April 05, 2020
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For The Record

From A 'Front Runner' To A 'Clear Winner'

'Our peak performance so far has been in 1999, when we won 182 seats in the Lok Sabha. In 2009, we must not only go way beyond our tally in 2004, but actually surpass our record in 1999'

From A 'Front Runner' To A 'Clear Winner'

From the concluding speech by the BJP's prime ministerial candidate and Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha) at the party's National Executive Meeting

As we come to the conclusion of this two-day session of the National Executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party, I share the collective feeling in this hall that we have had a very fruitful and lively meeting. It was marked by a very high order of enthusiasm and self-confidence, and also by introspection and awareness of responsibility. This is natural and reflective of the situation that the BJP is passing through.

Our enthusiasm and self-confidence stem from the truly historic victory that the BJP has won in Karnataka last week. Along with my sincere thanks to the people of Karnataka, I extend hearty congratulations to the entire BJP unit in the state and its president Shri Sadanand Gowda. I warmly felicitate Chief Minister Shri B.S. Yeddyurappa, whose determined leadership proved to be a key factor in the party’s electoral success. Another key factor for our success was the solid unity created in the party by Shri Yeddyurappa, Shri Ananth Kumar and other leaders. Our senior colleagues from the central leadership who guided the party’s election management — Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Shri Arun Jaitley and others — also deserve fulsome praise. Here I would like to make a special mention of Smt. Sushma Swaraj’s contribution to the campaign. Ever since she contested for the Lok Sabha from Bellary, and displayed amazing fluency in Kannada, she has become a household name in Karnataka.

Psychological impact of Karnataka victory

Friends, the psychological impact of the BJP’s victory in Karnataka has been enormous. While it has boosted the morale of our party all over the country, it has shocked the Congress and pushed it into a state of utter despondency. I have called it a ‘turning point’ in Indian politics, and compared it with that in 1989, when the BJP spectacularly increased its tally in the Lok Sabha from only two MPs in 1984 to 86 MPs five years later. Thereafter, the BJP’s strength continued to rise and, just under a decade later in 1998, we were able to form the government at the Centre under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The BJP’s rise during that period was marked essentially by the gains we made in northern and western states, and also in Bihar and Orissa in the east. In 2008, we have proved that the BJP’s appeal transcends social and geographical boundaries. I have no doubt that our party will begin to grow electorally and become politically influential in other south Indian states — Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — in the years to come.

With Congress shrinking, UPA a "write-off" in 2009

An important aspect of the present political situation in the country is that the Congress is now gradually shrinking all over the country — in north, south, west and east. It is suffering from the syndrome of "one step forward, three steps backward". This is evident from the fact that the party has suffered defeats in as many as 12 state elections since May 2004. During the same period, the BJP has been able win, on its own or in alliance with its partners, in Bihar, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Nagaland and now Karnataka.

Obviously, the Congress party’s being in power at the Centre for four years has not helped it even one bit in any of these states. Is this not a severe indictment of the party’s central leadership? Is this also not a proof of the total and irrefutable failure of the UPA government? Doesn’t it show that neither the Congress party’s dynastic leadership nor the track record of the Prime Minister and his team inspire any confidence among the people of India? All except the sycophants of the ‘Dynasty’ can see this reality. Even the allies of the Congress have concluded that the UPA is a "write-off" as far as the 15th Lok Sabha elections are concerned.

How a weak government, a powerless PM and an opportunistic Congress-Left pact are endangering India

The Prime Minister never had any control over either his council of ministers or the larger administrative set-up. Now his government presents the picture of an entity that is paralysed, unable to take any right decision, every minister acting more or less independently, and many ministers acting in a manner that has converted governance into pure commerce.

As a result, here is a government that has mismanaged the economy so badly that not only the poor but also the middle classes are seeing their purchasing power eroded due to spiraling prices. Here is a government that has failed to evolve a comprehensive, long-term and effective strategy to address the agrarian crisis, which has forced thousands of debt-ridden farmers to commit suicide. The belated announcement of a loan waiver is at best a palliative, but a palliative can never be a panacea.

