Here is an article that appeared on the forum's pages earlier. But it is still relevant and important as we have assembly elections in three states soon. A must read.
Fundamental Reasons for BJP Defeat
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the vehicle of pure nationalism in Indian politics, has suffered a second successive defeat in national general elections.
However, to see if our explanations of the apparent causes are really fitting the effects, one has to first appreciate the magnitude of the effect itself.
. Just look at these aspects:
- no ruling party at the centre since 1989 has ever returned to power under conditions of greater than 8% inflation in prices of primary food articles. In the five years of UPA rule, these prices have increased more than 60%; the latter half of this period accounting for the bulk of this increase
- a terrorist attack of the magnitude of 26/11 has not occurred in India before. This was preceded by equally jarring terrorist attacks across all major Indian cities – with the exception of cities along the eastern coast. And it was the activism of the BJP ruled Gujarat government post-Ahmedabad-attack that put an end to this chain of bombings
- the chain of scams like Satyam, Quatrocchi, CBI-misuse and parliamentary bribery scandal were unprecedented in any prior 5-year governance period, including those of Congress rule
- the depression, job-losses and economic uncertainty in the past nine months were again unseen before in India
- the Congress chief campaigners shamelessly ran away from one-to-one debates in public, and its president didn’t even have the guts to give a single press interview – lest the internal hollowness get exposed
- And most importantly, the comparison between the years of NDA and UPA rule. The BJP faced the wrath of the world order by making India an overt nuclear power. It faced and rolled back the global economic sanctions (accompanied simultaneously by years of poor monsoon) to transform India into an economic powerhouse – with years of unprecedented low inflation creating low interest rates that spurred capital investment, leading – with a time lag – to greater than 8.5% growth rates that continued into the first three years of UPA rule. In the process every Indian across the world could hold his head high.
And what did the UPA do? Transformed this atmosphere of positivity into depression. The Indians across the world who could strut around proudly – “our time has come” – were now transformed into shamed “slumdogs”. Any Indian with minor self-esteem would find it extremely painful to sit through that movie. Its decoration with multiple Oscars is only a sequel to the Western attempt to humiliate emerging powers like India and China. And yet the Congress claimed credit for that movie and co-opted its theme song into its campaign.
And wonder of wonders, with this sort of background the Congress won the elections hands down while the BJP reached its nadir! Obviously there is something profound, deep down that is causing this.
Superficially, the BJP was fighting the Congress and the Congress the BJP. But in reality, the BJP was fighting the Congress plus – and here we introduce a new term – the “Public Opinion Makers”, while the Congress was fighting the BJP minus the Public Opinion Makers (or POM). This is the fundamental reason for the BJP defeat, not just in 2009 but in 2004 as well.
Now who are the “Public Opinion Makers”? As the name suggests, they are the ones who determine what the country thinks, how it responds to emergent situations, and how it evolves in thought. In other words, they determine the direction of the National Mind. They operate at both pan-national and regional levels. Broadly, they can be classified into three groups: TV News Channels (we will club Radio with this), Newspapers (including newsmagazines), and what we may call as “distributed opinion makers”. The first two do not need any explanation. The “distributed opinion makers” are the traditional, localized,grassroots-level opinion makers.
2. The internet and blogspace cannot be considered to have any worthwhile role in making public opinion in our country, and the situation will not change at least in the next ten years. This space is restricted to those who do not have any serious family or professional responsibilities, who are usually males, who are unlikely to turn out and vote, and most importantly, to those who are social loners – the latter trait increasing in intensity with time spent on the net. The BJP erred severely in trying to make the internet its prime means of advertisement and public reach in election 2009
pushing newspaper & TV ads to a secondary role, and it needs to seriously introspect why it did so, instead of just saying retrospectively that it was incorrect.
