The Biggest Challenge For B.J.P. In The Run-Up To The 2019 Elections
The recent elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have shown that there is no stopping the B.J.P.’s triumph in elections. Surveys conducted by several news channels even predicted a clear victory for the ruling party in the 2019 elections. There seems to be no alternative which can challenge the electoral rampage of the B.J.P. However the real challenge for the party comes from within, from its loose-tongued leaders who seem to have an opinion on almost everything.
The captain of national cricket team Virat Kohli’s marriage in a foreign country led him to be dubbed as an anti-national by Panna Lal Shakya, a B.J.P. MLA from Madhya Pradesh. This resulted in a lot of outrage by the admirers of Virat Kohli, especially the youth. This was not a one-off incident where a party leader had let loose his tongue. But rather a continued series of such incidents have happened which has not only dented the image of the party but also alienated it from its supporters. Calling a youth icon anti-national due to his choice of marrying in a foreign land is nothing short of political hara-kiri. Let us try and examine when several leaders have played the role of the Trojan Horse and how it had affected the party.
B.J.P. Trojan Horses
It started just before the 2014 general elections when Girirraj Singh remarked that those opposing Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan, accusing the opponents of the government to be acting on behalf of Pakistan. This kicked up a storm but didn’t do much damage to B.J.P.’ s prospects in the 2019 elections, though banned Girriraj Singh from campaigning. The first chance for the opposition to corner the government came when Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made her hate-filled haramzade vs ramzade remark. The government was on the backfoot and had to publicly apologize for the remark. It dented the government’s image to a great extent since the common Indian saw the remark as regressive and in total contrast to the development agenda for which he had voted. Sakshi Maharaj is another such leader to routinely come up with statements that render the ruling party leaders speechless. One such instance was when he asked Hindu families to produce four kids to protect Hinduism. Not to forget that he had earlier called Nathuram Godse a martyr. On another occasion, the current president of B.J.P. remarked in an interview that the promise of bringing back black money and giving 15 lakhs to each Indian was nothing but a “jumla”. Further, he tried to show that there was a difference between an idiomatic expression i.e. jumla and promises made during election campaigns by showcasing some of the promises made by AAP. The “jumla” remark continues to haunt the B.J.P. to this day with every time the P.M. makes statements, opposition leaders ask him to clarify if it is an idiom or not.
The recent war of words between the U.P. CM Yogi Adityanath and his counterpart in Karnataka Siddaramaiah are creating more damage to the party’s image and distancing it from its grass root level supporters.
The Political Fallout
These series of controversial remarks are chinks in the BJP’s armour and are providing fodder for the opposition parties. The party leadership must remember that the baggage of Gujarat riots was very difficult to remove and the NDA government was voted for its development agenda. While it is quite true that P.M. Modi enjoys great popularity, such incidents and on most occasions the failure of the leadership to check this can prove to have drastic consequences in the long run. The party leadership must learn from the P.R faux pas of Manmohan Singh’s “theek hai” and how it blotted the UPA government’s image.
The party seems to have taken cognisance of this and has at times stepped in to check it, leaders, as well as apologized to the voters also. Panna Lal Shakya was strongly reprimanded and told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t his business to question Kohli’s patriotism by the central leadership. B.J.P. must take a leaf out of Rahul Gandhi’s book and learn from the way he campaigned in Gujarat where despite losing the elections he won the support of the people as he refrained from making any personal attacks on Naredra Modi. The Congress leadership also suspended Mani Shankar Aiyar over his” neech” remark at Modi. Furthermore Rahul Gandhi has asked his party leaders to refrain from making controversial statements in poll-bound Karnataka.
Following the footsteps of its main political rival will certainly help BJP gain the lost ground. However, if this remains unchecked then the “Ache Din” campaign may meet the fate similar to the “India Shining” campaign in 2019.