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HVK Archives: Retreat to advance

Retreat to advance - The Indian Express

Mohit Sen ()
March 25, 1998

Title: Retreat to advance
Author: Mohit Sen
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 25, 1998

The election results have been good for the BJP, but not good
enough. It is ironic that when for the first time it comes to
having its leader as a Prime Minister who need not be a
caricature of a person in power, it is hamstrung by alliances.

The irony is the essence. To put it sharply but not falsely, the
BJP has alliances but no allies. At best, it has a solitary ally
the Shiv Sena. Even these alliances do not add up to an alliance,
not even one as loose and conflict-prone as the late unlamented
United Front.

This situation has come about because the BJP was itself
ambiguous about its identity. It is the political arm of the RSS,
nothing more and nothing less. Ale Nagpur headquarters does not
control openly and rudely as Bal Thackeray does in Maharashtra.
It controls through ideology.

The ideological bond is not just that of common belief in
communalised Hinduism. It is also a belief in hierarchy,
centralism and obedience. It is further a belief in the supremacy
of power and its indispensability in the struggle to establish
the supremacy of sectarian and authoritarian Hindutva.

Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi may disagree on a multitude of matters
but on this basic ideological structure their views would be
identical. The BJP does not concede itself the right to exist
without this basic ideological steel frame.

The BJP leadership did not err in its tactics. Its strategy was
to use separate alliances in different states to push up the
overall tally of seats of the BJP itself so that it could come
near enough to the majority threshold. It hoped to be able to
cross that threshold mainly on the basis of its own strength and
those of its one ally the Shiv Sena.

The BJP leadership hoped to secure more seats than it did in UP,
Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It secured more
seats than it hoped for or, rather, its ally in each particular
state did, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kanataka, Orissa,
Punjab and West Bengal. The BJP has made headway in the states
where its ally was the chief gainer, but not to any spectacular
extent. Without the ally concerned, it would still have made some

The BJP did not lose its so-called untouchability chiefly because
of its allies. It broke out of its ghetto for two reasons. The
first is that especially for the younger generation, who now
constitute two-thirds of the electorate, communalism is not
necessarily evil. They have to be educated and persuaded on this

They are for the BJP because they regard it as the party of
Hindutva, their sword and shield against the Muslims. The second
is that large section of the middle strata in those states where
its administrative inadequacies are not known at first hand
wanted to give the BJP a chance.

The BJP could advance only if it had an identity. At the same
time, it knew that to win Delhi a new and different identity had
to be presented. There can be no doubt that if it is able to
settle down in government, it will try to convert state power
into an instrument to remake the Republic of India in the image
of Guruji Golwalkar's Bunch of Thoughts. It would not regard this
as a subversion but as the completion of the freedom movement by
making the Republic truly representative of the faith of the
majority. This is where the danger to the Indian Constitution and
republic lies. Incidentally, this was the conclusion to which the
late Madhu Limaye came on the basis of his experience with the
Jan Sangh when it was a component of the Janata Party in 1977-79.

This central problem of the BJP is sought to be covered up by,
the alarm raised over the dependency syndrome'. No doubt the BJP
cannot run the government with out allies. Since most of them
have nothing in common with each other or the BJP except the
shared desire to have central ministerial berths, each is
pressing his or her claims for portfolios and programmes that
would raise their regional electoral fortunes. The BJP, as the
largest party in what can only be called an arrangement of
parties, has to be the arbitrator and the giver of gifts. This is
not due to its aroused sense of charity but in order to get the
greatest gift of ad -power.

Whether it be the AIADMK or the Trinamool Congress, what they
give will be peanuts compared to what yielding to their demands
will give the BJP control of the levers of state power. If they
are not aware of this, the battle-hardened RSS moulded BJP
leaders certainly are. In fact, the ease with which these demands
are being conceded is the most alarming manifestation of the aims
of these leaders. They know that a government made up of such
discordant elements does not have the ghost of a chance of
providing stability. It can, however, place persons in key
positions of the state, pull down governments and structures that
come in its way and lay the basis for a total take-over in the
near future. This is not to be the real bari for Atal Behari, or
whoever the BJP chooses to project as its next leader. Anyway,
the best laid plans may 90 awry if the Congress and the Left play
their role of vigilant, active and united defenders of secularism
and democracy.

The snag is the lack of understanding and compatibility of these
two formations on economic issues. The Congress and the Left have
never really discussed this issue among themselves. They have
talked at each other, not to each other. The Left has to shoulder
a greater portion of the blame. Not only have its governments in
the states implemented programmes which are in essence the same
as those of the central government, they have done next to
nothing to alter the basic orientation of Chidambaram's ream
budget'. All they did was to press sectional demands of better
paid workers and employers and place heavy burdens on budgetary
resources. Few among those whose case the Left so passionately
pleads stand by it politically, much less ideologically. As some
Left trade union leaders themselves cynically say their followers
are, in fact, their employers. If the leaders do not secure them
what they want they are retrenched! This is a pitiful state for
the trade union movement to be reduced to.

The Congress, too, would have to spell out more concretely its
immediate economic programme: what reforms would be immediately
on its agenda and what its proposals are for tackling poverty and
unemployment. Its attitude to planning and the public sector
have also to be discussed',
and clarified.

They Cannot afford to wait, nor confine themselves to blowing the
bugle of secularism. Least of all, they should not imagine that
the 'dependency factor' will pre vent the BJP juggernaut from
rolling on.

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