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Why BJP’s generational shift will not affect the party’s electoral fortunes

Lok Sabha Election 2019: Retirement of senior leaders like Advani, Joshi will help the party in the tough electoral contest as it gears up to take on an invigorated Congress and another formidable alliance of SP-BSP in Uttar Pradesh.

BJP, Generational Change, Murli Manohar Joshi, LK Advani, BJP leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah
Lok Sabha Election 2019: Senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani.
BJP, Generational Change, Murli Manohar Joshi, LK Advani, BJP leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah
Lok Sabha Election 2019: Senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani.

BJP’s Lok Sabha Candidates List: The generational shift in the Bharatiya Janata Party seems to be complete with the denial of party tickets to senior leaders Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi in the Lok Sabha elections. Though the shift brought about by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah had forced several senior leaders. There are reports that the BJP may field a new candidate from Indore, the seat held by Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan for a record 8 times as she turned 75 last year. It was expected that senior leaders like party’s founding leaders Advani and Joshi will be allowed to contest the elections.

Part of the BJP’s original triumvirate along with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi were struggling to find political relevance after the party’s surprise losses in 2004 and 2009 general elections. After Modi and Shah took over the reins of the party, senior leaders found it increasingly difficult to keep up with with the dynamic duo’s style of functioning, further impacting their hold over the party. This may be the reason why the denial of party tickets to them did not meet with any resistance or protests. It was clearly evident that their absence will not hurt the party’s electoral prospects.

1. Decline of BJP under Advani’s leadership

Lal Krishna Advani who brought the BJP to the centre stage of Indian politics through Ayodha Rath Yatra could not attract voters to the party after Vajpayee government lost power in 2004. The BJP saw a steep decline between 2004 and 2014 when Advani and his team was at the helm of affairs except a brief period after 2004. In 2004, Congress won 26.7% popular votes, a loss of 1.6% but it improved its seat tally to win 145 Lok Sabha seats, a gain of 31 seats. Whereas BJP won just 22.16% popular votes, a loss of 1.59% which was almost equal to that of the Congress but the party lost 44 Lok Sabha seats to come down to just 138.

Similarly, in 2009 when Advani led the party in the general election, its popular votes and number of seats registered a further decline. BJP won 18.8% popular votes, a steep loss of 3.36% and the party got just won 116 Lok Sabha seats, a loss of 22 seats.

Whereas the Congress improved its tally from 145 to 206 seats, a gain of 61 seats the party’s popular votes share went up by 2.02%, from 26.7 to 28.55%.

2. Two consecutive losses forced generational change

It was clear to the party and its ideological fountainhead, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, that the party will not be able to win back the power unless it gives the responsibility to the second generation. However, the resistance from within delayed the generational shift as the party veterans like Advani and MM Joshi were not willing to concede the ground to the second generation. BJP’s second rung had promising leaders like Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh. Vasundhara Raje was another important leader who had led Rajasthan government from 2003 to 2008.

3. Second generation leaders reversed the electoral losses

The BJP was eventually able to sort out its leadership issue in 2013, a year before the crucial Lok Sabha election. The party allowed Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat to lead the campaign despite strong resistance from Advani and Joshi. These two leaders were given party tickets from Gandhinagar in Gujarat and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh respectively. However, it was presidential style campaign led by Narendra Modi that was credited for victory of most of its candidates including Advani and Joshi.

4. Retirement of elders to help the party in a tough election

The party’s decision to deny tickets to these two leaders will eventually help the party in a tough contest with an invigorated Congress which has defeated BJP in three Hindi heartland states last year. The election has become even tougher for the BJP as two arch rivals, SP and BSP, have joined hands in Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 members in the Lok Sabha.

An aging Advani, 92, was not considered fit by the party to serve the constituency. Similarly, Joshi who is 85 years old was denied the ticket after an internal assessment showed that it will be difficult for him to retain the seat.

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