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2004-12-07 06:13:00
Embassy New Delhi
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 007709 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2014




Classified By: PolCouns Geoffrey Pyatt, Reasons 1.4 (B,D).



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2014




Classified By: PolCouns Geoffrey Pyatt, Reasons 1.4 (B,D).

1. (C) Summary: The BJP is not taking advantage of the
Winter session of Parliament (December 1-23) to demonstrate
its effectiveness as India's leading opposition party. Our
conversations with senior BJP leaders in recent weeks
indicate that the party is not addressing its internal
problems and has no strategy to return to power. It
confronts the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the
streets and in Parliament, but has yet to develop a positive
vision for India. Privately its leaders express optimism
about the party's prospects, but concede that the UPA is
likely to remain in power for some time to come. The UPA
record to date has not without problems and has provided
openings for opposition attacks, but the BJP will not present
a serious challenge to the government until it resolves the
many internal problems it is sweeping under the rug. End

Parliament Gets Off to a Rocky Start

2. (C) The winter session of Parliament (December 1-23)
provides an opportunity for the BJP to demonstrate its
effectiveness as an opposition party. Its actions in the
first few days of the session, however, revealed a party in
disarray and searching for a coherent strategy to counter the
UPA government.

3. (U) During the current session, Parliament is scheduled
to address up to 46 bills on a wide variety of subjects,
including the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act
(POTA) and a high-profile employment guarantee law. MPs are
also scheduled to discuss appropriate responses to increased
attacks by Maoist groups, the prospect of talks between the
GOI and Kashmiri separatists, ongoing violence in the state
of Manipur, and the recent arrest of a prominent Hindu
mystic, the Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati. Despite
the packed Parliamentary agenda, expectations are low, as BJP
disruption has prevented the previous two sessions from
enacting much business. Parliament's first day met
pectations, as MPs from rival parties engaged in
free-for-alls, forcing the speaker to dismiss the house

Democracy: Not a Pretty Picture

4. (U) During the opening session, members of the
Bihar-based Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) made personal attacks
against BJP President Advani, alleging that he had mistreated
his daughter-in-law. MPs from the Dalit-based BSP left their
seats to loudly protest the recent arrest of one of their
delegation in Uttar Pradesh (UP), called for the GOI to
dissolve the state government led by Chief Minister Mulayam
Singh Yadav, and only stopped shouting after the Speaker
threatened them with suspension. The Left/Communist parties
accused the UPA of "not consulting" prior to increasing the
price of petroleum products, implying that the price rise was
unjustified. The BJP accused Congress of betraying its
election slogan of "Congress is with the Common Man," before
leading an opposition walkout.

5. (U) The arrest of the Kanchi Sankaracharya dominated the
second day of proceedings, with the BJP raising the issue in
both houses. BJP firebrand Sushma Swaraj claimed to be
"anguished" over the treatment of what she described as "a
2,500 year old religious institution." Alleging involvement
of the GOI and the UPA government in Andhra Pradesh (AP) in
the Shankaracharya's arrest, she demanded the transfer of the
case out of Tamil Nadu, and GOI intervention "to ensure
proper treatment" of the Shankaracharya. The UPA responded
that it had nothing to do with the arrest, while the Tamil
Nadu government accused Swaraj of "misleading the house."
Tempers ran high throughout the session, with MPs frequently
interrupting speakers with heckling and catcalls.

The BJP Takes to the Streets

6. (U) On December 1 the BJP, decrying UPA economic policies
as "anti-people," held a protest march to parliament. In his
speech at the rally, former PM Vajpayee said his government
had kept inflation under check, increased the per capita
income, achieved robust economic growth and launched major
infrastructural development projects. He contrasted this
with the state of the economy under the UPA, which he claimed
had "no control over rising prices." BJP leaders also
criticized the UPA for distorting the Indian government by
establishing a "super Prime Minister" (Sonia Gandhi), filling
the Cabinet with corrupt and criminal ministers, and taking a
"soft approach" to terrorism in J&K and India's Northeast.

Uma's Letter Bomb

7. (SBU) Another indication of the deep divisions within the
BJP leadership was a letter written by BJP firebrand and
former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharati.
Excerpts from the letter were published in the most recent
edition of "Outlook" magazine. Bharati implies that Advani
who "used to roar like a lion," has lost his charisma, while
party General Secretary Pramod Mahajan has "only one
goal, come into power and then to make money," and
former party President Venkaiah Naidu "made menopause a
national issue," when he cited his wife's "illness" as the
reason for his resignation. BJP leaders have insisted that
Bharati is being "rehabilitated" and would soon rejoin the
ranks following her recent suspension. But her caustic
letter attacks much of the party leadership in terms that
would make further cooperation extremely difficult.

8. (C) Two BJP functionaries confirmed to us that the letter
is authentic. Bharati had written the letter and given it to
a confidant to release to the press should her reinduction
not take place, but he reportedly leaked it prematurely.
According to our informants, Bharati was to be reinducted
into the party as early as December 2, but when the letter
was leaked, angry second tier leaders demanded that she be
kept out, and Advani complied.

