(Those who take us on, will be smashed into smithereens.)
This used to be a popular slogan during the Ram Janmabhoomi days. What sounded like nineties bluster is the stark reality of today. The Tsunamo of 2019 has left a trail of destruction. Parties have been cut to size. Leaders have been blown away. Political theories have been trashed. Arithmetic equations have been wiped out. All that remains of the opposition is a crashed plane of punctured egos.
Rahul Gandhi has had the shock of his life. Mamata has been spooked. Mayawati has gone silent. Akhilesh is still scratching his head in disbelief. Kejriwal has nowhere to hide. Chandrababu Naidu’s goose has been cooked. The Left is on ventilator. Only a handful of regional parties have salvaged their pride. For all practical purposes, we don’t have a national opposition party.
The Congress has scored 0 seats in 17 states. And its national vote share has remained stagnant at 19%. Filled with dynasts, and headed by the dynast of dynasts, the party looks unlikely to do anything radical to alter its electoral fortunes.
That brings us to the other five so-called national parties. With the threat of BJP looming large, Trinamool will struggle to stay in power in Bengal. The BSP has relinquished its national footprint and is happy being a Jatav party in Uttar Pradesh. NCP has one foot in the grave and is likely to vanish once Sharad Pawar hangs his boots. CPI and CPI(M) are in a state of terminal decline. AAP has been reduced to a joke. No one else seems to have the mojo to go national. The future looks bleak.
Enter a New Idea
Scaling into a national party is not so easy. Even the Election Commission assigns that tag only if a party wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three different states. That’s classic chicken-and-egg because setting up base in three states takes a hell a lot of resources, and you attract resources only when you taste success in a couple of states. The steep entry barrier is the reason why many have stayed away. So, are we stuck with the available options? We think not.
The super success of the BJP has opened up a new window of opportunity. The ascendancy of the rightist narrative has thrown up an exciting possibility. What if, the BJP were to launch a NEW brand to fill the need gap of a national opposition party. A new right-wing party that’s similar in values and yet the polar opposite of the Lotus guys.
But is there a space for another right-wing party?
The people who pose such questions should examine India’s political horizon. Till 1991, for 44 years, we remained a socialist/leftist country. Barring the Swatantra Party, nearly everyone swore by socialism. Even the BJP in its formative years cited Gandhian Socialism as one of its core ideologies. The true winds of change for rightist thinking was ushered in by Narasimha Rao with his ground breaking economic reforms. Thanks to him, ‘Deregulation, privatisation, and free market’ were given a business class upgrade. And that old cliché ‘Hindu rate of growth’ was retired for good.
Culturally, it was BJP that changed the game. The Ayodhya movement transformed the way we understood secularism. From an irreligious state, we became a nation that respects all religions. Particularly, the majority religion that made secularism possible.
The many recent temple runs by Rahul Gandhi, the open recitation of shlokas by Mamata Banerjee, the ‘we are not anti-Hindu’ statements by atheism-loving DMK, all point towards a paradigm shift: India is now unapologetically rooted to its Hindu past. Clearly, the needle has swung from Nehru’s Socialism-Hued India to Modi’s Saffron-Tinged Bharat.
Despite the polity taking a distinctive right turn, nearly 55 of the 59 registered parties in India still have a leftist streak. There’s a need for a reboot. We need more right-wing parties offering newer shades of possibilities.
Why should BJP even bother.
The BJP has already touched 37% vote share. Looking at the current state of the opposition, one can safely surmise that Modi & Shah in auto pilot mode are capable of breaking new ground in Odisha, West Bengal, Telengana, and Andhra, by the next general elections. Which means even 45% is not out of reach. But historically speaking, the highest vote share ever achieved by an individual party is 48.2% (Congress, 1984). So potentially, after 2024, BJP might hit the plateau. And if things don’t go well, it might be back to the levels of pre-2004.
How does one increase cumulative vote share even if things go south? The science of marketing offers an elegant solution to this problem. The solution lies in brand cannibalisation.
