The Undead of the BJP
If you are in Mumbai right now, you would see lots of posters of the late Pramod Mahajan on the roads. The posters have been put up in context of Mahajan's 60th birth anniversary. What hits you however is that Mahajan's party the BJP still has to rely on the past glory of the late leader to claim a stand in Maharashtra. This is indicative of the state of the party in the whole country.
When it comes to a larger pan India appeal, the BJP has to rely on the now faded charisma of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. It is a party that has to still talk about the rousing speeches Vajpayee made, the Indo-Pak relationship under BJP rule, Pokhran, Kandahar and everything that happened in its five year rule or before that. But as for the last few years that it has been out of power, the party has little to say about making much of a difference in any national debate.
Even in its hey day, the BJP had struggled with a second rung leadership. Most of its charismatic second generation leaders were leaders without a mass appeal, getting elected through the Rajya Sabha and appealing mostly to an elite, educated class that hardly votes. One of the reasons cited for the 2004 defeat was the disconnect that the party had with the 'aam aadmi' which has traditionally been the Congress' mainstay.
But what has further worsened the situation is that the rest of the second rung has quit or been asked to quit the party for various reasons. The only powerful and still-not-in-hospital national leader, L K Advani's leadership itself has been questioned several times. BJP's poster boy Narendra Modi was supposed to be a strong contender at one point of time, but the Godhra blotch has permanently stained his career progress. Who then will the country look forward to? Surely not a Varun Gandhi who comes across just as an angry youngster with no track record. The other options are children of remaining stalwarts, but the BJP doesn't have the kind of pedigree that the Congress has maintained in the last century or more. When the remaining leaders themselves seem to lack mass appeal, how can you depend on their children?
One might say that the country's oldest party, the Congress has also always relied on past glory and that too of only a particular family. The Congress too had gone through a phase when they had no prominent leaders and no new blood. That was the time that BJP and various alliances had cashed in on. But the Congress has now reversed the situation. The party now attracts young leaders and seems to strike a chord with masses because it seems to be talking about something to do in the future in addition to blowing the trumpet of the past. Rahul Gandhi may not be a great leader yet, but many people have changed their opinion about him as they see the effort he is making in travelling across the country. Of course, it may all be for show, they say, but the effort seems to count. At the same time look at BJP, they still have to rely on only Advaniji to travel across the country to deliver the party's message. And Advaniji and his cronies only seem to be saying 'Those were the days my friend'. And hence though the Congress hasn't done wonderfully well, the party still wins, simply because the other option doesn't even catch the voter's imagination. Maybe the BJP should take lessons from Congress on how they bounced back post the Narsimha Rao era and how they consolidated their position further in the last few years. Alas, most BJP leaders seem to be sitting and waiting for the day to come back into power, rather than thinking of ways to earn it back.