The one innovative idea the party did come up with in the 2009 election—redeeming Indian black money from banking havens and using it for rural development—had an appeal limited to editorial pages. Most ordinary people found it too esoteric, and introduced too late in the day, to influence voting decisions. The upshot is, the BJP finds itself completely out of sync with the way India is thinking. Two successive defeats mean there is a serious and growing disconnect between India’s emergent energies and concerns, and the party. This should put the fear of god into BJP sympathisers. It indicates internal stagnation; unchecked, it could lead to irreversible paralysis.
Take two examples. First, the generational change that should have happened in 2004 was simply brushed aside. If the BJP had indeed won this election, it would have had an ageing cabinet to match the Congress’s Arjun Singh-Shivraj Patil vintage. An 81-year-old prime ministerial candidate, unable to choose between a lifelong identity of a tough man and a mystifying three-year craving for a soft persona, added to the vagueness.