Traditionally, BJP’s strength has been nationalism and Hindutva. Recent events, however, show that opposition is now going out of its way to neutralize these. For example all the national flag waving, anthem singing, etc during the anti-CAA protests by Hinduphobes. These are the same people who used to burn the flag and were rabidly resisting standing up for the anthem in theatres.
They are also matching up the appeal to Hindus with election time temple runs, reciting chalisa etc. This is being called non-toxic Hindutva, whatever that means.
On economy you can’t distinguish BJP from other parties. From the beginning they have been proponents of things like integral humanism, antyodaya, etc. BJP really can’t be called out on that. Because of the extent of poverty in our country, it is not electorally feasible for any party to be truly pro-market like in some Western and Southeast Asian countries.
What can BJP do to distinguish itself from other parties to become attractive to the voters?
Lack of corruption and internal security are really not much of trump cards. These are mostly credited to Narendra Modi and unless he is directly in the contest, they do not even become points of tea shop discussion for the voters. In my opinion, the way out for BJP is to raise the stakes, on economy, on nationalism and on Hindutva.
It’s easy to recite chalisa or go to temples. The real deal is to work on laws that help Hindus, like Modi did with CAA. That one law has exposed the anti-Hindu politics of almost every opposition party. Kejriwal and AAP were smart enough to not go to town in support of Shaheenbagh and Jamia close to elections. But BJP should have put more pressure on Kejriwal to take a definite position publicly on the violent protests at places like Jamia, AMU and Shaheenbagh.
Though relevant to the larger civilizational agenda, #CAA doesn’t effect Indian Hindus directly, or any Indian for that matter. Yet it managed to bring out the Hinduphobes. There are many other laws in our books that directly penalize Hindus for just being Hindus. BJP should up the ante on these issues. Even talking about them will force the hand of opposition. Let’s bring out real Hindutva and see them squirm.
Similarly on economy BJP has to go back to it’s original base, the salaried class and the business class. For 6 years Modi government has focused on the poor, which is absolutely essential. Now is the time to reach out to the middle class. Though in these 6 years there have been many indirect and subtle benefits to the middle class- lower inflation, IT benefits, absence of corruption, etc., there hasn’t been a in your face kind of a dole out that would be remembered for a long time. Rather than giving 5 installments of small benefits, one big bang benefit close to election will have better returns for the party.
I think the assembly elections in Bihar later this year will be the last big disappointment for BJP for sometime. If they strategize well and play the right cards, there are big gains to be made in states like Bengal and Kerala.