Nitin Gadkari
B-196, DEL -161150 - NOVEMBER 16, 2009 - New Delhi: In this file photo BJP leader Nitin Gadkari is seen with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at a function in Nagpur in August, 2009. Gadkari is likely to be new president of Bharitya Janata Party. PTI Photo
Of whats Left within the Right.
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

The BJP’s refusal to directly criticise UPA’s fiscal indiscipline causing unprecedented inflation and economic disruption has been the object of discussion many times. Yashwant Sinha’s criticism of the government  in the Lok Sabha has been rightly called out as well disguised, high on rhetoric and lacking in political couragefor failing to corner the treasury on stalled reforms for fear of speaking out against populist policies.

Those of us who are convinced of BJP’s commitment to reform are sympathetic to the party’s need to meet the demands of political expedience. Manohar Seetaram’s brilliantly articulated write-up against unfair criticism of the party from pro-right commentators expresses the same sentiments:

What I fail to understand is why as learned columnists they do not recognize the past track record of the NDA government when it comes to fiscal management or of the present BJP ruled state governments…

…I am not trying to place the party beyond criticism but only suggesting that it is not fair to set such specific and tightly defined thresholds.

Moreover Manohar dislikes unwarranted vehement criticism of the party because:

1. We have not managed to grow our constituency. Where as our analysis assumes “us” to be the core constituency of the party.

2. We are trying to force the debate along the lines which suggest that we are completely oblivious to point # 1.

I’d like to add that much of this outpour of anger against the party is not merely because the BJP appears to be faltering in its role of being the main opposition party. In fact much of this isn’t anger, it is disappointment. Thanks to its impressive record of reform and a competent management of the state coffers during the BJP-led NDA administration the party has come to exclusively represent the reformist political force in the minds of commentators and activists.

What much of the commentators miss, however, is the fact that the reformist faction is a minuscule minority within the Parivar. The NDA era reforms were the product of sheer political courage of an intellectual elite within the party. It was not a nation-wide movement finding its utterance. Unfortunately this elite no longer calls the shots. From being the dominant political force in the country the reformists are now just one small faction amongst a multitude of factions within the movement each trying to steer the party and the narrative to their liking.

We have seen the party leadership having to assuage both the reformist faction and the old school on key policies.  This is likely to continue for sometime. Although we have indeed seen glimpes of a change of mind, signs of a slow reconciliation with the new economic realities and sometimes even a very welcome criticism against Manmohan Singh’s mishandling of our tax monies the old school remains, well, old school. The pace of change is painfully slow.

This adjustment towards a coherent economic ideaology can be accelerated only if ‘we’ remain unrelenting in our commentary. Towards this end  more effort needs to be expended towards engagement and  concensus building within the movement. A party leadership that genuinely believes in concensus building, a constructive yet unrelenting criticism within a friendly media ecosystem and some institutionalisation to keep the churning at pace are all needed in equal measure for the great samudra manthan.