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Ideology and BJP after Ides of May

Ideology and BJP after Ides of May

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 31, 2009
URL: http://dailypioneer.com/179667/Ideology-and-BJP-after-Ides-of-May.html

There was a time when the BJP prided itself as an 'ideological political party' with clarity of thought. Many of those who are members or supporters of the party were (and still remain) loyal to the organisation because its ideology once inspired them. I say many because not all are ideologically motivated. There are those who are drawn to the BJP because of its position on certain issues, the appeal of certain leaders, or simply because it offers a platform for anti-Congress politics. Then there are opportunists on the lookout for goodies which could range from bagging contracts to brokering deals to loaves and fishes of office. There are also those who excel in flattery and massaging the fragile egos of politicians with a bloated sense of self-importance - their clout should not be under-estimated.

Soon after Mr Shankarsinh Vaghela hijacked Mr Keshubhai Patel's Government, Mr Narendra Modi one day ruefully told me how the party was divided in three categories of leaders and cadre - 'Khajurias', 'Hajurias' and 'Majurias'. The 'Khajurias' were the turncoats looking for an office of profit; the 'Hajurias' were the flatterers who spent their time doing 'ji hazoori', and the 'Majurias' were those who toiled 24x7 without any expectations. Ideology, therefore, was limited to the third category.

Since May 16, when the BJP discovered to its horror that the predictions of its favourite psephologist were way off the mark, three ideology-related issues have been raised in the debate that is raging among those who had expected the party to win this summer's general election. These are people who are not formally associated with the BJP, neither would they have joined the queue of favour-seekers had the party won. They would have blown up a lot of money celebrating the party's victory, woken up the next morning with a massive hangover, and gone back to their dreary jobs, bleary eyed but pleased as Punch. Of course, the BJP's leaders, who have decided to skirt any debate on the party's electoral performance lest it offend sensitivities and disturb the status quo, are least bothered about what is being discussed in the public domain. That does not, however, diminish the importance of the ongoing debate which has thrown up the following questions:

1. Has the BJP lost the election because it has cut itself loose from its ideological mooring?

2. Has the time come for the BJP to take a hard look at its ideology and decide whether it is relevant for our times?

3. Has 'Hindutva' outlived its appeal and hence its utility as a tool to mobilise support for the party?

These questions need to be answered by those who preside over the BJP's destiny. Since none of them appears to be even remotely eager to tangle with contentious issues at the moment, we must wait for considered opinion to emerge from the party's 11, Ashoka Road headquarters. It could be a very long wait. So, here are some possible responses to carry the informal debate forward.

Ideology should be neither static nor rooted in dogma. Times change, situations change, people change. There could be nothing more tragic than the BJP treating its ideology as immutable. It would make the party similar to the CPI(M) which is irrevocably wedded to Stalinist dogma. But what exactly is the BJP's ideology?

The ideology of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-1977) was sort of centred around Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya's exposition of 'Integral Humanism'. It would, however, be instructive to remember that the BJS was launched by the RSS as the political front of the Sangh; the first president, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, was a Hindu Mahasabhaite who subscribed to Savarkar's political philosophy. Ideology was abandoned when the BJS disbanded and merged with the Janata Party (1977-1980). After the BJS was reborn as the BJP in 1980, there was a protracted debate on what should be its ideology. Since some of those who had joined the BJP were 'Congress Socialists', the party settled for 'Gandhian Socialism' as its ideology. The Jana Sangh component was appalled; Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia was vocal in opposing it and circulated a note questioning the very concept of 'Gandhian Socialism', which many people thought was bunkum. Faced with mounting opposition, 'Gandhian Socialism' was unceremoniously replaced by 'Integral Humanism'.

In June 1989, the BJP adopted a resolution at its National Executive meeting in Palampur (popularly referred to as the 'Palampur Resolution'), committing the party to the agitation for the liberation of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, which was then being spearheaded by the VHP. It was a presidential resolution, which means it was adopted without any discussion. There were discordant voices, including that of Mr Jaswant Singh, but these were drowned in the enthusiastic response to Mr LK Advani's Somnath to Ayodhya 'Ram Rath Yatra'.

It was around this time that Mr Advani introduced two new terms into India's modern political discourse - 'pseudo-secularism', linked to the Shah Bano judgement and its fallout; and, 'cultural nationalism' or (the BJP's version of) 'Hindutva', with elements borrowed from Veer Savarkar's eponymous treatise, Hindutva. Along with the slogan it appropriated - "One Nation, One People, One Culture" - and its own stirring formulation, "Justice for all, Appeasement of none", the BJP refashioned 'Hindutva' both as an adjunct to its ideology and as an instrument of political mobilisation. 'Cultural nationalism' gave the party its cutting edge in elections since 1989. And the three principled positions it took - abrogation of Article 370 (dating back to SP Mookerjee's agitation for the full and final integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the Union of India); construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya (this followed the 'Palampur Resolution' of 1989); and, introduction of a Uniform Civil Code (which was included in the party's charter after it adopted a resolution in end-1995) - became the symbols of the BJP's 'Hindutva' or 'Cultural Nationalism'.

In the process, the party adopted a dual political philosophy, without bothering to figure out its core ideology. Though 'Integral Humanism' and 'Hindutva' are, at one level, all-embracing and all-inclusive, they are not one and the same. The time has now come for the BJP to either integrate them into a modernist worldview, or jettison both and craft an entirely new, right-of-centre political charter without disowning the party's Hindu ethos; merely choosing between either will not suffice, nor will grasping at both provide a lifeline. This is by no means an easy task, not least because those at the helm of the BJP are rooted in certitudes of the past and the RSS cannot just be wished away. Cosmetic makeovers do not convince people, and that is one lesson the party should learn from this election.

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