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The Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal Political Experiment

Eight months back, writing in the Rediff :

The closing thought for 2011 must go to Arvind Kejriwal, the man who emerged from nowhere to raise the nation’s consciousness on an issue with a single point agenda, howsoever flawed it maybe. 2011 revealed the angry but brilliant tactician within him.

We just have to wait till 2012 to know if there is also a patient strategist lurking somewhere inside him waiting to give birth to a new political formation.

Eight months on we see a the blueprint of a strategy emerging albeit after many false starts and tired attempts at the old. It remains to be seen if the move towards a political party was a face saving exit from a civic movement that ran out of steam or if this is a new beginning.

Last year writing in The Pioneer on 11th April 2011, this blogger had castigated the BJP for failing to rise to the occasion

This is not to say that ‘civil society’ groups will come to occupy the political space currently held by the BJP. The BJP continues to be a significant political player in specific States. But the cold reality is the BJP has lost the national narrative. The BJP is now merely a super regional party with a permanent Delhi-based leadership that can neither help it break new ground nor arrest the process of slow but terminal decline staring it. With too clever-by-half political calculations the BJP’s permanent Delhi-based leadership has timidly submitted itself to conventional wisdom that the role of the Opposition is to merely oppose the Government with rhetoric. This timidity has prevented it from taking sharp ideological positions on the UPA’s Left-liberal socio-economic agenda.

In a contest between the Congress and a BJP that is seen to be a B-team of the Congress on socio-economic issues, conventional wisdom of the 1990s no longer applies. The BJP’s leadership in Delhi may be non-dynastic and incorruptible but it no longer inspires a vision of being a credible alternative. The national narrative on corruption has been lost by them to ‘civil society’. On socio-economic issues and rights-based entitlements the Indian voter would rather vote for the original, the Congress, than a pale imitator in the BJP.

At a pivotal moment when the middle class angst in India needed political leadership the BJP failed to provide it. For a national revival in time for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP needs a renewed moral purpose. Its current avatar has long lost that moral purpose. It is time for a new avatar relevant to this day and age in line with Hindu tradition. The BJP must reinvent itself as both the political and ideological opposite of the Congress’s Left-liberalism with a concrete Centre-Right policy agenda that shows Middle India where its enlightened self-interest lies.

Since then much water has flown under the Anna-Kejriwal bridge.

While convention political wisdom would suggest that any new political party targeting the Urban Middle Class would grow at the BJP’s expense only to aid the Congress in a manner no different from the MNS in Maharashtra and PRP in Andhra, it is for the BJP to differentiate and distinguish itself and transcend any potential vote splits. A case in point here is the success of the YSR Congress in the recent Andhra bypolls. As flawed as it may have been the upstart YSRCP’s rise was marked by drawing of votes both from the Congress and the TDP.

Until then all the best to Mr. Kejriwal and Co. with their new experiment in the laboratory of Indian Politics. If not anything else it would serve the purpose of keeping the heat on the incumbent parties to shape up and deliver rather than take their constituents for granted.

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Filed under: Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Narendra Modi, Nitin Gadkari, nitish kumar, UPA-II Critical Appraisal

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