Like in sports, politicians in power must possess the killer instinct. After all, good men always finish second, if not last. Something akin to that happened to the BJP leaders who piloted the NDA government that lost out in Election 2004.
5. NDA's failure to use power
After triggering Pokhran II, the BJP-led NDA became timid and lost the nerve to use the vast power and prestige enjoyed by the Government of India. Among the many instances of this failure to use those advantages, the conspicuous ones are listed below.
1. Letting the chairman of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution dictate its agenda instead of setting the agenda and getting him to steer the Commission's work. In this manner was lost the crucial chance to get the NCRWC to recommend definitions of the much abused words 'minority' and 'secular', and a final recommendation on a Constitutional amendment to deny high positions for 'citizens of foreign origin.'
The NCRWC's failure to act firmly on the latter issue forced Purno A Sangma to resign from the panel even as Vajpayee and Advani looked on. In contrast, the Commission's chairman, former Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachallaiah asserted himself from the beginning and chose to eliminate issues which should otherwise have been discussed, like a Constitutional provision for limiting population growth and another for adding Hindustan as another Constitutional name for the country besides India and Bharat. Thus was a great idea of the NDA wasted in creating and debating mere 'discussion papers' over a two-year period.
2. Capitulating to Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy's threat (through the press) to resign if not appointed CEC after J M Lyngdoh's retirement. Indira Gandhi would have reacted by openly stating that Krishnamurthy's resignation would be accepted on the spot.
3. Failure to take the English press and the Congress head on regarding the meaning of 'secular' and 'secularism.' A commentary posted as a rediff.com special on March 7, 2000, had revealed the forgotten fact that the Morarji Desai government had moved the 45th Constitutional Amendment Bill in 1978 which, among other issues, defined secularism as equal respect to all religions; that bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, but turned down by the Congress majority in the Rajya Sabha.
However, the BJP leaders never brought this Congress refusal to define secularism to the notice of the press, the public, and its NDA allies when it could so easily have accused the Congress of using the word in a cunning, elastic manner to suit its own convenience.
4. Failure to take Sonia Gandhi and the Congress to court for describing the BJP as the 'murderers of Mahatma Gandhi.' As the front-page apology of The Statesman of Calcutta showed a few months ago, Sonia Gandhi's accusation would have been an open-and-shut case of defamation under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which warrants punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years. It would have shown the Congress and the rest of them that the BJP was not to be trifled with.
5. Failure to curb the constant mischief of the English press that created fiction out of facts on matters such as the Jhabua rape, the Graham Staines murder, BJP's 'fascism' and 'communalism', the petrol pump scam and the land scam.
The NDA didn't realise that the English press becomes a lamb when its advertising support is choked off, and when confronted with specific details on a specific subject. All that the NDA had to do was to put the squeeze on the government's substantial advertising support extended to the misreporting newspapers.
One novel way to slash advertising support to the press, and simultaneously raise government revenue, would have been to start a government magazine called Tender News on the lines of the government's very successful Employment News. In this way, all tender notices of government and public-sector undertakings could have been diverted from the high tariff private newspapers to the new magazine. For all one knows, even private-sector companies would have turned to lower-tariff Tender News and caused a severe financial crunch on the regular press.
The free trips to private media to accompany the President or the prime minister on visits abroad should also have been stopped.
6. Failure to correct the repeatedly distorted lies on Gujarat in the Indian and the world press, which, one knows, relies on the version of India's 'secular' press. Take the total number of those killed in the riots following the horrifying Godhra incident. Our English press and our Muslim press and 'secularists' and human rights missionaries mentioned the numbers killed as 2,000 or 3,000 or simply 'thousands' -- figures that were echoed by the foreign press.
The truth is different even by the very very 'secular' standards of The Times of India. Thus, one week after the most bloody riots broke out, that newspaper's Bharat Desai reported on March 7, 2002, that the toll stood at 677. The report stated that nearly 100 people, most of them Hindus, were killed in police firing.
