Disclaimer : I am not writing in support of any political party. These are just my views based on analysis of one party over last 3-4 years trying to give constructive criticism. Shortly I would be coming up with another blog about the opposition party as well.
The BJP has a unique cocktail of voter bases. They are all right wing, but differ in the degree to which they are so. There are three main types. The first is the Extreme Right (ER). This is the hardcore ‘Hindus are the best, screw the rest’ category. These include the Karni Sena types. These voters may secretly say ‘only Modi can keep Muslims in check’ or ‘women should be fully covered’. Some call them ‘The Fringe’. This fringe is a solid chunk of the BJP’s support base. Sure, only a few engage in the actual violence or make loony statements in public. However, the number of people mentally nodding their heads and saying ‘sahi baat hai’ to them runs into millions. The ER is a fantastic set of voters. They don’t think much. They feel. Once voters can be swayed by emotion, they are easier to manipulate. The BJP laps them up as they come in hordes, take Lord Ram’s name and press the lotus button.
The second set of BJP voters are the Liberal Right (LR), or the Aspirational India voter. These are the educated ones, who need jobs, GDP growth, economic activity and opportunities. They want a government that can give them that. They also want modern values like freedom — to date, drink, marry whoever they want. They want an India they can be proud of. More than anything, they want more money in their pocket. The LR are in fact the economically right-wing voters. They can be college students, doctors, lawyers, MBAs and of course, don’t forget the stereotypical ‘software programmer’ type. The coding guys who want to tell their US friends that India is doing well.
The third category is the Middle Right (MR), who lie somewhere in the centre. They harbour a certain sense of Hindu entitlement — Hindus being in majority — but they won’t get violent over it. They also want economic growth, although they aren’t sure about the freedom aspects that younger, educated Indians want. These are the small and medium businessmen and government servants. Many ‘Sanghis’ fall in this category. The MR are somewhat passive, hugely loyal and the biggest chunk of the BJP’s support base.
Here’s the thing. The BJP needs all three to win 2019. If one group slips, BJP loses. During L K Advani’s time, it had the ER and MR, but not the LR. Hence, the BJP lost. In 2014, however, it discovered the perfect glue to bring all three together — Modi.
All of them, from the Karni Sena to the RSS uncle to the software programmer, loved the idea of Hindu resurgence that the new regime promised. The ER, MR and LR live in peace most of the time. Sometimes, they want things the other group doesn’t want, and that’s okay. The software programmer type may love to see Modi in Davos. It doesn’t really matter to the Karni Sena. Similarly, the ER may want a temple in Ayodhya, the LR don’t really care.
However, sometimes there is a problem. Trouble brews when agendas clash between these groups, particularly the ER and LR. That’s when the BJP gets a massive headache. That’s what happened in the Padmaavat drama. The Karni Sena protested against the movie. The BJP, not wanting to annoy its ER base, looked the other way. The Karni Sena went on a rampage, even scaring a bus full of school kids. That’s where the LR began to panic (as would any sane person). After all, software programmers may want Hindu pride, but not mobs scaring their kids. As the LR watched the ER go out of control, and the BJP doing little, they began to get nervous.
For the party, this is worrisome. The last thing BJP wants is to be seen as the BJP under Advani. It needs the ER, but also the LR.
So what is the party to do? It’s always going to be a tightrope walk. However, in the case of Padmaavat, the Karni Sena was given too much slack. From a moral and legal standpoint, it should have been quelled much earlier. Politically, the party came dangerously close to a major blunder. Had the mob violence led to lives being lost or people getting hurt, things could have gone out of control. The BJP should have acted faster. It needs to know which ‘fringe’ act is just empty noise, and which one can become a national-level blowup. It did act finally. The censors cleared the film. The courts supported it too. However, looking back, it could have been handled better.
The BJP’s three bases are still somewhat intact. However, the LR are nervous. The party needs to check the fringe on a war footing. It not only makes India unsafe, but also shakes the BJP’s own foundation. It should remember its base is no longer just the Karni Sena. It is also the software programmers.