At the outset, I offer my sympathies at the performance of the BJP lead NDA in the 2009 General Elections. We all saw it coming but not to the extent that it decimated the pride of the party to such an extent that you had to tender your resignation. Sir, it is a courageous decision to put in your papers and I strongly believe that this is the right step ahead for the party.
Atalji and you have presided over the fortunes of the BJP from the days of the Jan Sangh and taken it to new heights and acted as the only national party that could challenge the hegemony of the Congress. As an Opposition party, you can take pride in the spirited and decisive stands taken by the BJP for many years. But there comes a time, when the top brass has to make way for a new leadership – somebody who can steer the party in the new millennium.
You took it to the top; now let someone take the responsibility to take it ahead and challenge the resurgent Congress. Don’t get conned by Rajnath and the rest when they say that they need you to stay back; they are just too scared to elect a new leader, in the midst of the expected infighting (sycophancy is also no longer only a Congress prerogative). Fortunately, like Mr. Rahul and Priyanka, you have not warmed the seat for Jayant or Pratibha to take over the mantle – democracy is still an integral component of the Left and the Right in India.
In 1996, when the youth and the middle class started believing and looking at the BJP as a credible National Alternative, they saw the party as a party with a difference. Leaders like Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and a large number of leaders in their prime constituted the second rung of the party and initiated a wave of popularity for the party among people, who were tired of being ruled by a family that considered itself the natural family for governance in India.
However, now when I look at the party, I ask myself where is the leadership? Where is the second rung? Scores of septa and octogenarians preside over the party and this is the party that is supposed to represent the youth???? Demagogues like Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitley are intellectuals but they do not have any electoral presence – a mass leader like Atalji acted as that bridge between the public and your various think tanks.
For a media savvy party like the BJP, it seemed incomprehensible that your strategy has backfired twice in a row. Campaigning as a strong leader and Loh Purush may be fine but pitting yourself against a non-electoral entity like Manmohan Singh as an election strategy was probably not such a bright idea (in hindsight, I must admit). Manmohanji is only a professional CEO who is running the company that has been given to him by the owners of the company and one fine day, he will be asked to step down so that the younger Gandhi takes over (The Congress would like to call it the ‘natural transition’).
Did people vote for development as most analysts claim? Maybe many just were tired of the Third/Fourth/Fifth….Nth party props who were working for their own interests and wanted a stable single party at the top. So, all the nth party losses were absorbed by the Congress while you stood helplessly at the deck seeing the NDA sinking gradually and then, so much more rapidly later on.
Your future candidate for PM is supposedly Narendra Modi – a man whose ability to polarize votes is probably greater than his ability to bring in votes (something tells me that people like you and Atalji are yourselves not too comfortable with the Modi brand of politics). In an era of coalitions, it will be difficult for you to sell this man as your unanimous leader; after all, even your close friends are a bit wary of him.
The Congress made significant gains in West Bengal and the South and the anti-Congress votes went to other splintered groups and you made practically no headway there despite the people voting to give a mandate to a National Party. For a National Party, you need to figure out how you can break through the Southern regional citadels – something that you did in Karnataka, surprising many. It is still a surprise to me why the BJP is non-existent in a state like Kerala, where the RSS has such a strong presence?
TN and AP represent huge electoral blocks where the BJP has no sway at all – not something that a party which strives to win Delhi can afford to do. People junked the Commies in WB and Kerala and voted for what they believed was the next option and you do not feature in even the Top-3 of that list. Time to think about that.
Hope you stand by your decision to quit the scene and spend quality time with your family that has been with you throughout many such difficult periods. You could still be the Chief Mentor like NRN is in Infosys- but give the reins of the party to a new and younger group that has a Vision – India needs not just a strong government but a robust constructive Opposition too.
P.S. The 2009 Election was a watershed because of the kind of results it threw in, surprising pollsters and psephologists. Possibly, no one understood the ground realities and did not realize what was happening; but this is also because of simplistic general assumptions made by most analysts. Voters do not vote en masse – please stop looking at us like a homogeneous group that votes for a party on grounds of regional/caste/religious considerations only.