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BJP government is good for India, say Canadian academics - The Pioneer

Ajit Jain ()
March 11, 1998

Title: BJP government is good for India, say Canadian academics
Author: Ajit Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 11, 1998

There seems to be a consensus among Canadian scholars that a
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government will he
good for India. The BJP "has new ideas on nuclear policy, on
Pakistan," said Ashok Kapoor, head of the Department of Political
Science at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

According to Kapoor, the BJP is convinced that India has to
privately send a hard-line message to Pakistan and that's
possible because of close relationship between prime ministerial
candidate Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif. The message is likely to be "folks, you behave and we
will be responsible," suggested Kapoor.

The BJP will give a most stable government, predicted Arthur
Rubinoff, professor at the University of Toronto, who is just
back from a visit to India. "Vajpayee would reach out to other
smaller parties and he will come out with surprises in the
formation of his Cabinet," he said.

There will, naturally, be accommodation and compromises. Rubinoff
was highly critical of the Congress Party for destabilising the
United Front (UF) government.

Rubinoff felt the BJP-led minority government would be for the
good of the country. The party will have to back-track on the
uniform civil code. It will have to reach out to other
minorities and "you will see compromises when the Cabinet is
finally announced by Vajpayee."

Rama Singh, professor at McMaster University in Hamilton,
Ontario, said "a BJP majority would have been good for India as
It would have quickly realised the excesses of some of its
rhetoric and the difficulty of governing a country which is
falling behind in every respect in the world arena."

He supports the BJP's sense of "pride in the country" without
which, Singh argued, no nation can progress.

A BJP-led coalition does have its two problems, said M.V. Naidu,
professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. It will have to play
down its Hlindu communalism, a fact with which Kapoor also

Naidu was not sure whether the fundamentalist element in the BJP
would accept such an approach. According to him, the BJP's other
constraints lie outside the Hindu community. "Will religious
minorities like the Akali Dal, Muslims and Christians, along with
Harijan representatives trust and support and sustain the BJP
coalition for a long time?" he wondered.

Kapoor said there would be a change in the thinking of the BJP on
this issue. That change is already obvious in Punjab. "They have
a coalition with the Akalis and that's working well," he said.

To him, the BJP does not seem to be vindictive with the
minorities. "If the BJP is careful and statesman-like, its appeal
will grow as it takes over power. The BJP is now inclined to put
emphasis on individual rights rather than on minority rights,
minority politics."

Kapoor, an expert on Indian subcontinent politics, said the
emphasis of the BJP on individual rights "would blur Hindu,
Muslim identities and their rights" as the implication would be:
"It doesn't matter who you are. You have rights as an individual
and that should take precedence."

Kapoor said that the BJP has to work hard on improving its image.
But the party has enormous potential in terms of thinking and
outlook. Its leaders listen to criticism and they will learn from

On the other hand, the Congress Party, he felt, "has no growth
potential." The party "reached its zenith a long time back. It
has no moral standards and is left with no vision. "Under a BJP
led government "interparty consensus will work and in the
economic field liberalisation will continue," he predicted.

"Vajpayee will be a competent leader and the government led by
him will be stable," Rubinoff said. During his recent visit to
India, he met BJP leaders as well as leaders of other political

"Vajpayee is one leader who's not after himself, his personal
interest, as he has no secondary agenda unlike many other
leaders," Rubinoff explained. His leadership would be a
refreshing change for India, he added.

The growth of regional parties is a good thing for India, Kapoor
said. The, regional parties that are governing in different
states are closer to the people. "New Delhi can't do everything,"
he said.

In foreign affairs, the BJP has more clarity and that is in the
interest of the country, most Canadian scholars felt.

While he predicted that a BJP-led government would cause some
tension with the, United States, Kapoor noted that India and the
US are already involved in strategic dialogues at the highest

Washington, Canadian scholars said, should stop highlighting old
problems like the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Kashmir
and similar other issues. In future, issues would be seen in the
global and regional contexts so that old issues "are. relegated
to a lower level," Kapoor stated.

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