Let me forewarn: this is not going to be pretty. After the Delhi loss, there are plenty of articles on what BJP did wrong. While that has been well understood, it is important to note what it will take now to get out of this mess.
Here is a list of 17 action points if BJP wants to remain the dominant political party in India. After a long time, we have had a stable mandate at the top. If BJP blows this opportunity it will set India back by a decade. So, here goes.
Realise the Delhi election loss was a pure, unmitigated disaster. It has ended the halo around Modi, or the Modi wave. It has also shown the top leadership has no clue about the feelings of people on the street or their own party workers. It also casts doubt on Modi’s actual execution ability.
The PM, with all due respect, is floating too high. Come back to earth. Don’t try to present an image of a global statesman. You have won an anti-incumbency election when Congress was weak, by increasing BJP’s vote share by a few percentage points. You have not transformed India yet. Don’t go to Fiji. (Sorry Fiji, just that we have more important issues here.)
Don’t just get claps from NRIs. If they love you so much, ask them to pay. If one lakh NRIs commit to paying BJP $1,000 a year, that is a hundred million dollars of clean money annually. Use that to clean up BJP’s funding. When are you going to do that anyway?
Get the Lokpal. Have a good, independent CBI and CVC office. Clean up corruption systemically. Don’t say if Modi is there, nobody can be corrupt. What if Modi isn’t there tomorrow?
Don’t bully the media or juniors in the party. Inspire respect, not fear. Don’t be smug. Don’t kill talent in the party because it could be a threat to you one day. It’s not in BJP’s DNA to be a one-man party.
Shut up regressive Hindutva fanatics. They talk. You ignore. They are your supporters. You have to tell them loud and clear this is not OK. The young generation doesn’t find it cool to support a leader who doesn’t believe in a free and equal society. Send some of your old-fashioned partymen abroad to learn about gender issues and minority rights. They will make you sink otherwise.
Don’t be overconfident in your speeches. Keep a circle of critics around you, not just those who keep singing ‘Modiji is awesome’. Everything you utter in public must be pre-checked. If you did that, the Naxal and Bazaru comments would have been edited out. A PM cannot be a rabble rouser.
Dress down. Charisma comes from integrity, competence and compassion. Not from expensive clothes.
Stay connected to and do something visible for the youth. They screamed for you in the Lok Sabha election, filled their twitter and FB walls in your praise. What have you done for them? You went to SRCC to give a speech before election. Have you visited any college after that? Why not? Is Fiji more important (sorry again Fiji)?
The party president may be really clever. But sometimes it isn’t about who is most clever but who genuinely cares. Chess moves don’t win elections all the time. A connect with people does. The party president, given his perceived persona (which may be at variance with who he really is), doesn’t inspire confidence. You
standing next to him is Amitabh Bachchan standing next to Amar Singh. Did it help Mr Bachchan?
Don’t talk down to people. Talk to people. Don’t address people if you never want to take questions. Don’t give monologues on radio. It reminds one of Indira Gandhi and North Korea. It’s not cool. Do you really think a kid in Delhi University will tell his friends, hey, can’t miss that Mann Ki Baat on radio?
Open more colleges. Open up tourism. Reduce taxes on high employment sectors. Give tax breaks for companies that move headquarters to smaller cities. Do anything to take skills and
jobs to the interiors. Fix the primary schools. They have to teach well. Half our school kids can’t read properly.
The cities need extensions with very low cost housing solutions, with good water, electricity and transport infrastructure. That is the only way the urban poor can live a life with dignity. Give them dignity. They didn’t vote for you in Delhi, remember? Win them back.
Be real. Have work life balance. Why can’t the PM catch a movie sometimes? Or eat chaat in Delhi somewhere? A humanised PM works better than a glorified PM.
No statues, please. School or statue? Hospital or statue? No need to explain further.
No personal attacks on opponents no matter how punchy the joke or the temptation to say it. Again, run it past those critical advisers first.
No hanging out with rich industrialists. Of course, you may need to officially. But that doesn’t have to be a media event. Hang out with the billion people, not billionaires.
Ultimately, all of the above comes down to the party listening and acting according to the wishes of the people.