A political party can be in formidable position, as the BJP is in Uttarakhand, and yet self-destruct because of the failure to meet objective standards. It is not enough to have got the better of a weak or divided opposition; a party should be able to function well enough to avoid falling victim to natural entropy. This force acts independently of any opposition. In fact – and this principle lies at the heart of democracy’s success – a strong opposition ensures a government functions at the best of its capacity.
While the opposition in Uttarakhand, primarily the Congress, has been notably absent in terms of impact, the ruling BJP has wallowed in a dangerous complacency. This is why reports are emerging on an almost daily basis of legislators taking things for granted. The latest incident of a party MLA insulting the manager of sugar factory follows on Party President Bansidhar Bhagat’s recent faux pas and the continued controversy involving an MLA accused of rape. Earlier, the shenanigans of the gun-toting ‘Champion’ had grabbed the headlines away from whatever good the government was doing in the state.
It is no wonder that, while the Congress is faction-ridden and caught up in an almost daily battle of one-upmanship, other forces such as AAP are seeing an opportunity. The challenge is, not surprisingly, based on perceptions of performance. When it comes time to distribute tickets, regardless of the requirements of caste and faction, the BJP, in particular, will need to check on this. It is the usual practice for a party with a sizeable mandate and facing possible anti-incumbency, to drop at least thirty percent of incumbents. Present signals indicate that, if it is to retain anything like its present massive majority, the state BJP will have to also focus on undertaking a performance audit of its legislators. Considering the fact that cabinet posts have been left empty for almost the present government’s entire tenure, it would seem the leadership already has a poor opinion of its MLAs’ abilities. Given its many complexities, Uttarakhand is already a very difficult state to run, which is why governments have been changed every five years. If the BJP wishes to break this pattern, it absolutely has to take the bull by its horns and set a much higher standard for the future, otherwise it might just face an ugly surprise come election time.