Educating Rahul: How the BJP grew

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 17, 2014 13:21 hrs

This is the first of a two-part series - Educating Rahul - in response to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asking Lok Sabha members of other parties to explain the surge of the BJP. It is important to understand this although Rahul Gandhi ought to know by now.

Here is why the BJP has grown so big.

1. The enabling of Narendra Modi: The story of Modi did not begin in 2013 with his General Election campaign. It started in 2002 when the Godhra train-burning and consequent Gujarat riots paralysed the Congress. The party, amazingly, allowed Modi to survive the riots politically which was the worst thing it did. Congressmen in Gujarat began to treat Modi as their leader too. This killed the Congress and ascribed superpowers to Modi. The entire Congress leadership and cadre could've and should have forced Modi to quit in early 2002.

Key takeaway: Don't fiddle, period.

2. Desperation in the ranks: It would've been the end of the BJP if it had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha poll. Modi back in Gujarat, the centre dying in Delhi and the sickness spreading from Delhi to the states. BJP members knew this and they fought with the abandon of the dying. Congress workers sat back in the astounding arrogance that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would eat into the BJP vote and deliver for the Congress. Congressmen didn't work on New India because they thought they were in Old India still. The BJP was starving and awake.

Key takeaway: Stay hungry.

3. Old frenemies pull their weight: The BJP is the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which is often described as India's biggest NGO. The Sangh is not always fond of Modi; the two fought a long and bitter turf war in Gujarat, for instance. But in the election, all 36 RSS wings were told to get the legs into the polling booths. Sleeper cells can be devastating when awake as the RSS proved. The Congress has more than a dozen wings but they slept through the election. The world changed by the time they came to.

Key takeaway: Watch the flanks.

4. Thinking ahead: Raj Nath Singh is number two in the Modi ministry because they had worked it out a year ahead ? when the BJP and the RSS were locked in a titanic effort to agree on the path ahead. Oldtimers in the BJP and some RSS seniors didn't want Modi at the helm. Raj Nath wanted his share. They slogged before, not after. Ministry-making was thus barely a challenge after the victory. The Congress could easily have chosen a new team as well. They laughed it off. Their radar was askew; they didn't know where they were headed to.

Key takeaway: Read the use by date.

5. Risk-taking of new investors: It is important to have rich friends in politics. MK Gandhi had many; even Sonia Gandhi had a few for seven years. They bring in the big money which allows for big moves. Modi made new friends, the Congress hurt old ones. Businessmen like to be talked to. Silence makes them nervous. They then start to take risks, like they did by backing the Modi campaign. None of the Congress rightwing biggies could generate campaign money. Losing the haves can be worse than losing the have-nots.

Key takeaway: Please the big fish.

6. Overseas Indians: Rough estimates suggest that nearly half the NRIs backed Modi and a little less than half the AAP. The Congress had virtually no overseas friends although it was the party with the most until a few years ago. There were no big ticket Congress events outside India, for instance. The alienation is such that Sikh groups filed cases against Sonia Gandhi on flimsy grounds. The BJP and the AAP worked the channels and raised funds. Modi is big where there are Gujaratis outside India, which is everywhere.

Key takeaway: Keep in touch.

These are some key reasons why the BJP got 17.17 crore votes overall and more than a crore each in seven states. This is why the Congress managed 10.7 crore votes in all and more than a crore each in just two states.

The Congress changed the history of the world. It brought down the biggest ? and last ? empire in the world in the 1940s. Its spectacular 25-year run leading to 15 August 1947 is the best in modern global political history.

Such a legacy ought not to be wasted as the person at the helm wanders in search for answers. In some ways Rahul Gandhi is better than, say, Arvind Kejriwal. Rahul Gandhi doesn't seem to lie, for instance. He may be slow but he is not a liar, on available evidence.

He needs to get moving. Hopefully, he'll find some clarity soon.

More from the author:

Delhi diary: The book that Narendra Modi killed

10 things Indians can do without Narendra Modi

10 things that can get the Aam Aadmi Party back on track

The scary BJP work ethic Modi should change

Modi beware: All Indian politicians end in failure

10 things I support Narendra Modi on

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at

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