Decline of the BJP

Published : Jul 17, 2009 00:00 IST

Senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Jaswant Singh with the partys prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani (extreme right) during the launch of the BJPs IT vision in New Delhi in March.-VIJAY KUMAR JOSHI/PTI

Senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Jaswant Singh with the partys prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani (extreme right) during the launch of the BJPs IT vision in New Delhi in March.-VIJAY KUMAR JOSHI/PTI

When the members drop off, the main body cannot be insensible of its approaching dissolution. Even the violence of their proceedings is a signal of despair. Like broken tenants, who have had warning to quit the premises, they curse their landlord, destroy the fixtures, throw everything into confusion, and care not what mischief they do to the estate.

EVERY word of Junius censure on the abrupt resignation from the Cabinet of the Duke of Grafton, delivered on February 14, 1770, applies to the political pornography that is the public feuding in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Not one of the performers has cared a jot for the party while staging the obscene drama in public, least of all the erstwhile Prime Minister-in-waiting Lal Krishna Advani and his ambitious protege Arun Jaitley whom he has tried to anoint as his successor. Advani, the ace manipulator and survivor, stands stripped of moral authority. So are his opponents.

In this fight for power, the honours between them are evenly divided. None of the excuses either side cites for the electoral defeat make sense. Criticism of a shrill style and advocacy of moderation come strangely from the shrillest of the lot, Arun Jaitley, who rasps bitter comments with oracular pauses and was the staunchest supporter of Narendra Modi in 2002 and since.

Where were Advanis critics when he was mortgaging the BJPs future for immediate gains? Did they not believe in Hindutva, which he has been propounding since 1989 and whose cause constituted the raison detre of the BJP ever since it was formed in 1980? Where was the concern for the future or for moderation when he went on a rath yatra in 1990 and was privy to the conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, as two courts have found the Special Judicial Magistrate Mahipal Sirohi on August 27, 1994, and the Additional Sessions Judge Jagdish Prasad Srivastava on September 9, 1997. The BJPs defeat spared the country the humiliation of having as Prime Minister a man who faced grave criminal charges in the Sessions Court for over a decade but was able to avoid accountability to it. He would have been truly the one and only L.K. Advani, as a TV anchor gushingly hailed him.

The party faces two distinct but related crises, organisational and existential. The first has been brilliantly analysed by Neena Vyas. For two or three decades, the party failed to put a younger leadership in place. That is now the source of great anxiety and also the cause of a lot of heartburn. Those in their sixties and seventies are now doomed to become the lost generation like Hemingways characters in The Sun Also Rises.

The change will almost certainly bypass those currently in their sixties and seventies. It is this fact perhaps that led veteran partyman Jaswant Singh to make common cause with colleagues Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha to attack the BJP general secretary and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley at the core committee meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday [June 10]. Behind the counter-offensive lurks the fear that youngsters in their fifties the list includes Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Venkaiah Naidu will seize the reins of leadership, leaving the lost generation out in the cold. This seems to have brought together Jaswant Singh (71), Yashwant Sinha (72) and Arun Shourie (67). Unless they stand, fight, and be counted now, they would meet the fate of Hemingways characters (The Hindu, June 13, 2009).

The rebels ire is not at the lapses, grave as they were. It is at the defeat. It coupled the dimmed prospects of recovery with the race of time against their own prospects. They were more sanguine in 2004. Had the BJP won, all sins could have been forgiven once Advani began doling out the loaves and fishes of office. As Count Ciano, Italys Foreign Minister and son-in-law of Mussolini, wrote in his diary on September 9, 1942, Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

Two views have emerged within the Sangh Parivar. One advocates a return to Hindutva. The other, its repackaging. The first comes from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) The second comes from the BJPs ruling establishment and from sympathisers in the media and academia. Even some avowed secularists join in this cry. They would have the BJP emerge as a rightist conservative party with a soft Hindutva to coincide with their own soft secularism [emphasis added, throughout]. This is what distinguishes them from Nehrus secularism. He gave battle to the Parivar. They find common ground with the BJP in rejection of Nehrus secularism and his world view, generally.

In-house critics who accuse the BJP of ideological confusion betray their own confusion if not, indeed, intellectual dishonesty, when they advocate a non-communal pro-Hindu organisation committed to the ideal of Hindu unity and renaissance. It is an oxymoron. Both Hindutva and its synonym cultural nationalism are well defined in the Sangh Parivars texts.

M.S. Golwalkars Bunch of Thoughts denounces Territorial Nationalism (Chapter X). Everyone born in India is not an Indian. He must embrace Hindu culture. That is a cultural nationalism, that is, revert to the truth of our nationalism as an ancient fact and the Hindus being the national society of Bharat. He lauded V.D. Savarkars essay Hindutva, condemned secularists and cited three Internal Threats the Muslims, the Christians and the Communists (Chapter XII).

You can no more redefine Hindutva to make it acceptable to Muslims or redefine cultural nationalism to make it inclusive than you can define fascism to make it acceptable to democrats or racism to make it inclusive.