Brand cannibalisation is the art of thriving in a chaotic world. It’s about launching an iPad when you have an already successful iPhone. It’s about eating your own market share to avoid losing it to someone else. It’s about innovating to stay relevant to your customer, no matter what.
Cannibalisation is best practiced by astute marketers. In the hands of rank amateurs, it could end up hurting the mothership. Big brands across the world have benefitted from it. Some have failed too. But the pluses are more than minuses.
Modi & Shah are two of the finest political marketers. Brand cannibalisation could add one more weapon to their armoury. If played well, it could be the Chiranjeevi mantra (immortality secret) for the right wing in India.
Why BJP needs a new brand.
BJP knows what it takes to be in the opposition. They’ve been there longest. From 1951 to 1996, they warmed the benches, surviving defeat after defeat. The knowhow that BJP has accumulated could easily be bottled and sold for billions. All we are saying is, it could be put to better use to create a new opposition party in India. An opposition party that’s in sync with the RSS ideology of ‘Nation First, Self Last’. And yet, different from BJP.
The BJP works with severe constraints it has set for itself. ‘One Nation, One Culture, One Language’ is a great concept but in a rich tapestry like ours with a hundred cultures and a thousand tongues, it can hit a wall. Little wonder then BJP has always found it difficult to breach states like Tamilnadu and Kerala.
Another handicap that BJP works with is the Swadeshi Jagran Manch clique who act as speed breakers to big ticket economic reform.
One more problem plaguing the BJP is that many moderate leaders are getting squeezed out by the influx of saffron sadhus and yogis. The talent pool of moderates can be harnessed to create a new political start-up.
A start-up that’s more pluralistic, federalistic, and liberalistic.
Unveiling a lighter shade of saffron.
Imagine a saffron party that doesn’t dictate what you eat, how you dress, and whom you pray to. Imagine a nationalist party that believes in competing with China than frittering away energies on Pakistan. Imagine a patriotic party that doesn’t insist on issuing anti-national certificates. Imagine a pro-states party that wants the office of governorship to be eliminated. Imagine a Pan-India party that’s equally proud of Hindi and every other language birthed in India. Imagine a youth party that talks of jobs, growth, and tech as passionately as Ayodhya, Mathura, and Kashi. Now imagine such a party being floated by BJP to ensure a Congress-Mukt Bharat.
Unveiling Jai Bharat.
What if BJP sets up a new opposition party called Jai Bharat. JB will be a youth movement than a typical political party. It will be a crowd-funded party with talent and leadership provided by the BJP. The board of governors will be from the RSS and leading figures who reflect the values of Jai Bharat.
Jai Bharat will be empowered to compete with BJP and every other political party during elections. It will be a future-facing organisation with the mandate to go international.
Jai Bharat will be a celebration of all things India. The Equal symbol (=) will notate what it stands for. Parity for all languages, all regions, all states, all castes, and all genders will be the brand story.
Jai Bharat will fight for an equally empowered rural India. The disabled will matter as much as the abled. The under privileged, no less than the privileged.
Jai Bharat will be proud of its Hindu heritage and all the beautiful contributions made by other religions to the indic culture.
Jobs, Advancement & Innovation (JAI) will be the three growth pillars of the party. The character of JB will change in each state. In Maharashtra, it will espouse ‘Jai Maharashtra, Jai Bharat’. In Tamilnadu, ‘Jai Tamilnadu, Jai Bharat’.
Economically, Jai Bharat will be for minimum government, and maximum privatisation.
Jai Bharat will initially be driven by volunteers loaned from the RSS and moderate leaders from the BJP. The party will be open to young, exciting talent from other parties.
Over a period of time, Jai Bharat will franchise its brand to other countries. There can be a Jai Lanka, Jai Pakistan, Jai Maldives and even a Jai America.
If the Aam Aadmi Party can take a state in 1 year, surely a start-up seeded by the RSS and BJP can do better. Especially when every other opposition party seems to have given up.
Jai Bharat has potential. Are the saffron men up to it?
DISCLOSURE: The author is partly rightist, partly wrongist. He’s an incorrigible supporter of dark horses, underdogs and no-hoper ideas.