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BJP must not dither

BJP must not dither

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 6, 2008

The BJP must risk toeing the Hindutva line. All it needs is the kind of strength it had in 1999. Allies will queue at its doorsteps

After the victory in the Gujarat Assembly election, it is time for the BJP to shed its inability to look beyond the NDA. It's time to give up the posture that the party means many things to many people.

The circumstances in 1980, when the BJP was founded, were different. The RSS was an organisation shunned by all political groups. Former Jana Sanghis had been expelled from the Janata Party of Loknayak Jai Prakash Narain because they were also attached to the RSS. Dual membership was a euphemism used by the Janata Party's 'secularists' like Chandra Shekhar and Madhu Limaye. Whether the goal of establishing a Hindu rashtra should have been abandoned was a matter of opinion. What was meant by the ideology of 'Gandhian Socialism' was probably not clear to anyone including the founding fathers.

Ayodhya proved to be the aventura for Hindutva. On the back of the Babri edifice, the BJP won 132 seats in 1996 and 182 in 1998. It led a coalition Government and headed it again in 1999 because of the number of seats won and not because of putting Hindutva on the backburner. How were Articles 44 (Uniform Civil Code) and 370 (according a special status to Jammu & Kashmir) same as Hindutva, anyway? They are parts of the Constitution that came into force in 1950 when neither the BJP nor its predecessor, the Jana Sangh, existed.

Abandoning Ayodhya in the same manner was like kicking away the very ladder which made the party ascend to power. If Hindutva were a dirty word for the DMK or the JD(U), how did they tolerate the Shiv Sena in the NDA coalition? This only proved the known old truth that when a coalition Government is formed, all partners overlook their ideology and join together to share Ministries based on the strength of their respective strength in Parliament.

There might have been other considerations also for the suspension of Hindutva, but it is better to let bygones be bygones. Electoral victory in Gujarat is the dividing line for the BJP between the past and the future. Figuratively, the green portion of the party flag has no significance left. In fact, to many people it appears like hypocrisy. So long as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi remains a member, his image, in all its colour and bloom, cannot be separated from the BJP's. Hindus, regardless of their political faith, are convinced that he stands for Hindu interests. The belief that he is the Hindu hriday samrat is widely held. Self-styled secularists may not like the belief but they do not question it either. This is sufficient reason for the green in the party flag to be considered irrelevant, if not also counter-productive.

Gandhian Socialism never embellished the heart of any member of the BJP but the great man's portrait decorates many of the party offices, now with no credibility. It is now all Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and also VD Savarkar.

The next Lok Sabha election calls for a shifting in gear from pluralism back to nationalism. The most effective nationalist appeal would be an insistence on a UCC. If Goa can practice a common code, why can't the rest of the country? Turkey is 97 per cent Muslim but practices a civil code drafted on the basis of the Swiss Personal Law. A UCC would remove an old non-Muslim grievance as well as implement a Directive Principle of State Policy.

More important, it should bring relief to Muslim womenfolk. The shari'ah is likely to remain forever and, therefore, women cannot expect help from its reform. Ms Shabana Azmi has, for the same reason, favoured the introduction of a UCC. If the BJP were to espouse it, in one stroke and without sounding communal, it would polarise the voters between pro-UCC and anti-UCC. An overwhelming number of electors would come to sympathise with the BJP on this ground although more will have to be done for securing their votes.

The law on granting ownership of land to Adivasis has not been implemented in any state other than Gujarat. About one-third of the Adivasi families have been granted pattas as a token of their ownership of the land granted to them with the promise that within a year the remaining families will receive their pattas to bring them closer to the BJP.

As for Dalits, the most touchy of issues has been, for centuries, entry to temples. If only the BJP could offer to build an impressive Rs 10 crore temple in every district of India... The deity could be anything preferred by the local Dalits. The priesthood of the new temples would comprise Dalits entirely, one-third of whom could be women. The BJP should raise half the money from the public; the Government may finance the rest.

Terrorism is India's gravest problem at the moment. But it can be solved. The US has not experienced a single incident since 9/11. Not so long ago, Punjab was riddled with extremism but it was brought to normalcy. Why, therefore, cannot Islamist terrorists be tackled? Or, for that matter, Maoists, too, can be tackled with measures of counter-insurgency. An economic answer should also be given. Wherever possible, they should be given land as was done in the Sardar Sarovar project in Gujarat where every affected Adivasi family was given one hectare of land with a well-built house. Where not possible, at least every family should be given a house to live in.

Ownership of property is a key to giving citizens a sense of belonging. If only the BJP can achieve it, it would win the hearts of the poorest in the country for decades to come.


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