Such pleas are dishonest, not simply ignorant. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics, edited by Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan, can cure political illiteracy, not intellectual dishonesty (Oxford University Press; 606 pages, Rs.345. The Second Edition). Its co-editor, Alistair McMillan, Research Officer, Nuffield College, Oxford, defines Hindutva thus: Translated as Hinduness, it refers to the ideology of Hindu nationalists, stressing the common culture of the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. The term originated in Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? (1923) by V.D. Savarkar (1883-1966), written whilst imprisoned by the British. Influenced by the Italian nationalist Mazzini, Savarkar stresses the need to preserve the cultural purity of the Hindu nation, and resist the incursion of alien practice. Modern politicians have attempted to play down the racial and anti-Muslim aspects of Hindutva, stressing the inclusiveness of the Indian identity, but the term has fascist undertones.

Note the precision and the nuances. He refers to the correct meaning, the desperate attempts to play it down and to its clear fascist undertones. There is an even more authoritative definition. It is by the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat in a speech at a training camp in Nagpur, reported by its organ Organiser (June 15). He said: The only prescription for all the ills confronting the nation today lies in the philosophy of Hindutva. It is the bedrock of our national and social life. It connotes the way of life and encompasses all the faiths and languages in India. Hindu and Hindutva represent the cultural heritage of every Indian irrespective of his way of worship, religious faith and language. Hindutva encompasses Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in India because it is the national identity of all of us.

Organiser adds: Taking a dig at those who prefer Bharatiya to Hindu, the RSS Sarsanghchalak said the Hindu does not connote the mere geographical boundaries of India while Bharatiya has a mere geographical connotation and cannot define the cultural dimensions associated with the word Hindu.

Giving historical proofs Shri Bhagwat said that those regions where the Hindu population was reduced to minority or converted to other faiths, got separated from India in the recent past. Loss of Hindutva is the main reason behind the recent problems of internal security, regionalism, separatism, etc. being faced by the country, he said.

Two features deserve note. First, let alone Indian, even the term Bharatiya is rejected because of its geographical connotation. The cultural dimensions that is, cultural nationalism, only the word Hindu can denote. Secondly, while asserting that Hindutva encompasses all communities, Bhagwat, like Deoras and other RSS leaders before him, defines the word Hindu in one and the same speech to mean the majority community the Hindu population was reduced to minority or converted to other faiths.

It is on such deception that commitments to Hindutva rest. Bhagwat uttered a brazen falsehood when he said our doors are open to all. The RSS rejected appeals by Jayaprakash Narayan in 1977 and A.B. Vajpayee in 1979 to do precisely that.

The fact that the falsehoods are uttered under political compulsion does not mitigate the offence. It only exposes the hypocrisy of the apologists. That the BJP cannot nurse its core ideological constituency and also expand its appeal at the same time was recognised by Advani at the very moment the BJP was founded. He bared the truth in an interview to none other than the RSS organ Panchjanya (Deepavali 1980). Advani: No. I do not agree with it for in India a party based on ideology can at the most come to power in a small area. It cannot win the confidence of the entire country neither the Communist Party nor the Jan Sangh in its original form.

Panchjanya: But by ignoring the ideological appeal will you be able to keep together the cadres on the basis of these ideals?

Advani: Effort is being made to make them understand. That is why I want the debate to go on. In this context, some people have criticised me although even during the Jan Sangh days I used to advocate these ideas. I have already said that the Jan Sangh was initially built as a party based on ideology, but slowly it departed from that course.

Panchjanya: The appeal increased to the extent the ideology got diluted. Wherever the ideology was strong, its appeal diminished.

Contrast this with what Advani said on the eve of the Somnath-Ayodhya rath yatra: Ideologically, I am ranged against all political parties because of this issue. All political parties think alike. The issue was clearly defined. It was not the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. It was a crusade in defence of Hindutva and a crusade against pseudo-secularism. Its goal is to break from the Nehru-Gandhi ethos and recast the polity.

It is an error to hold that Advani or the BJP has no core beliefs. Both have. But since they are not acceptable to a tolerant nation, dissimulation is necessary. In 1990, inebriated with momentary success, Advani fondly imagined that he would win the Hindu vote and acquire a majority which would enable him to acquire the Babri Masjid by legislation, without a court verdict. The idea has still not been abandoned. The 2009 manifesto pledged, There is an overwhelming desire of the people in India and abroad to have a grand temple at the birth place of Sri Ram in Ayodhya. The BJP will explore all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The reference to all possibilities, apart from talks and litigation, is a giveaway.

So confident of success in riding to power on the strength of the Hindu vote alone was Advani that he declared at Ayodhya on November, 19, 1990, that henceforth only those who fight for Hindu interests would rule India. Secularism was an inconvenience. He complained on October 2, 1990, that secular policy is putting unreasonable restrictions on Hindu aspirations. That is the Advani which some people wish he was not. But he very much is just that. Which is why, on the 50th anniversary of Indias Independence, he wrote for the party journal, not on a vision for India, but A Four-Point Appeal to Muslims of India (BJP Today, June 16, 1997). He is obsessed with Muslims. He demands that they should accept Hindu gods such as Ram and Krishna as sources of our national culture but is pained when they do not. That utterly illiberal document very much represents his core beliefs.

