Saturday, January 22, 2011

BJP must sacrifice Karnataka to gain Delhi

The BJP first ran into a natural limit to its growth when it pursued the "hindutva" agenda. It just couldnt grow beyond a certain number. It's now finding itself limited by another that challenges its national identity itself. Both these limits have been created out of voluntary choices that the party has made....and unless it can get itself out of this second self-created boundary, it will have to let go a golden opportunity to gain power.

After having got the Congress on the mat for some time now, you would expect the BJP to play the end-game with a flourish. Instead, they have chosen to get embroiled in an unnecessary situation. Their desire to protect their government in Karnataka even at the cost of the national opportunity speaks a lot about how the party functions:

1) The party is basically made up of a few strong regional satraps. Modi is a well known example of this. Modi rules Gujarat the way he wants to. What he does in Gujarat is not necessarily BJP's policies or politics. His focus on the economic agenda is not something that the BJP propounds nationally. If it did, why would it oppose so many initiatives proposed by the central government? Why would it oppose the nuclear power facility at Jaitapur? It's purely Modi's own choice, not the party's, and he does what he wants.
2) In Karnataka also, its now proven, that the central party has no control. Apparently, BSY has the backing of the Lingayats....a community that has brought the BJP to power for the first time in the state. I dont think the central leaders of the BJP like what's happening in Karnataka. It's a nightmare they would like to see the last of really quickly. Ideally, it would like to drop the CM there to protect the high moral ground it has taken in Delhi. However, it is UNABLE to do it. The party at the center is too weak to take chances with a regional satrap. I dont think the BJP itself supports such blatant misuse of discretionary powers.....or the associated corruption.....but it is kowtowing to the whims of a regional satrap out of a "majboori".

The Karnataka episode also shows that the BJP is no exceptional party. Its as prone to corruption as the Congress or any other political party. The only reason there are fewer scams associated with the BJP is because the party has ruled for fewer years. In the center, its ruled for just about 6 years (10% of the time)......and its share of corruption charges is perhaps about that. However, this is what happens in politics. A phenomenon which I call the "recency effect". In the "recent" past, its the Congress that has ruled nationally, and so its advantage-BJP on the subject of corruption. As soon as the BJP comes to power at the center, the recency effect will benefit the Congress the same way.

The fact is that ALL political parties are corrupt. They need money for the running of the party. In India, its politically unwise for anyone to donate to political parties. Being seen as donating to one party can put you out of favor with the other party. Donating to all parties would make the sum small for any one party. So, political parties use the states where they rule as the generators of cash. This makes the CMs powerful regional satraps. No one dares challenge the CM of a ruling state. Its like in the corporate sector - no one questions a target-busting business head!

But whatever the reasons, I feel that the BJP is losing a golden opportunity to claim high ground on corruption. In the world of Marketing, this high ground is called "positioning". The BJP could position itself in the minds of the people as a party which would stop corrupt practices. To develop this position, it has to practice a few things and it has to sacrifice many others. It's practicing a few of the right things:  cornering the Congress is an example. But its in the sacrifice that its failing. It should sacrifice Karnataka to strengthen its positioning. This will help it get Delhi.

The real truth is that the central leadership of BJP is weak. Just like the central leadership of the Left. It was always Jyoti Basu who called the shots in the Left. And recently Buddhadev Bhattacharya. The real question is whether the BJP will be able to garner the courage to sacrifice.....only time will tell.

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