Continuing with the Public Opinion Makers or POM, the first important point of note is that its composition has been changing significantly with time. When there was no TV and hardly any newspapers, the bulk of POM was composed of the “distributed opinion makers”. That is no longer true today, and this shift has been very rapid over the past
In 1990, when Sri Ram Janambhoomi agitation was at its peak, TV-news occupied only 10% of POM space, while the “distributed opinion makers” occupied about 40%. The share of TV-news increased sharply in the period 2000-2005 (during the NDA government),when a multiplicity of regional news channels came into existence across the country. Share of newspapers did not decrease correspondingly due to the spread of literacy. Consequently,the share of “distributed opinion makers” decreased the most.
Now why would this compositional change in POM space affect the BJP? Because that component which is the most antagonistic to the RSS school of thought has increased sharply, while that which was least unfriendly has contracted the most.
First the evidences:
- the media manipulation to describe Shri Narendra Modi as a mass murderer while simultaneously painting Shri Rajiv Gandhi as a secular hero has only one parallel in recent human history – the painting of Saddam Hussein as a beast by the Western media followed by the American invasion and capture of Iraq. The most vicious communal violence that occurred in post-independence India was in Delhi in 1984, when nearly 3000 Sikhs were slaughtered by Congress goons in purely one-sided violence.
Ironically, that was the only occasion when an attempt was made to justify the killings, by Rajiv Gandhi who said that the ground shakes when a big tree falls. Yet RG remains a secular hero. There have been about half-a-dozen riots of the scale of Gujarat-2002, with deaths of different communities in similar proportions. Bhagalpur in 1989, Mumbai in 1993, earlier in Meerut-Malliana and Ahmedabad itself. They all occurred under Congress rule, and no one so much as remembers the names of the then Congress Chief Ministers. Yet Shri Modi, who never even hinted at any justification, was marked
out as a “murderer”
- immediately after 26/11, public passion against the Congress governments at the state and centre was running high. That anger was natural and rightful in a democracy – which punishes governments for their failures and forces extant governments to correct themselves. Yet a slew of TV news channels very cleverly converted the anger into a hatred for “all politicians” – as if the opposition BJP was as accountable for 26/11 as the ruling Congress!! And the public innocently fell for it
- one may note how, in the middle of the election campaign, the news of the suicide ofPriyanka’s father-in-law was meticulously blacked out. This does not happen in any healthy functional democracy, where the private lives of prominent individuals are always under the scanner. When lady Priyanka made it to the news, it was with her
“brilliant” statement – “mai apni daadi ki saree may kaisi lagti hoon?” – headlineflashed carefully across all UP newspapers just on the eve of the third phase of polls.
And the Congress won the bulk of its seats from this phase. What synchronization!
- how the “pub-attack” issue in Mangalore was highlighted beyond any rationality. The attackers were not BJP/RSS men and they were behaving likewise even under non-BJP state governments; no woman was even touched by the attackers and it was only their male companions who were beaten; and surprisingly, the same day as the pub-attack,
three doctors on a morning walk on a Bangalore pavement were overrun and killed on the spot by a car driven by a youth who had been drinking all through the previous night
– yet this incident did not even find mention in the TV channels!
- during the high growth rate period in the later phase of NDA rule, the media repeatedly made the point that this is a consequence of the “liberalization” policies started by Dr. Manmohan Singh as finance minister.
When “Chandrayaan” reached the moon, the media blanked out the fact that the entire mission was conceived, funded and even named by the Vajpayee-led NDA government, the only contribution of the Congress government was that it did not kill the project
- how the nationwide bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad during the Amarnath land agitation was mocked by the TV news channels – most of the Hindi channels simply carried a running commentary on how a man who was taking his father, who had had a heart-attack, to a hospital somewhere in Haryana, was blocked by the bandh and the inhumanity of the bandh supporters
- one can go one and on with examples, but by this time it is pretty evident that the two components of the POM space – TV news and newsprint – had been playing a blatantly anti-BJP game. And in 2009 they made up 80% of POM space.
Having seen the evidences, we now move on to the facts and then the causes.
