A party of one: BJP represents an exception to the Indian rule

Whether it is the dynasty-driven Congress party, the family-run Samajwadi party, or one-person shows like Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) or Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), they all face a stark paradox: how to enforce accountability when you are the most probable cause of your party's problem.

In the face of an ignominious rout at the hands of Narendra Modi in the general elections, the Congress party refused to jettison either Sonia or Rahul, or even question their actions that led to the party’s defeat. There was a hint of the top two dynasts offering to resign, but that turned out to be a red herring. The dynasty will not be held accountable. No one wants to hold them responsible either.

In Uttar Pradesh, where the Modi-led carnage was immense, the Samajwadi Party sacked 36 ministers of state, while Mayawati sent all her party panels at the district and state levels packing. In Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, Karunanidhi heir-apparent who led the party to zero wins, offered to resign and then hastily withdrew it. In the CPI(M), which more or less got wiped out of West Bengal, obtaining the same number of seats as the BJP (two), there wasn’t even a hint of soul-searching within the party, no mea culpa of any sort. The old order continues. The Bengal Communists manage their own affairs and the Kerala Communists run their fiefdom. And party boss Prakash Karat can do nothing about either. He can lay the party’s ideological line, but not ensure accountability.

 A party of one: BJP represents an exception to the Indian rule

Narendra Modi. AFP.

Now consider what would have happened to Narendra Modi if he had led the party to disaster. Would he have survived as the top leader of the party? The knives would have been out the day that happened. In fact, Modi’s rise in 2013 was itself the result of the failure of the Delhi trio – Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and LK Advani – to improve the party’s fortunes after 10 years in opposition, when they got all the opportunities to build the BJP in the back of the Congress party’s self-goals. But they spent time disrupting parliament and playing games of one-upmanship among themselves. Modi’s rise was thus the party’s way of telling the Delhi trio that they didn’t deliver.

The stark truth is that BJP is the rare party where there is some degree of accountability – and the Aam Aadmi Party, which is still new to the game of avoiding responsibility. The rest are simply unable to ensure any kind of accountability whatever be the foibles of the leadership.

This is a dagger planted at the heart of the Indian political system where almost all parties are either run by families (Gandhis, Thackerays, Pawars, the Yadavs of UP and Bihar, Paswans, Badals, Karunanidhis, Jagan Reddy), or solo leaders (Mamata, Naveen Patnaik, Mayawati, Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar).

When you are the sole arbiter of a party’s fortunes, it is downright impossible for you to ensure that blame is apportioned correctly. The buck finally stops with you, the all-powerful leader, but precisely for that reason, you can also duck all responsibility. Which human being will find fault with herself? Nothing illustrates this better than the case of Nitish Kumar, reportedly a democrat. When he led his party to ignominy, he resigned, but only to play games by appointing his own nominee Jitan Ram Manjhi as a kind of proxy. How is this any different from Sonia appointing Manmohan Singh? Or Lalu Prasad nominating his wife Rabri Devi as Bihar CM when he was about to be sent to jail.

What sense does it make for an Akhilesh Yadav to send 36 ministers of state packing when they had nothing to do with his party’s defeat? In seat after seat, even seats with Muslim predominance, his party lost miserably. The various riots that queered the pitch for the Samajwadi Party ought to have been the direct responsibility of Akhilesh himself – but he can’t very well fire himself. He can’t act against the one minister who was supposed to be the party’s Muslim face – Azam Khan – because he is a law unto himself. So Yadav’s impotent rage is directed at 36 ministers of state who had nothing to do with his defeat.

We can say the same about Mayawati’s actions. What did the party’s various panels – all constituted by her – have to do with the party’s poor showing in UP? If anything, her panels were a reflection of her poor ability to select the right people for the right job. Mayawati was the author of the rainbow coalition of Brahmins and Dalits that gave her victory in 2006. This time, Amit Shah one upped her by reclaiming all upper caste votes for the BJP and even eating into her non-Jatav Dalit vote. Can these failures be laid at the doors of those miserable panels Mayawati just dissolved? Absolutely not. They did what she told them to do – but now have to carry the can for her follies.

Lalu Prasad, after promising much with his Congress alliance, came a cropper. His wife and daughter Misa lost miserably to the BJP-LJP alliance. But is anyone going to pay for this mishap? Who will call Lalu out? Not his pusillanimous flock of yes-persons.

Raj Thackeray bit the dust by misreading the public mood. He tied himself in knots by simultaneously railing against the Shiv Sena and rooting for Modi - and drew a blank. But who will tell him his strategy sucked?

The Badals were saved the blushes thanks to the Aam Aadmi Party’s smart showing in Punjab – which divided the anti-incumbency vote. But who will tell old man Prakash Singh Badal that he should quit gracefully when there is time?

The National Conference is nothing without the Abdullahs. They will be around even after several defeats. And so will the Muftis of the PDP.

India’s party system is undemocratic and is rotting at the core. The irony is that the one party that is often accused of being fascist and sectarian is currently the only one that seems capable of correcting itself in defeat. For the rest, defeat is about venting your spleen on innocents.


Updated Date: May 21, 2014 13:33:51 IST