Bharatiya Janata Party : Back to the basics?

Published: Thursday, Feb 07,2013, 12:40 IST
BJP, election 2014, bjp ram temple, saffron party,

Is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) thinking in terms of reviving its pre-1991 agenda to take on the Congress party and expose its “designs of appeasement politics” and fake “secularism” and fight the upcoming general elections on Hindutva plank? The answer seems to be in the affirmative considering reports emanating from Delhi on January 31 after “a crucial” 90-minute-plus meeting between senior BJP leaders, including newly-elected national president Rajnath Singh, and Sangh Parivar top brass, including RSS general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi, joint general secretary Suresh Soni, and VHP leaders Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia.

Reports suggest that top-ranking RSS, BJP and VHP leaders lambasted the Congress and the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for his January 20 statement at the AICC/chintan shivir in Jaipur that the “BJP and RSS hold training camps where Hindu terror is produced”. They determined to “expose the Congress designs of appeasement politics” across the nation.

The BJP and RSS described the Home Minister’s statement a “manifestation of Congress’ rabidly anti-Hindu mindset”. Indeed, the Home Minister’s statement has offended the majority community and given Pakistan a cause to counter the Indian resolve to fight cross-border terrorism, secure our borders and the Line of Control (LoC) and preserve the territorial integrity of India. No wonder the chief of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) took no time in “congratulating” Shinde and urging Pakistani authorities to mobilize international opinion to have India declared a “terrorist State”.

It is a matter of shame that till date Shinde has not withdrawn his “Hindu terror” statement. That his was not an off-the-cuff remark and that he said only what the Congress wanted became clear when at least three ministers in the UPA Government (Salman Khurshid, Kamal Nath and Manish Tiwari), besides AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, former minister Mani Shankar Aiyer and sundry Congress national spokespersons said Shinde was absolutely correct. Aiyer even congratulated Shinde for his “bold and accurate” statement.

Coming back to the point, the bush telegraph from Delhi suggests that the Parivar, apart from discussing the dangerous ramifications of the Union Home Minister’s utterly irresponsible and unacceptable Hindu terror statement, also discussed the Ram temple issue and the Communal Violence Bill, which the Congress-dominated UPA is mooting in order to polarize Indian society for vote-bank politics. There is growing concern over a provision of the Communal Violence Bill that reputedly states that, “a riot is initiated only by the majority (Hindu) community”. They fear that the Bill, if passed in its original form, “will be used by the authorities to target Hindus when communal violence takes place”. This apprehension cannot be dismissed lightly.

That the BJP may revive its original agenda to mobilize public opinion across the country seems likely from the BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement: “BJP, in 1989, at Palampur, had passed a resolution that a grand Ram temple should be constructed at Ayodhya. This is the demand of the BJP, the nation and crores of Hindus across the world”. This was in response to media queries whether the BJP would take up the Ram temple in the next general election. The situation became clearer from Rajnath Singh’s stout defence of Hindutva. Further, some of the party’s national spokespersons advocated the need for a Uniform Civil Code without mincing words in TV debates. They took such a stand publicly after many years.

It, however, still remains to be seen if the BJP adopts Hindutva as a plank and goes to the polls seeking the people’s mandate on the basis of the three old lynchpins – abrogation of Article 370, introduction of Uniform Civil Code and construction of a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya. This plank once greatly motivated and inspired a bulk of the electorate to look towards the BJP as a ruling party at the centre that would help mitigate the nation’s hardships, hasten the process of nation-building, unleash forces which would bring Jammu & Kashmir closer to Delhi and controvert the baneful and pernicious influence of secularists.

The Hindutva plank brought the BJP (founded in 1980) to the centre-stage of national politics, as can be seen from its electoral performance between 1989 and 1999. In 1984, when the BJP was still in formative stage, the party could win a paltry two Lok Sabha seats, including one from Gujarat. In 1989, it captured 88 seats. In 1991, it became the premier opposition party. In 1996, it became the single-largest party in the Parliament and the Congress’ tally was at its lowest ever. In 1998, it further improved its strength in the Lok Sabha.

