Somewhere in the desire to enforce the Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas agenda — which is commendable — the BJP has lost sight of its strengths.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy recently said in a television show that, while developmental politics should be his party’s calling card, just that agenda is not enough to win elections. The party must also be honest to emotive issues that have been an inherent part of its ideology. He was obviously referring to the demand for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Somewhere in the desire to enforce the Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas agenda — which is commendable — it has lost sight of its strengths.
He is certainly correct in taking that position. There are millions of Indians out there who have believed that the Modi Government was the best placed to facilitate the construction, and also that the regime had not enough in that direction — sometimes taking refuge in the judicial process that is underway and other times being ambiguous about using the Ordinance route to resolve the matter.
Swamy’s observations lead one to another aspect that the BJP ought to give greater consideration than it apparently has: Taking cognizance of its core voters. Somewhere in the desire to enforce the Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas agenda — which is commendable — it has lost sight of its strengths. The push to please all the people all the time has resulted in the party annoying its committed voter base. This section is not opposed to the inclusive development pitch, but it expected measures that sought to address its grievances more forcefully. One such instance concerns the country’s burgeoning middle class. In 2014, it had reposed enormous faith in the Modi-led BJP regime, hoping that the latter would radically transform the tax structure, relating especially to the salaried class. Four Union Budgets have come and gone, but that dream has not been realized. While it’s true that various steps have been incrementally taken to ease the salaried section’s burden, but the expectation had been of disruptive action in a positive direction, not incremental measures. Mildly tweaking tax exemption slabs had been the Congress’s way, and the BJP regime has only followed that path. Now, there are reports that the forthcoming interim Budget — the vote-on-account — will propose a dramatic rise in the exemption limit to around Rs 75,000. If that indeed happens, it would be welcome, but will it be a case of too little too late? With the kind of mandate it had, the Union Minister for Finance could have in his second or third Budget experimented with a complete personal income tax holiday for the salaried class for a period of two years. That would have been truly revolutionary.
It is amazing how the BJP went about displeasing its core supporters belonging to certain castes and communities by taking the wrong side.
The other support base which the BJP seems to have antagonized — and which is evident in the results of the recent Assembly elections — is that of the young voter. This section had enthusiastically backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 in the hope that the BJP Government would unveil concrete measures to kickstart large-scale employment across the country. There is no doubt that the Government has, through schemes such as that of Mudra and Make in India, made some attempts, but they have not produced the results that the youth had hoped for. While the Government has maintained the GDP growth rate to a respectable seven percent plus, employment creation has not matched those figures. This is especially so, given the tall promise the BJP had made in its 2014 poll campaign to generating millions of jobs every year. The Prime Minister needs to reflect on the economic policies unveiled in the last four years which failed in this task.
It is amazing how the BJP went about displeasing its core supporters belonging to certain castes and communities by taking the wrong side. Let’s understand one thing: Regardless of what it does, a majority of the principal minority community will not vote for the party. Among the other Backward Castes (OBCs) in north India, especially Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, the Yadav community too will largely stay away from the BJP. In such a situation, it is important for the party to keep the others in the OBC grouping in good humor. But we have seen that the party ended up antagonizing the Jats, the Gujjars, and various other denominations, evidence of which we have seen in the recent poll results. Not just that, the party also fantastically ended up needling its core upper caste voters too as a result of its overzealous inclusive’ development drive.
One instance of this misplaced strategy was the Government’s capitulation on the Act to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. After the Supreme court-mandated certain changes to ensure that the Act was not misused, the Union Government produced an Ordinance to neutralize the apex court’s efforts. The BJP thought that the move would win it the SC/ST support. While that outcome is debatable, what is certain that the upper caste voters were miffed by this indulgence — and the party paid a price for it.
It is said that when you find yourself in a mess, it’s best to return to the drawing board and recall strategies that placed you in pole position. While strategies can and do change with time, meddling with what has worked for decades in one’s favor and can work in future too, is not the best way forward.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.