Asia Scope

Opposition Blues

Following on from my post yesterday on the apparently gloomy prospects for the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan following their recent thumping at the polls, I asked our India correspondent Madhav Nalapat about how things are shaping up for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in India.

The party was in power from 1998 until 2004, but suffered a shock defeat in mid-2004 to a coalition led by The Congress Party. The party then lost further ground in the general election earlier this year.

And judging by what Madhav says, the party is still struggling to pull itself together.

“Despite their poor showing in two successive general elections, the team of [BJP lower house leader Lal Krishna] Advani comprises the same individuals that have been active within the BJP for the six years that the party was in power. With Vajpayee too ill to any more participate in political activity, it’s become the responsibility of Advani to try and engineer a comeback for the BJP. But thus far, his preferred strategy has been to walk out (with other BJP MPs) from Parliament, giving the government an opportunity for opposition-free passage of legislation.”

He goes on to talk speculate about some possible personnel changes at the top of the party:

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“Although there’s been talk that Advani will soon be asked to leave by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the Hindu organisation that supplies the BJP with more than 80% of its cadres — the chances are he’ll remain as “Chairperson” of the BJP in Parliament, and hand over his office as Leader of the Opposition to a trusted confidant, the female MP Sushma Swaraj. Other Advani supporters, such as former BJP President V Naidu and former Minister A Kumar, are likely to play key roles in the “post-Advani” dispensation.”

But he added the party is still its own worst enemy:

“While Vajpayee’s belief that Sonia Gandhi was an asset to the BJP proved to be untrue in 2004 and again in 2009, it seems clear the present BJP leadership is the most potent asset in the armoury of the ruling Congress Party. Small wonder that the Manmohan Singh government seemed to go off for a well-deserved siesta soon after winning the elections.