there is this political entropy, and every party is somewhat Hindu in its politics, and the BJP is left without a superstar and is headed by its second-best, the party might splinter. Even if it does not break up, a shock, like a major economic crisis or a pandemic, could upset the middle classes and youth, who would then suddenly find moral reasons to vote the party out of power. People live with a sense of failure and every decade or so, they need to blame it on politics. How long can the BJP escape that?

These factors that may ruin the BJP’s run presume that there would be professional political figures who would be able to exploit the scenario. But very often, what trounces a giant is an amateur with an amateurish idea. Like a fabulous orator who says he has had enough. Of what, we do not know. At any point in civilization, someone has to just say he has “had enough" and everyone appears to get it. Assume that this someone forms a ‘10-year-party’ which promises that after ten years of fixing the nation, it would be dissolved and none of its members will contest elections again, exhibiting a supreme sacrifice of power which Indians so love.

If this sounds far-fetched, that is the point. An amateur idea evolves in unexpected ways because its prophet is not professional enough to know it is far-fetched. At the peak of the anti-corruption movement, Anna Hazare wanted a fellowship to police elected politicians, a fellowship of unelected people whose qualification was that they had won a Filipino award called the Magsaysay.

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Published: 24 Sep 2023, 06:25 PM IST
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