The Hindutva MP

9. (C) Ramakrishna Kusumaria is a BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh
(MP). Known to be a follower of Uma Bharati, Kusumaria
represents the Hindutva wing of the party. In a conversation
with Poloff on December 3, he blamed the BJP's
secular-oriented moderates and their National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) allies for the fall of the BJP government,
saying they insisted on calling an early election and failed
to present the party's "values" (Hindutva) in a compelling
manner. Despite this, he insisted the party would rebuild.
He claimed that since the BJP represents Indian nationalism,
its leaders reflect the country's religious values and that
because "time is on our side," the BJP will return to power
stronger than ever.

10. (C) Pointing to the recent induction of Shibu Soren, who
is under indictment for two murder cases, and other "tainted
ministers" into the cabinet, and the increasingly heated
dispute between Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and
former Railway Minister Ramvilas Paswan, Kusumaria alleged
that the UPA is basically hypocritical and corrupt. He also
accused the UPA of claiming to be "the party of the common
man," while dismantling effective NDA programs that extended
credit to the rural poor and developed India's
infrastructure. According to Kusumaria, the BJP is best able
to tackle corruption and bring economic relief to the poor,
and this will become clear to the voter.

11. (C) Kusumaria conceded that, the UPA will likely remain
in power for a full five-year term, as the BJP will need time
to "rebuild." He also acknowledged that Vajpayee will not
return as PM and did not mention Advani as his successor.
Ruling out the prospect that the next BJP PM will come from
the party's secular wing, Kusumaria said it would be a "holy"
person and the party would make the decision at the
appropriate time.

The Youth Leader

12. (C) Dharmendra Pradhan is a rising star within the BJP
and was recently named to head the party's Youth Wing. A
native of Orissa, he represents a central Orissa
constituency. Speaking with Poloff on December 3, he called
the UPA "inherently unstable," predicting that it could fall
at any time, and asserting that the BJP is ready to return to
power at a moment's notice, with Vajpayee as its
standardbearer. According to Pradhan, the Left/Communists
are the UPA's weak link, as they can bring down the
government at will. He claimed that prominent Left leaders
told him they were "disgusted" with Congress and the UPA, and
were only supporting them to keep the BJP out of power.

13. (C) Pradhan also claimed that Left leaders tell him
privately that globalization is inevitable and they want only
to ensure that its consequences are distributed fairly.
According to Pradhan, the Left leaders are inherently
parochial and only want to maintain power in their "red
forts" -- Tripura, Kerala, West Bengal. Congress must
concede these states to the Left, he said, or they will bring
down the UPA.

14. (C) According to Pradhan, Congress mismanagement is
providing the opposition BJP with many issues. He insisted
that BJP would get lots of mileage out of the arrest of the
Shankaracharya. Noting that the BJP was an "ideological,
cadre-based" party, Pradhan asserted it would find an issue
to "unite the majority community, (Hindus)" and that once
this is accomplished, it will have a lock on government. He
asserted that the BJP will continue to attack the UPA on its
economic performance, and contrasted the treatment of the
Shankaracharya with that of the "tainted ministers." How
could it be, he asked rhetorically, that Shibu Soren is
accused of murder and put on the cabinet, while the
Shankaracharya is placed in a jail cell?

15. (C) Pradhan acknowledged that the BJP has not selected a
second tier leader to fill the number three slot behind
Vajpayee and Advani. Like Kusumaria, he downplayed the
succession issue, claiming that the party would solve it when
the time came. Pradhan also denied that there is inherent
tension within the party between the Hindutva wing and the
pro-development wing, claiming that the party supported both
objectives. He conceded that the BJP's behavior in the last
two parliamentary sessions was a mistake, and predicted the
party would behave in a more responsible manner in Parliament
to address issues of government and national policy.

A Response from Congress

16. (C) Speaking with Poloff on December 3, Congress MP
Rashid Alvi (a Muslim) laughed off the BJP challenge, saying
that the opposition has only one issue and came to power on
the public's momentary fascination with the Ram Temple in
Ayodhya and the novelty of Hindutva. In Alvi's view, such
emotional appeals quickly fade, the public has lost interest,
and the BJP has nothing else to offer. He predicted that the
BJP would continue to decline, and the NDA alliance would
eventually break up and disappear.

17. (C) Alvi revealed that Congress is far more worried
about Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party (SP), than
the BJP. According to Alvi, Mulayam has approached DMK Party
Chief Muthavel Karunanidhi to convince him to pull his party
out of the UPA government and join with the SP to form a new
government. Karunanidhi's departure would leave the UPA
without a parliamentary majority. Alvi claimed that
Karunanidhi was not interested in the proposal, which cannot
succeed without support from the Communists. Alvi opined
that while some Communists have pro-SP sympathies and would
like to sever ties with Congress and the UPA, most have
discovered that Mulayam is an unprincipled opportunist and no
longer want to work with him. He predicted that the UPA
would remain in power for the next few years and easily brush
off BJP challenges.


18. (C) The BJP's behavior and the private statements of its
MPs do little to convince us that the party has overcome its
problems or has a strategy to regain power. Instead, it
continues to paper over factional disputes, disrupt
Parliament, postpone the leadership/succession issue, avoid a
decision on the next Prime Ministerial candidate, and defer
any program to win state level elections in February 2005.
Many in the BJP appear content to wait for the UPA to
self-destruct or make a serious mistake that will provide an
opening for attack. The UPA has presented such opportunities
in the form of price increases of basic commodities and
nominations to the Cabinet of persons with records of
criminality and corruption. However, Indian voters for now
seem unconvinced that the BJP has a better track record or
will behave differently should it return to power.