Here is a government that has mismanaged the internal security situation so badly that not a single case of terrorist attack in the past four years has been fully investigated, and the guilty brought to book. On the contrary, it has given protection to the guilty purely for vote-bank considerations. Indeed, what can be a greater insult to our national honour than the fact that we have a Home Minister who publicly justifies giving protection to Mohammed Afzal by equating his case with that of Sarabjeet Singh?

The character of the UPA government can also be judged its attempt to undo the greatest achievement of the Vajpayee government in the area of national security — namely, making India a nuclear weapons state by conducting nuclear tests in May 1998. Clearly bending under foreign pressure, its leadership did not even deem it necessary to observe the 10th anniversary of Pokharan II. On the contrary, its spokesmen had the temerity to state publicly that there was no need for celebration since sanctions were imposed on India as a consequence of the NDA government’s action. When such is the warped mindset of the government, it is hardly surprising that it has sought to disarm India of its strategic defense capability through the flawed Indo-US nuclear deal.

Let us look at another malignant feature of the government at the Centre. The UPA-Left arrangement was never cohesive; its sole was to keep the BJP out under the pretext of "secular unity". But what kind of unity is this where those in government and those who are supporting the government from outside cannot see eye-to-eye on any issue, when they are constantly quarreling and hurling accusations at one another? It is obvious that both the Congress and Communists are opportunists who are only interested in power and, in order to pursue their objective, are fooling the people in the name of secularism.

Can India be safe, can India progress and can India ever become strong if we have a paralysed government led by a visionless party, headed by a powerless Prime Minister, and supported by a bunch of opportunists whose faith in democracy itself is suspect?

BJP is a "frontrunner"; let’s now make it a "clear winner"

The question, naturally, is : What is the alternative? Shri Rajnath Singhji has rightly observed, after the results of the Karnataka elections were known, that the BJP and the NDA are "frontrunners" in the next parliamentary elections. However, being a frontrunner is not enough. The challenge before our party and our alliance is to transform the reality from being a "frontrunner" to being seen as a "clear winner".

We have seen in several assembly elections in recent years, including the one in Karnataka, that people favour stable governments. They have realized that incoherent coalitions, in which partners push and pull in different directions, can badly impair their state’s development and the quality of governance. Therefore, they have tended to give a clear mandate to that party or pre-poll alliance which is perceived by them to be a "clear winner" capable of forming a stable and good government.

What is true at the state-level is truer still at the national level. India simply cannot afford to have another weak government that is at the vagaries of a fragmented polity. Given the formidable challenges before the nation, and the mounting problems facing our people, India would be severely imperiled if the next elections produce an unstable government at the Centre.

Therefore, my esteemed colleagues, it is not enough that the BJP merely forms the next government at the Centre. It is extremely important that ours is a strong and stable government, with the BJP having sufficient numerical strength that would enable us to pursue our agenda of Good Governance, Development and Security.

This is possible only if the BJP is in a position to constitute a robust and unshakeable core of the new coalition government — so robust that no Congress-inspired conspiracy can destabilize it for five years. Hence, the BJP’s resurgence is not merely our own subjective wish; it has become an objective necessity of India’s democracy and progress.

It follows logically from this that the BJP must vastly improve its own tally in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. After the 1989 turning point, I used to repeatedly state from different party forums: "Let us not think that we have reached our peak performance. We can do much better." And we showed that we could indeed do much better, that we could scale higher peaks of electoral success.

Once again, the time has come for the BJP to remind ourselves of our inherent strength. Our peak performance so far has been in 1999, when we won 182 seats in the Lok Sabha. In 2009, we must not only go way beyond our tally in 2004, but actually surpass our record in 1999. Is it possible? Yes, it is.

