Up­grad­ing the Soft­ware

The rise of a new BJP is the big, quiet, po­lit­i­cal change now tak­ing place

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Pranab Dhal Sa­manta

The Cab­i­net re­jig is the next most awaited po­lit­i­cal event in New Delhi. And yet, it doesn’t seem to ex­cite much. This is largely be­cause the out­come of any change here is fairly pre­dictable in a sta­ble gov­ern­ment. Ex­cept that it would be wrong to sur­mise this to be an ab­sence of change.

Con­ven­tional po­lit­i­cal logic al­ways puts the spot­light on the Cab­i­net, its com­po­si­tion, who’s in, who’s out. And the va­lid­ity of that ex­er­cise is by no means ir­rel­e­vant. But surely, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the most ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tor of the power shift in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal con­text.

Let’s face it. Just be­ing a Cab­i­net mantri isn’t a free ride to po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity in to­day’s BJP. Which is why it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand what’s re­ally hap­pen­ing and where ex­actly the site of the shift is.

The gov­ern­ment has worn a fa­mil­iar look through the past three years and is un­likely to al­ter much. The real churn has ac­tu­ally been hap­pen­ing in the party, where new faces with fresh tal­ent have been try­ing their hands at al­most ev­ery­thing: from im­pact­ful event or­gan­i­sa­tion, mem­ber­ship drives, to us­ing big-data an­a­lyt­ics and re­defin­ing tra­di­tional elec­tion man­age­ment.

Given that both Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah took over with al­most zero loy­alty bag­gage, it didn’t re­ally mat­ter down the line who was in which camp. The po­lit­i­cal up­heaval of 2014 cre­ated an un­ex­pected lev­elplay­ing field, where any­one with po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion and tal­ent was in with a chance.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Congress was the party more fa­mil­iar with such pe­ri­odic churn — iron­i­cally, due to the na­ture of dy­nas­tic lead­er­ship. So, each time, a new mem­ber of the Nehru-Gandhi fam­ily pre­pared to take over, new op­por­tu­ni­ties showed up be­cause old loy­al­ties could never be fully in­her­ited.

In fact, one wit­nessed this phase for that brief pe­riod be­tween the 2009 gen­eral elec­tions and the 2012 Uttar Pradesh as­sem­bly polls, when Rahul Gandhi, rid­ing a high, was seen back­ing new tal­ent along with next-gen­er­a­tion lead­ers from known po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies. How­ever, that was too lit­tle, too pa­tro­n­is­ing when com­pared to the clean slate Modi and Shah rep­re­sented in 2014.

Sea­son1, Episode 2

Through the last three years, this open field has now taken shape into a ro­bust po­lit­i­cal ma­chine with new faces, new lead­ers and work­ers who rep­re­sent the new BJP. And that changes a few things when one talks of any kind of re­jig in 2017.

The rise of a new BJP is re­ally the big po­lit­i­cal change. This es­sen­tially means a grad­ual takeover by a new class of politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal work­ers. What’s to be watched is the in­ter­nal yard­stick of judg­ing and pro­mot­ing this new tal­ent. Will pro­fessed mer­i­toc­racy give way to po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age, caste loy­al­ties and elec­toral math­e­mat­ics?

In pol­i­tics, it will al­ways be a mix of this and that. But the chal­lenge be­fore the BJP lead­er­ship will be to ap- pear cred­i­ble in mak­ing these choices, to en­sure it still re­mains the best mag­net for po­lit­i­cal tal­ent. On the other hand, this is ex­actly the junc­ture where the Op­po­si­tion will hope for the BJP to make a false move or two that could stoke dis­gruntle­ment.

While win­ning elec­tions pro­vides a won­der­ful mo­men­tum that can cloak all dis­en­chant­ment in its tide, it also con­tin­ues to raise ex­pec­ta­tions among per­form­ers at all lev­els. Ei­ther way, it’s clear that a new BJP is rock­et­ing up the ranks and that, in turn, puts to rest two ba­sic ar­gu­ments about the BJP, which its own lead­ers ar­gued un­til re­cently.

First, that the BJP has a tal­ent deficit. While any­one can still make this ar­gu­ment by way of pro­file com­par­isons with the Congress, it can no longer be sus­tained po­lit­i­cally. The tal­ent within the BJP is now a proven en­tity, ask­ing for more op­por­tu­nity on the ba­sis of how they have per­formed in tak­ing the party for­ward in the last three years. Rather, the BJP has to al­ter its po­lit­i­cal line to now project a party burst­ing with young tal­ent wait­ing in the wings.

Sec­ond, that a new ‘out­sider’ lead­er­ship is fix­ing a mori­bund BJP. The party is now trans­formed with new faces in­ducted at every level. Shah has re­shaped the unit in his imag­i­na­tion, build­ing a strong cam­paign ef­fort around the Modi im­age and his gov­er­nance model.

Change of Cast

Bot­tom-up, this is very much a new BJP, which ac­tu­ally views Shah at its chief pa­tron, who will en­sure that the san­gathan (or­gan­i­sa­tion) al­ways gets its due in the gov­ern­ment and its re­lated uni­verse.

In other words, a new BJP is tak­ing charge, where a Cab­i­net reshuf­fle or an ex­pan­sion is a mere mile­stone. The truth is that if 2014 rep­re­sented a fun­da­men­tal shift of the cen­tre of gravity of In­dian pol­i­tics, the new BJP in 2017 is the ed­i­fice built around that new core.

Any struc­tural change, ap­point­ment or re­jig from here on will even­tu­ally, and in due course, have to mir­ror this shift.

Be care­ful now, that’s the cadre

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.