First, the steep increase seen in pro-BJP share between 1996 and 2001, mostly in the TV news component but also in newspapers. The reasons are, first, reduction in government control and interference.
Second, the favorable environment created by the Kargil war, and
third, the regional outspread of the BJP into traditionally “weak” areas likethe South, Bengal, Orissa, etc.. The share of pro-BJP elements in total POM space however is not seen to increase with equal sharpness, because the share of “distributed opinion makers” component in net POM space is not simultaneously reducing, while the percentage share of pro-BJP elements in TV newspace, inspite of rapid increase, remains quite low.
The second point of note is the sharp fall in pro-BJP share between 2002 and 2005, both in TV newspace and newsprint. There are two reasons for it.
First, the Gujarat riots enabled the anti-BJP elements in both these components to unleash an anti-BJP blitzkrieg – which affected it sharply in the newly-emergent support areas but not so in its traditional areas.
Second, the creation of a plethora of regional TV news channels among whom the pro-BJP elements could not establish an influence. The increasing share of these channels reduced the proportional share of pro-BJP elements.
The third point of note is the consequence of the above two combined: the net share of pro-BJP-ideology elements, which was of the order of 30% at the peak of Sri Ram Janambhoomi agitation, rose to 33% post-Kargil, had come down to about 25% in 2004 and is only 20% in 2009. Now we are in a position to view explicitly how the POM altered the electoral outcome in the 2004 and 2009 general elections.
Now we come to the basic question of why the share of pro-BJP-ideology elements, call it the RSS school of thought, remains so low among the two organized components of the POM, and is going down steadily. There are two very profound reasons for it.The first flows from the prevailing conflict of civilizations.
In a nutshell, it is natural for contemporary civilizations to try to impose themselves on each other. Obviously,the contemporaneously dominant civilizations will try to do so more forcefully on the weaker ones, than the other way round. An easy means of so doing is to capture the institutionalized Public Opinion Makers of these civilizations – which means the TV-news and Newspapers in their POM spaces. In our context the Hindu civilization is the victim, and the Western – mostly Anglo-American aided by a strong Church+Left content, the aggressor.
The coming to power of the BJP around the turn of the millennium redoubled the drive of the aggressors to capture our POM space – and hence the gradual fall in pro-BJPideology content in our POM since that period. The Gujarat riots simply offered them an opportunity to launch a blitzkrieg.
But that is only part of the explanation. Why did the defenders of the Hindu civilization remain sitting ducks in the face of this offensive? Why did the people who fought and rolled back eight hundred years of Islamic invasion from our frontiers, and one-and-a-half centuries of insidious European attempt to undermine our mind and character, fail to respond to the situation?
One, they simply – and unfortunately – did not even realize what game was going on around them.
And two, the most pre-eminent among the defenders of the Hindu civilization in this day &age, namely the RSS school of thought, had been trained instinctively to work and sacrificewithout ever beating their own drums. The ideal was the foundation of a building – never to be seen, but the bedrock on which the edifice stands. A very noble ideal, but unfortunately, this very ingrained instinct became a weakness in facing up to the new form of invasion.People trained in the RSS school implicitly abhorred propaganda. This naturally carried over into the BJP.
Thus while every small political party in the country – right from the “Dravidian”ones, the Akalis, and even the born-yesterday outfit of film-hero Chiranjeevi had their own TV channels, the BJP steadfastly avoided it. More importantly, they even avoided implanting their agents into “neutral” news channels and papers. They had forgotten that even in the
Mahabharat, Dharmaraja Yudhisthir had to be balanced by down-to-earth Arjun & Bhim to face up to the wicked Kauravas.
Thus it happened that on the one hand the institutionalized components of the POM kept on expanding more and more into total POM space pushing the stable source of BJP support – the “distributed opinion makers” – into a corner, while on the other hand the organized foreign agencies continued to increase the width and depth of their influence within these
institutionalized components – their only challenge coming not from the defenders of nationalism but from petty regional groups serving their own local interests.
