BJP draws roadmap to general elections, sticks to terror

January 7th, 2009 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) As the countdown to a general election begins, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is keen to hit the ground running and feels that the twin issues of insecurity of life and livelihood will continue to resonate despite this manifesto not cutting much ice with voters in the recent state assembly polls. Party insiders disclosed that the BJP still wanted to build on the theme of terrorism and the widespread public insecurity that followed, especially after the Mumbai siege, and this explains its hurry to hit the campaign trail though the polls are at least three months away.

The party’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, takes the lead by stepping out on a 120-day whirlwind tour of more than 200 constituencies early February.

Advani provided an indication of the party’s line in his new year message when he stated: “2008 has been a traumatic year for India both in respect of its economy as well as its security. The trauma has been mainly on account of the kind of government we have had in New Delhi.”

Political analysts might cite the recent assembly elections and argue otherwise, but the party believes there would be a surge of angry votes against the Congress-led alliance on the issue of terror and it would go in its favour.

“The security of the nation, both physical and economic, is something that the ruling Congress has failed to ensure. This would be the chief issue, among others,” party vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS. “Security, prosperity and progress are our three key words.”

Not only will it launch its campaign ahead of other political parties, the BJP, at Advani’s instance, plans to finalise all its candidates by the end of this month before he starts his tour.

The party made an early start by naming 11 candidates from Uttar Pradesh Nov 11 and three others, including Advani from Gandhinagar, a month ago.

Advani has also initiated changes in the way candidates are selected and will monitor it first hand.

Unlike in the past, when individual leaders would push for their candidates because of their proximity to them, merit would remain the sole criterion this time. “The whims and fancies of leaders would not work,” said a party insider.

The performance of the candidates and their ability to nurture their constituencies would be the deciding factors, while new faces should have a proven track record in the party’s organisational affairs, he said. “These are broad guidelines issued by Advani.”

Analysts remain sceptical.

“The BJP’s appeal of the 90s, when it was a new party and spoke of terrorism from the prism of communal polarisation, no longer works,” said political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan.

Agreed G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who said the results of the elections in states held in the shadow of the Mumbai blasts demonstrated that the BJP’s anti-terror rhetoric did not work.

In his view, the fact that the BJP lost Rajasthan and Delhi while it retained Madhya Pradesh proved that the voters did not consider the Congress “such a big villain”.

“Issues like terrorism work only at a given point of time and not forever. During negative times when there are terror attacks, high prices and an unprecedented economic slowdown, people want words of reassurance, not a slanging match,” he said.

According to political commentator Swapan Dasgupta, who is known for his right-of-centre views and is seen as being sympathetic to the BJP, there would be three issues prominent in the BJP’s scheme of things. “Greater security, both its anti-terrorism stance and economic, anti-incumbency (against the Congress-led government) and good governance are the issues.”

“It is too early to say which of these issues will gain prominence during the run up to the elections.”

But more than this, he said the party would need “an umbrella of support base comprising its own core Hindu vote, the vote of the allies and that generated by anti-incumbency.”

This is where the problem lies.

“Where are the allies? The BJP has no ally in the crucial south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which account for 82 seats,” pointed out Rangarajan.

“Besides, there has been no recovery for the party in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats,” he said. From 57 seats in 1998 and 29 in 1999, the party came down to 10 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004.

Party vice-president Naqvi, however, argued that there would be alliances with south Indian parties after the elections, while some important tie-ups have been made.

There would be a pre-poll alliance with the Lok Dal in Haryana, the Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh and the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam. The Janata Dal-United, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Biju Janata Dal remain the main constituents of the NDA, he said.

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