Once the BJP is seen as a "clear winner", it is bound to have a positive effect on the size and strength of the NDA. We can expect — we are indeed confident — that more parties will join our alliance. In this context, let us remember that the expansion, stability and cohesion of the NDA depends on our ability to attract and retain allies who may not be ideologically aligned with the BJP on all issues. What the people of India are looking for is a government that can deliver honest and good governance, and make India strong both in development and security. The realization of this truth and the willingness to work together as an alliance on the basis of a common agenda were critical to the success of the NDA in 1998 and 1999.

The tasks ahead

Friends, after our party’s spectacular victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh towards the end of 2007, I had appealed to all partymen to make 2008 a "Year of Change". Karnataka is a good beginning in this direction. But we must march forward with more victories in the latter half of this year, when six states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Mizoram and Jammu & Kashmir — will elect new assemblies.

Our governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of Smt. Vasundhara Raje, Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Dr. Raman Singh respectively, have done good work. Gujarat, under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, has proved that an incumbent government can win a renewed mandate on the basis of a strong performance in governance, development and security. The power of organisational unity and sound election management to yield electoral gains has been abundantly proven in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka. Let us prove it again in the electoral battles ahead.

In Congress circles, there is hope that the party would be able to take advantage of the "anti-incumbency" factor in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. All members of the National Executive should understand that "anti-incumbency" does not operate only or always against a government or a chief minister. It generally manifests as a vote against incumbent MLAs or MPs. And the voters’ displeasure depends not so much on their representative’s performance in the Assembly or in Parliament as on his or her conduct with the people of their constituency. Voters — and even karyakartas — punish those who are arrogant, unresponsive, inactive, inaccessible and insincere. This kind of constituency-level "anti-incumbency" hurt us in the 2004 parliamentary elections. However, we overcame this factor in Gujarat through a proper process of candidate selection. Let us think in similar terms in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

We must simultaneously galvalise the party organization, in all other states, big as well as small ones. The problems and shortcomings in some states are well known. We must set these right with a sense of urgency. Many organizational problems can be prevented or resolved by acting in a timely manner and, in particular, by firmly curbing the tendency of some functionaries to put their personal interests above the interests of the party.

Another important task before us is the need to intensify mass-contact programmes, in which it should be our endeavour to reach out to every section of society, including those, such as Muslims and Christians, who have so far remained aloof from the BJP. We should emphasise that our party seeks the all-round development and participation of minorities in a non-divisive and integrative agenda without recourse to appeasement or religion-based reservations. In all our mass campaigns, we should not only highlight the UPA government’s failures, but also explain our own superior agenda of governance.

As part of the mass-contact programme, I am happy that Shri Ramlalji and other colleagues have initiated the formation of booth management committees. This is very important. Equally important is the programme being drawn up by the Yuva Morcha to contact first-time voters through what is called the ‘Pratham Matadata Samman Abhiyan’. There will be as many as 10 crore first-time voters in the next Lok Sabha elections. Nearly half of them will be women voters. Therefore, I urge both Yuva Morcha and Mahila Morcha to work together to contact young women voters who will be eligible to vote for the first time.

Friends, the month of June has just begun. If parliamentary elections are held as per the existing schedule, the Lok Sabha will be dissolved and notification for fresh polls will be issued some time in February. I was told by a colleague that, between June and February, there are 272 days. The significance of this number is obvious to all of us, irrespective of when the elections are held.

Let us, therefore, resolve at this meeting of the National Executive not to waste a single day, not to ignore a single task, and not to neglect a single winnable seat in order to achieve our goal of securing a decisive majority for the NDA, with the BJP emerging as a strong and unshakeable anchor of our alliance, in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Let me reiterate, and I am borrowing a phrase here from our campaign in Gujarat: When the BJP wins, India will win.

Jeetega Bhajapa. Jeetega Bharat.

Thank you. Vande Mataram!

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