(Dr Pentapati Pullarao*)
New brooms sweep clean goes the old saying. The newly appointed State BJP President Kanna Lakshmi Narayan is quite active ,but faces a major challenge in reviving BJP in Andhra Pradesh. In 2014, the BJP with its Modi image was a much sought after ally. The TDP tried very hard to win it over then. Due to differences, the TDP and BJP had a bitter parting. Now the BJP faces a challenge not only from the enemy TDP but also has lost its original goodwill in Andhra Pradesh.
One has to admit that the new BJP President is a major political leader and has his own base and knows all the tactics of politics. Lakshm Narayan also belongs to a major social group and has been a successful MLA for many terms . One of the major dangers Lakshmi Narayana faces is that the BJP in Andhra had its own culture and the domination of some castes. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah expanded the base and tried to strengthen the BJP. But the fact that the TDP was against a strong BJP left them helpless. Hence the state BJP lost 4 years time.
The state BJP was happy in that it got 2 MPs and also 2 of its MLAs became Ministers. Those who became Ministers never in their wildest dreams thought they would ever be elected even MLAS ,let alone become ministers .Other leaders became MLCs and got other posts. The fact that such posts were un-imagined promotions in their lives made them un-qualified to tackle their good fortune. Good fortune comes to everyone but very few know how to use it. The state BJP failed to grow in 4 years of prosperity when they were part of Andhra Government and headed Government of India.
The sad part of this situation is that many leaders who got posts like Ministers, etc did not want new strong leaders coming in to the party. Immediately after the 2014 election, a number of senior leaders joined the BJP as they saw that the Congress will never be revived . The great election expert Yogendra Yadav has said : “If a political party gets less than 15% of the vote, then it will surely decline”. In Andhra Pradesh, Congress got 1 % of the vote in 2014. When Congress leaders joined the BJP, they expected positions of honor and also statuary jobs. But the State BJP was under different leadership and they saw to it that not a single new-Entrant got any job.
Amit Shah is a great political manager and he has a theory that either you ally with a party in a state or if that is not possible, then admit leaders with a base. In 2014, during Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Shiv Sena separated from BJP. Immediately, Amit Shah inducted at least 500 major Congress leaders into the BJP and at least 60 of them got MLA tickets and won and some became ministers. Even recently, BJP inducted ex-Chief Minsietr Narayan Rane and gave him a BJP seat. In Rajasthan, an opponent of the BJP and a powerful Gujjar Leader Kirori Lal Meena was given a Rajya sabha seat and made state BJP President last month . But in Andhra Pradesh, due to pressure from original BJP leaders and TDP, Amit Shah avoided pushing BJP growth. Now ,when BJP is out of power in the state and losing popularity, outside leaders are not keen to come to BJP.
The correct strategy for BJP would have been to appoint Mr. Kanna Lakshmi Narayana BJP President and made him a central minister and then ask him to lead. That opportunity has been missed by the BJP. If the BJP had between 10-15% of popularity in2 014, now all experts say it is less than 5%. Therefore, the objective of the state BJP President would be to at least get 10%. That is not an easy figure considering that aside from Telugu Desam , there is the YSR Congress and the new Jana Sena.
Challenges for the Andhra BJP:
- There is a total leadership deficit in the state BJP. Though the BJP was part of the state government for 4 years, it never expanded and never took powerful outside leaders. In fact, traditional BJP leaders stopped new leaders coming in as their own role would be reduced.
- Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have also not been generous in accommodating newcomers from Andhra Pradesh into central positions. Since the Congress declined very much in 2014, if Modi and Amit Shah had assured respect and positions, there would have been a flood to the BJP. But due to internal sabotage by some BJP leaders , newcomers felt unwanted . There is now even the possibility of some BJP leaders moving to other parties.
- The image of Narendra Modi has taken a beating . Poor economic policies like NoteBandi, GST and high taxes and high oil prices have reduced Modi’s image. Narendra Modi was lucky to have low international oil prices for 4 years. That time was wasted and now rising oil prices have created a bad mood. The public is taking a second.
- The difficult election victory in Gujarat, loss in Karnataka, losing many by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and North India has reduced enthusiasm for new entrants. It is a fact that the original BJP leaders might be great orators and dedicated. But they were not charismatic or mass leaders . Of course, the media spokespersons of the BJP are very talented and they manage to hide many failures . Reality is that at the ground level BJP has lost a golden opportunity.
- In the last 4years, the BJP played obedient junior partner to the Telugu Desam . So any achievement is claimed by the TDP and BJP is left with nothing. Moreover, the BJP Ministers were also not adept at improving their base. This has left the BJP with an angry cadre who feel that the Ministers and leaders in power did nothing for them and that the central leadership while enjoying the entire government gave them words and nothing else. The BJP cadre feels that ‘ they were used and thrown “ . That is why there is no enthusiasm amongst the formidable BJP cadre.
How many state BJP workers have been accommodated in Delhi ? A few followers and some castes made it to various posts. But nothing was given to any BJP workers .
Conclusion : If the BJP is able to attract at least 10% of the voters in 2019, then it can help decide who will win in Andhra Pradesh. Public perception will depend on how the BJP now fares in the coming state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and any by-elections. Of course, if the Karnataka government were to fall, then again the BJP will get a boost.
The main sentiment deciding the role of BJP in Andhra Pradesh is whether people of Andhra Pradesh feel if it will come to power in DELHI in 2019. That means, people will watch the role of BJP in other states. Strangely, the growth of BJP will not depend on Andhra BJP leaders but on how Modi and Shah do elsewhere.
If it looks as if the BJP is coming to power again in 2019, then the BJP will gain in Andhra Pradesh . Otherwise, this is one good example of how golden opportunities were wasted by BJP. There is only an angry cadre and disappointed supporters left .
*Dr Pullarao is a noted economist and political commentator