On April 28, 2002, when the frenzy was almost doused, Sanjay Pandey of that same newspaper reported that 726 people in all were killed; of this number, we were told, 552 were Muslims and 168 were Hindus including, never forget, the 58 kar sevaks charred in a railway bogey. Reporter Pandey reiterated that in the first month of police firing the Muslims killed were 40 while Hindus so killed were 60. So much then for the 'Hitleresque pogrom' of Narendra Modi.
There was also a failure to detail the steps taken by Narendra Modi to curb the riots and contrast them with the inaction of the Congress government after the 1984 killings of Sikhs in Delhi, Mumbai, and elsewhere; there was failure, simultaneously, to drive home the point that, unlike in 1984, riots were confined to certain pockets of Gujarat and did not go beyond Gujarat's borders.
There was failure also to cash in on India Today's reports that several thousand Adivasis in Gujarat killed Muslims by using bows and arrows and stones. There was failure too to drive home the point that Modi couldn't have 'organised' or 'pogrommed' these tribals to kill with bows and arrows and stones. All this should have been done with separate groups of Indian and foreign journalists in Delhi as well as publicly and, if needed, with press advertising.
The press corps should particularly have been told to examine why Dr Rafiq Zakaria, an ex-Congress politician and well-known Muslim scholar, should have written in his book, 'After the terrible carnage in Gujarat, Indian Muslims must open their eyes to the ground reality that an increasing number of Hindus have begun to hate them... This is not confined to a small section; it has infected the rich as much as the poor; men as much as women; the young as much as the old; even children are no longer free from it.' (Communal Rage in Secular India, Popular Prakashan, September 2002, pages 193 and 201).
7. Failure to use subtle pressure tactics to curb the National Conference's demand for greater autonomy and to publicly proclaim instead that, by virtue of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir is already the most autonomous state in India. Indeed, Vajpayee and Advani looked at the J&K issue only as a foreign affairs problem, totally neglecting all kinds of political scheming within the Muslim majority Kashmir valley from where the entire state has been ruled for over 50 years to the utter detriment of the Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh regions.
If, instead, the RSS demand for trifurcation of J&K had been constantly talked about even if it is constitutionally difficult to achieve, it would have kept the Abdullah dynasty -- and, later, the Mufti one -- on tenterhooks and caused them to lose a lot of sleep, especially if backed by covert blackmail in terms of generous financial grants.
8. Failure to create a National Judicial Commission. The law minister ought to have repeatedly appealed to the Supreme Court to ensure that the country's high courts did not delay their recommendations for appointment of new judges to fill vacancies so that the backlog of cases was cleared.
In fact, Vajpayee as prime minister should have asked the Chief Justice of India for regular one-to-one discussions on the way the judiciary was functioning in the country. Although the judiciary is an independent Constitutional entity, the fact that the nation's prime minister was concerned about its working would have sent out a positive message to the people of the country.
9. Total unwillingness to promote Hindu agenda
Though the three main items of the Hindutva ideology were admittedly not part of the NDA's agenda for governance, Advani ought to have used his clout to encourage BJP-friendly organisations to conduct, across the country, workshops, seminars, lectures and expositions on the abrogation of Article 370, a Uniform Civil Code, and the Ram temple at Ayodhya throughout the NDA government's five-year term. Instead, articles on web sites were neglected. Even The Indian Express report of January 28, 2000, by a senior correspondent that a United Nations committee on women had exhorted the Indian government to quickly have a common civil code in place was ignored in the public domain.
A countrywide movement on the three core items of the Hindu agenda would have created a favourable impact on conventional BJP supporters and attracted legions more to it by educating them on the issues that have, frankly, not been quite understood by the masses. They would have understood that a uniform civil code based on the best features of all existing personal laws and abrogation of Article 370 are not anti-Muslim issues at all, but only measures to encourage the physical and emotional integration of the country.
Now that the BJP-led NDA is out of power, getting back there would demand its rededication to national resurgence while keeping a hawk eye on the machinations of the various hues of power-grabbers and manipulators and pseudo-secularists collectively known as the United Progressive Alliance.
The killer instinct is again the BJP's need of the hour.