In 1999, the BJP-led NDA won 303 seats. The BJP’s own tally was 183, an all time high. In between, it, in alliance with other, mostly “secular” parties, it formed the government at the Centre but had to bow out of office as “secular” formations, including the Congress, ganged up against the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led coalition governments. The first BJP-led government could stay in office between May 16 and 31, 1996, and the second survived from March 19, 1998 up to October 13, 1999. It was the third BJP-led NDA Government that remained in office for more than four years, between October 13, 1999 and May 13, 2004. It could have completed its full term but for the decision to go in for early elections believing the time was opportune for seeking a fresh mandate.

The BJP formed all three governments after diluting its ideology. The people, including the BJP core constituency, did not punish the party in 1998 and 1999, notwithstanding the fact that it had aligned itself with parties which were no different from Congress as far as ideology was concerned. The reason: They could not really appreciate the fact that the BJP had lost its moorings and deviated from the path, as the party remained in office for a very short duration.

But the people woke up after the formation of the third BJP-led NDA Government. They did appreciate the regime’s economic policies and its decision to go nuclear despite the United States’ bitter opposition; but they disapproved of its foreign policy and socio-political policies. Its socio-political policies and foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan were similar to the ones evolved and implemented ruthlessly by preceding non-BJP governments, including those led by the Congress - appeasement.

Besides, there was hardly any fundamental difference between the BJP-led NDA Government and previous dispensations in the approach towards Jammu & Kashmir. The BJP like other governments at the Centre, ignored the wider nationalist constituency in the State and accorded special treatment to Kashmir and those Kashmiri leaders who had never considered Jammu & Kashmir an integral part of India; who considered the state as disputed territory and insisted on greater autonomy, bordering on virtual sovereignty. The BJP ignored the people of Ladakh, besides the internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus and refugees from West Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir, and thought it improper to give effect to the February 22, 1994 unanimous Parliamentary Resolution that mandated the Government of India to retrieve all territories that Pakistan had illegally occupied in 1947-1948 after rape, murder and pillage. So much so, the BJP aligned itself with the National Conference (NC) overlooking its divisive, communal and anti-Jammu, anti-Ladakh and anti-minorities’ credentials.

Clearly, an insidious influence was at work to scuttle what the BJP had stood and worked for many years to make the people believe it was a “party with a difference”. All, barring the Shiv Sena and perhaps the Shiromani Akali Dal–Badal (SAD-B), exerted their baneful influence, just as the “secular” (read votebank conscious) Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has been doing these days following media reports that the BJP has decided to contest the next general elections under the leadership of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Yet, one should not blame the BJP’s “secular” allies as they were always committed to keeping the Muslim vote happy. It is the BJP which must be blamed for all it did or did not do under the pernicious influence of its “secular” allies.

It is relevant that the BJP abandoned all three major planks – Article 370, Uniform Civil Code and Ram temple – the day it and its “secular” allies adopted a “Common Minimum Programme”. Likewise, it is important to note that not a single ally, barring the Shiv Sena and the SAD-B, ever diluted its ideology. The BJP’s “secular” allies dictated terms and the BJP leadership (or an influential section under Vajpayee) willingly and consistently yielded for reasons not difficult to fathom.

Little wonder that the people, especially its core constituency, started terming the BJP as a replica of the Congress party, which was founded in December 1885 by a retired British civil servant in consultation with the then Governor-General of India and Secretary of State for India, to puncture and defeat the rising Indian sentiment for freedom in the wake of the 1857 uprising. The British decided to take the help of a few selected Indians, all inspired by the “British sense of justice”, to contain and control this nationalist surge. Anyway, after BJP formed the government at the Centre, innumerable political essays appeared in leading national and international dailies and journals, all suggesting “Congressization of BJP”.

It was only natural that the people, including its staunch supporters, would abandon the BJP; this happened in 2004 and 2009. In 2004, the party won less than 140 seats in the Lok Sabha; in 2009 it won less than 120. In contrast, the Congress won 207 seats in 2009, formed the government a second time, and ever since has been playing havoc with the nation.

Currently, the BJP senses an opportunity to recapture power and feels that to return to South Block it has to revive its pre-1991 agenda. There is certainly a need to boot out the Congress party which the entire nation feels is most corrupt, communal, and destructive. The BJP should not be defensive over its Hindutva plank; it is an affirmation of the Hindu spirit and civilisational craving.

Hari Om, author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research. | First Published in Vijayvaani | Follow

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