REENGINEERING OF BJP
In the past few years, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not had a single major electoral success. The results of the recent elections in four states have been just one more in the setbacks that the party has been experiencing. At one time BJP used to have a slogan " AAJ CHAR PRADESH, KAL POORA DESH" (Today we rule in four states, tomorrow we shall rule the complete country). Times have changed. Today BJP rules in just three states (Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkand) and the centre. The party is acutely aware that it is going downhill rather than being on the ascendant. The sentiment today is "AAJ CHAR SARKAR, KAL HONGE BEKAR " (Today we have four governments, tomorrow we may be unemployed).
The despondency in BJP is not without reason. The party's Governments in the three states are not the most popular governments. The performance of the Central Government may be classified as good or bad depending on one's political loyalties. But not even the most loyal BJP supporter is confident of being able to win the next general election on the strength of the performance of the Central Government.
While there may be arguments about the performance of the Government, there can be no arguments about the fact that the Government is led by aging leaders who are on the wrong side of seventy. Would the septuagenarians be able to lead the party through the elections even after they have become octogenarians? Possibly, yes. The more important question is whether they should.
There can be no doubt that the old men controlling BJP today have sacrificed their lives and have built the party to the level to which it has reached. The party has in fact grown around them. They basked in the glory when they took the party up the hill. Is it fair to blame them when the party seems to be going downhill? No, surely no one in the party can even dream of pointing a finger in their direction.
Each of these leaders enjoys a God like status in the eyes of his supporters in the party. One can neither question God nor question His creation. So the party is constrained to look at everyone else. Infighting is blamed for the debacle. Groupism among party cadres is blamed. Anti-incumbency factor is quoted. Inability to do propaganda about the good work done by the Government is cited as a reason. Non-cooperative attitude of media and bureaucracy are favourite scapegoats. Some jugglery with figures about voting percentage and vote division in combination with criticism of the first-past-the-post system completes the analysis of every defeat of BJP.
Such analysis of defeat has been heard again and again year after year at all the "Sameeksha Baithaks" (Review meetings) that are convened in various states by the party. It is time that the party moved beyond such routine exercises. It is time that the party invites and gets prepared for some uncomfortable questions. Was it Einstein who said that asking the right question is half the answer? The party badly needs people who can ask the right questions.
But before that the first question is whether the party has any such people among its own "disciplined" cadre. Least likely. The party needs ruthless iconoclastic critics who will look at its structure, leaders, policies, systems, members, performance, programmes, in fact at everything connected with the party. No organization, whether in the political field or in the field of business, normally has such critics within its members. In the field of business and industry, there are consultants who specialize in reengineering of organizations. Unfortunately, there are no such consultants in the market for political parties. BJP will have to either discover someone capable of acting as such a consultant or else create someone who can fulfill this responsibility.
As and when BJP can find someone to act as "Reengineering Consultant", BJP will have to give a brief to the consultant. The brief may ask the consultant to inter alia look at the following points:
The above list of questions is not exhaustive. The consultant and the party may add any number of questions. However, the key to the success of the exercise will lie in the ability of the party to accept the outcome of uncomfortable questions. Any reengineering exercise involves breaking of the old before the new can be created. Needless to say that this is not without pain. More often than not, reengineering is like a surgery without anesthesia. Yet, it must be carried out because at the end of it, the organization emerges stronger and healthier.
The problem with such a painful exercise is that normally organizational managers cannot order something that may recommend themselves to be sacked. In companies that are going downhill, it is rarely the Chief Executive Officer who can order for a reengineering expert to analyze, dissect and recommend. The initiative for an overhaul normally comes from the owners or shareholders who are concerned about falling returns on their investments. In case of BJP, one wonders who is the real owner of the party. Is it the Sangh pariwar (RSS clan)? Is it the large number of members (real and fictitious) spread across the country? Is it everyone who has supported, funded or voted for the party in the past? Is it the country as a whole? The question can be answered in a number of ways depending on the way one looks at it. But there can be no doubt that the leaders who are currently controlling the affairs of the party are only managers and are not its owners.
The fact is that in BJP, unlike the Congress, there is no one who can act as the owner of the party. The Nehru-Gandhi family viewed Congress as a personal property and brought about revolutionary changes within the party from time to time. Established groups and leaders have been often overthrown and new blood, new talent promoted. This is not to argue for dynastic rule. But one must admit that dynastic rule, combined with a relentless pursuit of exploits of power has once again catapulted Congress into positions of power in almost half the states of India. Probably, the strength of BJP has become its weakness.
Internal democracy and absence of dynastic rule has been a strength of BJP. However, this has also meant that there are no owners who can order for ruthless surgery and if needed amputation. This is the greatest challenge before BJP today. Will its leaders have the courage to sign up for something that will herald the death of all that is due to die or will they instead let the party die? The challenge is also for all those who support the party ideologically, financially and physically. Will they push their sick friend into the hospital or will they keep entertaining their dear friend with fruits, flower and music unto his last breath?
The answers to these questions will determine not just the future of BJP, but also the future of Indian polity. Best wishes to those who are ready to catch the bull by the horn and apologies to all those who like to always talk sweet.
27 February 2002
Please write to me your comments about the above article.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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