It did not work. Allies, lured by power, helped in 1998, only to drift apart later. It has been a monumental hoax. Sushma Swaraj exposed it when she said in Bhopal on April 14, 2000, that the Ram Janmabhoomi was purely political in nature and had nothing to do with religion.

It is foolish to expect the BJP to part company with the RSS. As Nehru said of its ancestor, the Jan Sangh, it was the illegitimate child of the RSS (The Hindu, January 6, 1952). In 1980, the Jan Sangh members of the Janata Party had a clear choice when faced with criticism from its colleagues on the RSS issue. On August 7, 1979, George Fernandes alleged a well-organised and smartly orchestrated exercise mounted by the RSS-Jan Sangh forces for the total takeover of the Janata Party. In an obvious reference to Vajpayee and Advani, he wrote: The carefully cultivated self-abnegation postures of some RSS-Jan Sangh leaders were but a flimsy facade for the power grabbing. A little over a decade later, he became their staunch ally.

The Jan Sanghis could have either revived the party or emerged with a new ideology. They practised deception instead, they stole the Janata Partys name to cover up a revived Jan Sangh. Vajpayee said in an interview in August 1980 that the BJP was different from the BJS in many ways. Having tasted power once, we realised that unless we became a party of the national mainstream and enjoyed support from all sections, we could not become a national alternative.

In 1985, when the BJP took stock of its abject defeat and Vajpayee was asked whether it marked a return to the Jan Sangh, he countered, When did we get away from Jan Sangh? On November 6, 1977, however, he had said exactly the opposite. When we joined the Janata Party we had given up our old beliefs and faiths and there was no question of going back. No less revealing was his remark, on July 22, 1985, that we wanted to assert our views in the [Janata] government but the government broke up too soon. Had we been in power for some more time we would have imparted a new thinking to Indias politics.

The Jan Sangh was set up in 1951 under a pact between Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, a Hindu Mahasabhaite and follower of Savarkar, and Golwalkar. The RSS would provide the cadre. The Jan Sangh would be the political front.

This is the BJPs raison detre. Why was the Jan Sangh set up in 1951 at all? The Congress continued as a political party after Independence. So did the CPI. The Socialists broke away from the Congress in 1948. The Swatantra Party was set up in 1959 as a conservative party, but a secular one. Regional parties sprang up to voice regional demands. The Jan Sangh was set up in 1951 to pursue the communal policies of the RSS. The BJP was formed in 1980 to continue that line.

Two presidents of the Jan Sangh Mauli Chandra Sharma and Balraj Madhok were booted out by the RSS which also showed the door to one president so far of the BJP, Advani. Speaking to an RSS gathering in Coimbatore in 1990, Advani said: While in the case of the BJS the linkage (with the RSS) was only ideological, in the case of the BJP the linkage is both ideological and historical. He asked his audience to realise that the BJP which you described as a good party is good only because of its associations with the RSS (The Telegraph, May 17, 1990).

It is vain to expect men who have lived in bondage to the RSS to reject its overlordship. A.V. Diceys remarks on internal limitations are apt: People sometimes ask the idle question why the Pope does not introduce this or that reform? The true answer is that a revolutionist is not the kind of man who becomes a Pope, and that the man who becomes a Pope has no wish to be a revolutionist. Louis the Fourteenth could not in all probability have established Protestantism as the national religion of France, but to imagine Louis the Fourteenth as wishing to carry out a Protestant reformation is nothing short of imagining him to have been a being quite unlike the Grand Monarque.

Not surprisingly, on June 1, Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Arun Shourie and Sushma Swaraj repaired to Keshav Kunj, the RSS headquarters in New Delhi, to meet its supremo Mohan Bhagwat. On June 14, after the civil war had broken out, the RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya warned: If the BJP gives up Hindutva, it will automatically snap its umbilical cord with the Sangh and lose its cadres support.

That is where lies and deception have brought the BJP. The Hindu youth has no taste for the RSS mumbo jumbo that Homer adapted Valmikis Ramayana for his Iliad, Jesus Christ drew his ideas from Hinduism, and so on. These historical discoveries and many more such figure in textbooks taught in RSS-run schools (The Telegraph, November 18, 2000). The RSS attacks on the decadent culture of the West and such hold no appeal for the young. It is proud to be Indian and its sights are set on national progress.

The BJP can neither break from the RSS nor grow up to acquire a national appeal. It can only exploit certain issues to acquire temporary political mileage. In the days ahead both crises will become acute and impart rancour the organisational as well as the existential crises. At the national executive on June 20 and 21, Advani astutely allowed the critics to blow off the accumulated steam and established his control. It remains to be seen whether the rebels will acquiesce in the manipulation if he offers them some sops to keep quiet.

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