BJP looks for more allies, woos Muslims to reinvent self

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Once it was called a party with a difference. Historically, the BJP and its predecessor/associated outfits gained strength in India as an alternative to the Congress, which is quite unlike several other parties that dot the nation's political landscape. But today, quite ironically, it is trying to win more allies and even wooing Muslims.

From just two MPs in the early 1980s, the BJP and RSS associates like the VHP went on adding to their strength in India's heartland, thanks to a brilliant utilisation of religious symbolism that succeeded in shaping public opinions decisively in its favour.


The party skillfully built on the Congress's gradual decay in several parts of the country and the disappearance of Indira Gandhi and soft communal card played by her successor Rajiv Gandhi gave a golden opportunity to the saffron party to spread its wings. The BJP's remarkable growth in the early 1990s (the party did exceedingly well in the 1991 elections) had given birth to a new dimension in Indian politics then.

BJP's formula to grow will not work today

The equation was simple for the saffron party: The Congress can not overtly play a communal card for it has been known as a secular party since the days of Gandhis and Nehrus. In terms of economic ideology, there was nothing new that the BJP could do for given the closed economy and the pre-liberal mindset prevailing at that time, economic nationalism did not have a ready alternative. Hence, the only way out for the BJP to prove that it was different from the decaying Congress was to promote an identity politics based on Hindutva.

Hindutva has lost its edge

But this very advantage of the BJP has also been one of its main disadvantage. The party, although, succeeded in drawing upper castes and backward classes in its fold, it could not mobilise the SCs and STs as per its expectation while the minority vote-bank always remained an alien territory for the party.

The vacuum created as a result of the Congress's decay in a key state like Uttar Pradesh has been filled up more by Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party and not the BJP. The saffron party has not reaped the benefit of Hindutva much in the recent years in UP, even though it may sound paradoxical. Today's changed socio-economic circumstances have also reduced the appeal of Hindutva to the common people.

Economic Policy: BJP will also go the same way

In the post-liberalisation era too, the BJP knows very well that opposing globalisation, despite calls for economic nationalism, will bear no fruit. The NDA government had opted for liberal measures during its days in power in the late 1990s and early 2000s and no matter how much the current main opposition party slam the Congress-led UPA over FDI in retail or diesel price hike, it will follow the same route if they win the next election and come to power again.

With the once-sharp weapon called Hindutva losing its edge, it became difficult for the BJP to find a common cause to hold its organisation strong. During the Vajpayee era, the moderate leadership gave the party a popularity although even that could not save it from facing a defeat in the 2004 polls.

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