The saffrons – down and out?

The year 1991 was a landmark in Indian political history. For starters, it could have seen the first BJP government at the centre and most probably the first Non-Congress Govt which could have lasted the full 5 years. It however, also saw the assassination of a former PM and hence a massive change in fortune for the Congress. PVN became PM and the rest is history.

5 years later, during the next general elections, the BJP, however, came close to forming a government, but managed to last only 13 days. Soon, they went on to rule the country after 2 years from 1998, all the way to 2004.

Well, we all know that, don’t we? And then there was India Shining, which somehow, India did not agree with and voted the Congress back to power.

And now, 2009, where they are back to where they were 18 years back. Struggling to get back to power, political untouchables all over again.

So what went wrong?
Between 1998-2004 when they ruled, they counted amongst their allies, the National Conference, the BJD, the JD(U), the TDP, the AIADMK, and after the fat lady pulled them down, the DMK, the Trinamool Congress.

2009 however, paints a bad picture – no more Trinamool or BJD or any coalition with any TN parties. The DMK and Trinamool went with the Congress and won massively in TN and WB respectively. BJD left the NDA, went as part of the third front and swept Orissa. In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine were routed massively by the NCP-INC combine. The MNS also significantly ate into their votes. The TDP went as part of the 3rd front and got routed badly though. Wonder what might have happened if there had been no MNS or if the TDP had been a part of the NDA. So, simply put, its just a matter of not having the right allies this time when compared to 1999.

Still it begs the question, why did the allies desert the NDA before the elections? The BJP was and still remains, unfortunately, a saffron party. Noises about the temple in Ayodhya as part of the election manifesto simply didn’t hold water as a poll plank, most importantly with its allies. The NDA happened because of one man – Vajpayee. Parties joined the NDA as they knew he was the only moderate face in the party and recognized that his time had finally arrived to lead the country.

By 2004, however, he was pushing 80 and it was clear that he might not be the PM for the whole term if elected again. He eventually had to retire from politics before the term completed. Once he was gone, and Advani started making his noises about going back to Hindutva as the poll plank, the allies took the cue and deserted what they felt was a sinking ship. Whether they deserted a sinking ship or if the ship sank because the allies deserted it is open for speculation.

Well, all said and done, it might be good for the Congress to rule a second term, simply because there is no other alternative. Maybe a third front will emerge soon with a better and clearer leadership. More than anything we need a second front though. There is nothing like a good opposition to keep the Government on its toes. The BJP provided that all these years. But they seem to be waning so badly, even that might be difficult for them.

While the Congress turned into a one-family show a long time back, the BJP probably is turning out to be a one man show.


9 thoughts on “The saffrons – down and out?

  1. Not about allies …
    You should write more about politics. Good stuff!
    Your post seems to imply that it was all about allies. Look at the change from 2004 on parties:
    INC: +61
    BJP: -22
    There has been a tremendous gain by INC itself and a similar loss by BJP just by itself. Rahul has to be congratulated for his UP push and some heads have to roll within BJP for their bad planning.
    Look at the change from 2004 on alliances:
    UPA: +80
    NDA: -14
    This delta shows that both alliances gained a similar amount from their allies compared to 2004. Lets not forget that Left (not a part of UPA as shown above) would’ve been a major ally to INC had it fared like in 2004. And the Left was routed, just like NDA ally AIADMK.

    1. Re: Not about allies …
      Are you factoring the fact that some of the allies switched sides or went as part of the third front?
      The DMK and the BJD were major losses for the NDA from 1999 to now. Also, the BJP might not have done so badly if it weren’t fighting gainers…for eg in Orissa, they wouldn’t be fighting the BJD and would thus have some more gain individually, which is the same with other regional allies who gained well in their states…
      Plus am also implying that the absence of one man caused a difference to both the voters and the allies…

      1. Re: Not about allies …
        Plus am also implying that the absence of one man caused a difference to both the voters and the allies…
        Vajpayee? He’s too old for any real job in Indian politics.

      2. Re: Not about allies …
        Quoting myself:
        By 2004, however, he was pushing 80 and it was clear that he might not be the PM for the whole term if elected again. He eventually had to retire from politics before the term completed.
        Nowhere am I implying that he should’ve been there…Am just saying his absence was felt badly by the BJP, and the BJP without Vajpayee might be a waning force…which again is not a call for him to come back…he’s old we all know that…and the least he can get is some peace during his last days
        I kinda feel I’ve touched some raw nerves with this post…please read carefully and understand what am trying to say…

      3. Re: Not about allies …
        I kinda feel I’ve touched some raw nerves with this post…please read carefully and understand what am trying to say…
        Not me for sure. I don’t take politics or cricket (the 2 big passions in India) seriously. Movies, books or music, maybe yes 😛

  2. Its not always about the Math! Even if the alliances were different, there was no guarantee that the Indian voter would have voted one way or the other.
    Campaign: From my limited visits to Indian news websites, it was definitely clear to me that the NDA would lose badly. Their campaign consisted of foul mouthing opponents, personal attacks and recovering black money from Swiss banks. No new ideas about economy, health care, rural development, infrastructure and nothing of substance. UPA on the other hand was touting its rural development schemes and farmer loan waiver programs, which although look like from the 70s populist schemes seem to have worked with the electorate.
    Another big was the youth factor, which might have worked in the urban areas. Is there any youngster or youth icon in NDA you and I could relate to? Off the top of my head, I can recall 10 such people in the ruling UPA.
    PM Candidate: IMHO, MMS can pass off as an acceptable candidate even if he were holding Satan’s hands 🙂 Can’t say the same about the other candidate!

    1. Actually if you look at most of UPA gains, its been mostly the transfer of seats from the left in WB & Kerala (almost 40). Of course, to its credit Cong gained a lot in Rajasthan, MP and UP compared to previous elections. Other than that, the rest of the country has been more or less been status quo.
      Apart from personal attacks and vilification of MMS, the NDA didn’t have anything new to offer. That along with their opposition to the Nuclear agreement made them look like power-hungry, narrow-minded people. Also, the voters in India are much more intelligent than politicians think in that, they don’t easily buy in the argument that NDA would be tough on terrorism.
      All that said, I just hope MMS keeps the bunch of sycophants (Gandhi family cheer-leaders) in congress away. Not to mention the policy of appeasement of communities treating them as vote banks. Also, I think UPA should take the support of Lalu and Mulayam considering that Mamata and Maya are more or less idiots who cannot be trusted with tough policy matters.

  3. I think there were two main factors for the results:
    1. Without Vajpayee, BJP now look more rigid and people & allies dont trust major leaders of BJP.
    2. Due to high growth rate in last 5 years, there is no wave of CHANGE in India. Though even if BJP could have delivered the same if it was allowed to rule last five years, Cong was position itself at the right time at right spot.
    BJP could have increased their tally by changing their leadership and concentrating on growth issues but I dont think people were looking for change this time. May be this is single govt which has achieved highest growth rate in Indian History. People rewarded for it.

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