February 22, 2020
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Needed: Stunt Man

Needed: Stunt Man
The long, hot summer for the Bharatiya Janata Party has begun. Numerous conclaves, introspection meets, chintan baithaks, post-mortems are scheduled to discuss not just the electoral reverses but to analyse why the base of the party “with a difference” is shrinking so alarmingly. Election after election shows that theBJP in its present avatar is seen to be neither fish nor fowl. Its traditional support base is declining because the faithful are convinced their party has sold its soul for a few pieces of ministerial silver. The newly-acquired support base discovers that the party is not just as corrupt (if not more) as the Congress but its record of governance is as bad (if not worse) as that of the Congress. Add to this the spectacle of the BJP constantly lurching towards its Hindutva agenda and then pulling back at the last minute when its allies threaten to walk out. Is it any surprise that the old and new Ram bhakts are thoroughly baffled—and angry?

There is no shortage of wise men and wise women in the BJP. However, I suspect, they will be reluctant to confront the core complication: the blurred party identity. It cannot simultaneously pose to be a radical Hindu formation and also retain ambitions to rule India. The Hindu cause is fine for agitations and for mobilising perhaps 20 per cent of the voting public, but that path unfortunately does not lead to Race Course Road. However, existing merely as a bonafide right-wing combine involves power but no Ayodhya temple or uniform civil code or abrogation of Article 370. A choice has to be made.

Any BJP prime minister—Vajpayee, Advani or even Uma Bharati—cannot ride two horses at the same time. Till date, the party has been looking for a stunt man who can perform the impossible task. The first horseman, besides having little appetite for the ride, has failed. He is keen to ride one horse.

Even the more pragmatic leaders in the party are loath to address the question of identity. They believe some miracle man or miracle solution will appear. It is a forlorn hope.

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