April 6, 2015 12:00:23 am
At the BJP national executive in Bangalore, the party spoke loud and long about the need to explain the amendments the Narendra Modi government seeks to make in the land acquisition bill to farmers and the people, and to spread the message that the poor are at the centre of its policies. This will be a challenging task at a time when parties of the opposition, still to recover from the setback in the Lok Sabha polls, are trying to use the land acquisition controversy to get off the backfoot, galvanise their own ranks. Certainly, the land acquisition issue promises, or threatens, to be a crucial political flashpoint. But that it seemed to virtually take over the agenda in an important conclave of the ruling party that is still, despite the Delhi setback, riding its overwhelming 2014 mandate, calls attention to some notable BJP silences and evasions in Bangalore.
One, on the issue of land acquisition itself, the BJP’s emphasis on taking the issue to the people seemed too often to convey the impression that it seeks to do so in order to bypass or vault over the objections of opposition parties. The rhetoric of “Congress-mukt Bharat”, last prominent in the election campaign, was back. This reflects poorly on a party of government — not just because its decisive victory in the Lok Sabha election should make the BJP more accommodative of and generous towards its opponents’ concerns, but also because its more insecure footing in the Rajya Sabha means that such outreach is not just the call of the democratic spirit but also a strategic and tactical necessity. Two, there appeared to be little or no conversation in Bangalore about the need for the party and government to address minority insecurities, most recently articulated by distinguished members of the Christian community.
Former Punjab DGP Julio Ribeiro, who helped the nation win the battle against terrorism in the state, wrote in this paper about feeling “on a hit list”. Since then, former navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar and two Supreme Court judges, who protested against the holding of a conference of judges on Good Friday, have expressed similar concerns. How the government proposes to address this serious and sensitive issue, whether the party will undertake a communication drive, as on the land bill, to assuage anxieties — the Bangalore deliberations offered no clue.
Three, while the BJP in Bangalore congratulated itself for its winning streak since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it did not pause to undertake a serious stocktaking of the Delhi defeat. The setback in the national capital, it is true, does not take away from its serial victories, but an open questioning may have yielded some answers on conundrums that will come up again, in Bihar for instance, like this one: Can the party continue to rely upon Modi’s charisma even in states where it is ranged against a strong local leadership?
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Lastly, the silence of L.K. Advani in Bangalore made itself heard apart from the party’s silences. The party that has remade itself under the Modi-Shah leadership must know that the message sent out by the missing customary speech to the national executive by the veteran is a reproach and a question mark against its claim to inner-party cohesion and calm.
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