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Candidate Selection

The allegation now being made by opposition parties is that the BJP has abandoned its ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ agenda and resorted to extreme Hindutva by putting up candidates such as Sadhvi Pragya in Bhopal. Why should that be the case? It overlooks the fact that, even as both the BJP and those opposing it have focused almost exclusively on the personality of Prime Minister Modi, there are other factors that count. A close assessment of every constituency needs to be done while finalising the party candidate. Every party has its own mechanism for this, but there is no doubt that the BJP is among the few that has the organisational ability to do so. There are more criteria considered than just the whim of the party leader or the coterie around him or her.
The choice of Sadhvi Pragya has much to do with the candidate of MP’s ruling party, Digvijay Singh. He is seen to be a politician who has furthered his career on the basis of the appeasement politics most abhorred by the BJP and a large number from the majority community. This tactic has reached ridiculous levels and it is to highlight this aspect of his personality that a complete contrast has been presented. Had it not been Digvijay Singh, the BJP would probably have gone with a more conventional face.
Another example of this phenomenon is the discretion displayed by the Congress in not being carried away by sentiment in Varanasi. A section of the party had been demanding that Priyanka Vadra be fielded against PM Modi, but that would very likely have busted the myth around her ‘irresistible’ charm. Also, she would have become unavailable for campaigning elsewhere.
Those that have not come up from party ranks do not understand these processes. It happened with Shatrughan Sinha, and with Udit Raj. Parties have to not only be in touch with public sentiment, but also have the courage to respond accordingly. Of course, there has to be the necessary dose of ‘masala’ that could provide an edge by galvanising supporters, such as a Sunny Deol, here, or a Kanhaiya Kumar, there. Parties need, however, to keep the many other factors in mind at the same time. The Congress, for instance, had the opportunity over the past five years to reinvent itself, but all it has on offer is the same old lot. In contrast, the BJP has even sacrificed sure shot winners like Sumitra Mahajan to maintain a comparatively youthful and forward looking profile. It is very likely, therefore, that the Congress will have another five years to work on the essential of its politics, if it manages to learn the necessary lessons from the present contest.