A credible & stable pole of ideological clarity and political efficacy : BJP AT 42 AND STILL GOING STRONG
The biggest contribution of the BJP are injecting an element of patriotism, nationalism and credibility to the Indian politics in general and the then Opposition space in particular.
The formation of the BJP was announced by Atal Behrari Vajpayee on 6th April 1980, on Easter Sunday at Feroz Shah Kotla Grounds in Delhi. Two days before that, on 4th March, Good Friday, the non-Jana Sangh members of the Janata Party gave an ultimatum to the Jana Sangh members to decide whether they want to continue their relation with the RSS or not. It was essentially a non-issue but reckless elements within the Janata Party made it an issue.
The Jana Sangh members of the Janata Party met at Feroz Shah Kotla grounds and announced that they will not sever their links with their ideological mentor the RSS and instead announced the reincarnation of the Jana Sangh in a new Avatar. “Today, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh has reinvented itself as the Bharatiya Janata Party. We will continue to work with the same zeal and mission for national re-construction,” declared Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Philosophically speaking, on Good Friday, Jesus Christ was crucified; similarly Bharatiya Jana Sangh was also crucified. On Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ is believed to have been re-born; similarly, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh took re-birth as the Bharatiya Janata Party on Easter Sunday, This analogy was given by Lal Krishna Advani, who continues to remain the embodiment of knowledge and personification of experience. Perhaps, his schooling at St Patricks School in Karachi may have helped him to give this analogy of Jesus Christ.
Both Vajpayee and Advani inspired the cadre by undertaking strenuous tours of the entire length and breadth of Bharat.
The BJP made it clear that it will not lose its identity at any cost; but it was open to electoral alliance with like-minded parties in order to avoid the division of opposition votes.
The thrust and focus of Advani was on the exemplary conduct and dignified behaviour of the party leaders and workers. “Janata Party broke and lost the confidence of the people because the leaders quarrelled in public. This damaged the Janata Party’s credibility; shattered its image and battered its reputation. We must not allow this to repeat in BJP. Hence, our conduct both in public and private must be exemplary and behaviour dignified”
Advani emphasised this in all his speeches, especially in the workers meetings.
The national council session held at Bombay (now Mumbai) in December 1980 saw the country’s grand old man Mohammed CarimbhaiChagla proudly announcing that “a viable and credible” alternative to Smt Indira Gandhi’s Congress has arrived in BJP. This is the party of the future”
In 1982, the BJP came close to winning Himachal Pradesh Assembly, just three short of majority; in Thane and Sagar (MP) LokSabhe by-elections BJP won with a comfortable margin.
In 1983 Assembly elections, BJP won 18 seats in Karnataka and contributed in its own way to dislodge the Congress government headed by R. Gundu Rao. In Andhra Pradesh, BJP lent its strength to dislodge the Congress government and helped install TDP government headed by NTR.
Thus an atmosphere in the entire country was filled with enthusiasm, excitement and hope that the BJP will dislodge the Congress at the Centre by defeating Smt Indira Gandhi.
However, the tragic assassination of Smt Indira Gandhi by her own security guards in October 1984 changed the entire scenario drastically. The Congress rode the sympathy wave generated out of that tragedy and won 416 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP suffered a huge defeat by winning only two seats – Mehsana in Gujarat (Dr A. K. Patel) and Hanamkonda in Andhra Pradesh (Janga Reddy). Even Vajpayee lost in Gwalior. The entire cadre throughout the country was demoralised.
But with a “never-say-die” attitude of both Vajpayee and Advani, the duo took up the task of boosting the morale of the workers. They travelled the country. It was during one of the meetings held at GayanaSamaj in Bangalore Vajpayee’s clarion call came, “NaaDynyam –NaaPalayanam” (I will neither beg pardon nor I will run away from the battle field). I am fortunate to have been sitting next to the dais in that meeting and listen to Vajpayee’s soul-stirring words.
BJP’s fortune started turning for the better after Advani took over as the President on 9th May 1986 at Indraprastha Stadium, Delhi. The party won substantially at Haryana and formed government with Lok Dal. But what paved the way for party’s morale-boosting revival was the BJP’s victory of three MLC seats in 1988 – in the Graduates Constituency from Gulbarga (Dr M. R. Tanga), Shimoga (D. H. Shankaramurthy) and Bangalore (Ramachandra Gowda).
“What? Has the BJP really won three seats in Karnataka? Is it true”? party leaders and workers in North India had asked me. That was the much-needed cutting edge for the BJP to spring an electoral surprise throughout the country. The BJP was surely on the comeback trail.
The BJP’s biggest victory came in 1989 Lok Sabha elections when it won 86 seats. The Congress government headed by Rajiv Gandhi was defeated. BJP took a calculated and strategic decision to install a non-Congress government with Vishwanath Prathap Singh as Prime Minister of the National Front. To recall from hindsight, V. P. Singh proved to be a disaster is a different matter altogether.
The Somnath-Ayodhya Ram RathYatra by Advani in September 1990 proved to be an yet another turning point in the electoral fortunes of the BJP. That epoch-making event was a major watershed in the political history of Independent India. The mental cobwebs including the concept of secularism, communalism, nationalism was effectively clarified by Advani during his RathYatra.
The BJP hoped to come to power in 1991 but for the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. The saffron party managed to win 119 seats. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP became the single largest party with 136 seats and Vajpayee became the Prime Minister for the first time for 13 days.
The country saw a rickety and tottering governments headed by H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral betwee 1996 and 1998. In the 1998 and 1999 LokSabhe elections the BJP won substantial and formed the government with the help of its NDA allies.
The unexpected defeat of the BJP – mainly due to its own follies such as over-confidence, lethargy of workers and leaders and wrong coinage of India Shining slogan – demoralised the cadre. For 10 years, the country had to suffer at the hands of Congress-led UPA with Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.
But the tide was turned by Narendra Modi who made a grand and fantastic entry as Prime Minister thus bringing an atmosphere of hope, confidence and brightness in the country. The feeling generated that the country can now witness a new and confident tomorrow.
From 2014 till now 2022, the Modi has not disappointed the people. By the dint of his remarkable performance, working with a missionary zeal, with his progressive thoughts, positive attitude and forward-looking approach mixed with robust nationalism and patriotism, Modi has enabled the BJP to live up to its reputation of a national and nationalist party.
In fact, Modi has implemented in reality the goal and task announced by Vajpayee and Advani in 1980 – that the BJP will be guided by patriotism and nationalism in all its endeavours – be it economic, political or social.
BJP’s commitment was to facilitate construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 and evolving Uniform Civil Code. Modi has achieved the first two – Ram Temple and abrogation of Article 370. The country is all set to come out with Uniform Civil Code, the preparation is silently going on.
Starting from 6th April 1980 till April 6th 2022, the BJP has never compromised on its commitment and principles. It did not dissolve its identity; it, however, opened itself for electoral adjustments be it NDA One or NDA Two. It never compromised on its strong nationalism and patriotism pitch. Modi continues to be guided by these two principles. The BJP has proved to be a people’s party with all its policies and programmes aimed at people’s welfare.
Thus, BJP has proved to be “a stable and credible pole of ideological clarity and political efficacy. And at 42, it is still going strong. Looking at the pathetic condition of the Opposition parties at the national level, it seems that the there is nobody to challenge the BJP in general and Modi in particular for considerable time to come.
By S. A. Hemanth Kumar from bengaluru
(The writer has been associated with the BJP since August 1980)