In the last one year the Bharatiya Janata Party has experienced both exciting highs and depressing lows. From being seen as a party that was pro-growth and pro-reforms, the BJP is now struggling to fight off the perception that it is anti-poor and anti-farmer. The dividing line was always thin, and now it has definitively been crossed. After the spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha election in May last, the party did extremely well in Assembly elections that followed in 2014. But it tripped in the Delhi election and is now struggling to contain rising opposition to the changes it has proposed in the Land Bill. The national executive meeting of the party in Bengaluru was thus an opportunity to reassess its own performance in government and identify the reasons for both its successes and failures. Unmistakably, the honeymoon period for the Narendra Modi government is well and truly over: new promises are not enough to retain support when old ones have not been kept. The challenge for Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah was to devise a strategy to retain the support of an increasingly impatient core group of the party with the Hindutva cultural nationalist project as the agenda, and to live up to the expectations of the new converts who were hoping the government would deliver on the promise of jobs and growth and better living standards.
Between the Lok Sabha victory and the Delhi loss, the BJP tied up with the Peoples Democratic Party in J&K, agreeing to status quos and compromises on issues such as Article 370 that have alienated its supporters in the rest of the country. Also, on several occasions Mr. Modi and his senior Ministers had to intervene to rein in some of the fringe elements and junior Ministers who were indulging in hate speech and communally divisive propaganda. All these did not go down very well with the core Hindutva elements in the party and the government, who were hoping to have a free run as the BJP had a majority on its own. And, while the government intended the changes to the Land Bill as pro-business measures, these were viewed as efforts to marginalise the rural poor and the small farmer. The national executive was thus focussed on correcting the perceptions through closer coordination between the party and the government. Party forums are important sources of feedback and assessment for any government. But like the government, the BJP too seems to have lost touch with the people on some crucial issues. The national executive seems to have identified the problem. The solution, however, does not lie in a propaganda blitzkrieg but in performance.
The Hindu Editorial