Now it is time to move from an analysis of the past into preparation for the future. Purely from the political perspective, the RSS school of thought has to increase its share in the institutionalized POM space. If not, its political sway and gradually its ability to influence Bharatvarsha and the world at large will wither away with time.
This has to be done both at the national and regional levels. Without, the BJP might still win assembly elections in its traditional areas of influence – because in these elections the “distributed opinion makers” will continue to play a relatively larger role for some time to come. However, when it comes to emerging into traditionally weak regions, as well as fighting national elections – its contraction in the POM space will push it out of serious reckoning – in spite of a hundred positive factors, in traditional electoral terms, working in its favour.
In its journey to occupy more of the institutionalized POM space, the RSS school of thought has to be careful not to fall into the “purist” trap. This essentially implies preaching to the converted – and comes very easily to ideologically committed and cadre-based families. The RSS ideological school runs a number of publications, which serve as means of internal communication and motivation. They cannot be considered as part of POM space because they
are not “public”.
The first requirement for getting into this space is credibility of neutrality.
A good example is NDTV – which is sponsored by Church elements with some leftist overlap. It has good credibility among middle-class Indians who do not suspect its neutrality and appreciate its professionalism. Yet most of the anti-BJP tricks – like the Mangalore pub-attack propaganda, Kandhamal, demonisation of Shri Varun Gandhi & Shri Narendra Modi, the 26/11“hatred for politicians” trick and many more as mentioned before, have been spawned by this channel.
The RSS school of thought may aim to strongly back at least one English and two Hindi channels at national level, and at least one channel in every region (i.e. linguistic state). They must pass the test of credibility of neutrality. Which implies that they should be seen to be dealing overtly with Congress, leftists and others similar to the way they deal with the BJP –and also sometimes show programmes which are not preferred by the RSS school. They should not overstress on activities of Hindu Nationalist organizations. Otherwise they will simply end up preaching to the converted. Further, they should be professionally excellent so that they quickly occupy more of segment space. And a similar effort should be made in the newspaper space. They should be able to establish themselves in their respective segments within the next two years; else it will be too late for the next general elections.
The objective of this note is not to belittle all other causes that led to the BJP defeat. They are certainly relevant, and the party’s analysts will be able to identify them. There are significant differences between many of the factors leading to 2004 and 2009 electoral defeats. In 2004, worker demotivation was a major factor. This was caused by the absence of a visible mapping between party ideology and party’s governance. This grassroots’ demotivation was sought to be tempered by central organization’s forcefulness, which in turn created over-centralization and neglect of grassroots’ requirements. Even in 2009 the party has not been able to come out of the inertia of these ill-effects. Wherever the grassroots has been re-energized (like in Jharkhand, where Babulal Marandi’s resignation gave a shock to the centre which stopped interfering thenceforth) the party has done well, wherever it has been steamrolled (as in Uttarakhand) the party has done badly. Among other factors – the party’s Yuva Morcha has to be significantlyrevitalized, and the RSS school of thought has to contribute to this.
Returning to the theme, there is no doubt that people trained in the pro-BJP-ideology school will have some difficulty in getting into the suggested indirect-propaganda mode. But it is the same sort of difficulty and dilemma that Arjuna had faced at the start of the Kurukshetra battle.The cause of this nation, of this civilization, of humanity and of the greatest truth should be able to neutralize softer emotions that repel against show-business – just as Arjuna had to train
his mind as well as his heart to fight against Bhishma Pitamah and Guru Dronacharya. And like with Arjuna, here too Shri Krishna will be amongst us, leading and guiding us all the time …..
The gradual contraction of the influence of the RSS school of thought in the “Public Opinion Maker” space is the fundamental reason for successive BJP defeats. The BJP and the ideological school behind it cannot hope to attain a commanding position in national politics and influence the evolution of our nation and thence the world without first occupying a certain threshold position in this POM space. While doing so it should be careful not to fall into the “purist” trap, i.e. preaching only to the converted, which comes easily to ideologically committed and cadre-based families.