Back To Basics For Image Change-Over From Class To Mass
It is back to basic ideological moorings for the BJP. Having realised that the public perception of its government was that of being “pro-corporate lobby” and anti-farmer, mostly due to the campaign of calumny and disinformation carried out by its opponents, the BJP, however, did not want to take chances on this crucial issue. This is the outcome of the two-day meeting of the BJP’s national executive held in Bengaluru recently.
The national executive—the highest decision making body—decided to take up the land acquisition bill vigorously and defend its government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as expose the hypocrisy of the Congress and other Opposition parties. This exercise would enable the BJP to shed its pro-corporate lobby image and endear itself to the peasantry. BJP national President Amit Shah also called upon the party cadre to involve in four social movements—to make Bharat free from manual scavenging; Namami Gange; Swachh Bharat and Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao campaigns—all seen as dear to the masses of Bharat, in other words the BPL Bharat.
Not many, especially in the media, could make out the attempts of the party towards image make-over. The backdrop behind the dais put up in the venue had a message, loud and clear—“Antyodaya: Hamara Sankalp” (The interest of the poorest of the poor is our commitment). Antyodaya is the concept enunciated by the late Pandit Deenadayal Upadhyaya, the economic ideologue of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the pre-cursor of the present BJP.
Antyodaya is one of the the simpler and practical component of “Integral Humanism” (Ekatma Manav Darshan) propounded by Deenadayal Upadhyaya which, the BJP claims, to be the bed-rock of all its economic and political decisions. The birth-centenary celebrations of Pandit Deenadayal Upadhyaya—1916 to 1968—that is expected to be launched from September 25, (the day on which Deenadayal ji was born) this year have come in handy for the BJP to position itself as the champion of peasants, unorganised sector and other weaker sections of society.
The BJP’s national executive delved deep into the now-vexed issue of the land acquisition bill and decided to take the Congress and other Opposition parties head on—not only to defend and justify that the Modi government is pro-farmer but also to expose the double-standards and double-speak of the Opposition parties.
In spite of accepting as many as nine amendments to the land acquisition bill as suggested by the Opposition parties, the BJP has not been able to bring its opponents on board on this bill of paramount importance for industrialisation and infrastructure development.
It is against this “needless adamant” attitude, not unmixed with political motive, of the Opposition parties led by the Congress, the BJP now wants to go all out with full steam in favour of the bill and also project Modi government as being pro-farmer.
If its proposed nation-wide campaign defending its land acquisition bill as being pro-farmer is expected to help the party in its attempt for image change-over, the Make In India and Skill Training for millions of youth are yet another attempt on the part of the BJP to be seen on the right side of the masses. Again, Deenadayal Upadhyaya had advocated the concept of “not mass production but “production by the masses”. Modi’s campaign for Make In India and Skill Training is nothing but espousing the cause of Deenadayal Upadhyaya, yet another effort to move towards being seen with the common man of Bharat.
The BJP has maintained, justified and defended that the land acquisition bill brought out by Modi government was indeed farmer-friendly as the bill proposes to provide compensation as many as six times to the land acquired from the farmers. However, the earlier version of the bill brought out by the Congress never had anything meaningful and substantial in terms of compensation.
“The Congress has been harping on two issues: one, consent clause (seeking the consent of the farmers before acquiring) and two, social impact study which are not in the present bill brought out by the BJP government. But in our view, these two clauses virtually render the government ineffective as not a single acre of land has been acquired by any state government during the last one decade. Has there been any instance where the farmers have come forward voluntarily and handed over the land wholeheartedly? And this consent clause is being misused by the vested interests to incite and provoke the farmers not to give consent for his land to be acquired. Later the very same vested interests cheat these farmers. And the social impact study is a time-buying exercise, an alibi to see that the projects do not take off at all. It is against this hard fact and harsh reality the Modi government did not include these two clauses but instead has raised the compensation to six times,” a leader who spoke on the bill at the national executive told Uday India on the conditions of anonymity.
Though the BJP does not say it openly, it seems that the party is worried over the coming together of erstwhile Janata Pariwar parties that could become a formidable force against the saffron party first in the elections to Bihar Assembly and later in Uttar Pradesh. The anti-
BJP parties have tasted blood in Delhi Assembly elections; they managed to either field a common candidate against the BJP or decided to back AAP, which resulted in the BJP forced to fight one-to-one against its opponents. This electoral strategy, conceived and pushed by the Christian lobby led to BJP’s electoral massacre, though there may be many other internal reasons for its defeat.
If in the wake of the Janata Pariwar parties coming together to take on the BJP by ensuirng one-on-one fight, and if the BJP finds it difficult to win, then it would be an extremely dangerous situation to halt the electoral slide; it is against this backdrop the BJP has decided to take up mass contact programme and a campaign to set right the perception of the common man on the issue of land acquisition bill.
Interestingly, it is not without reason that Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of State for Environment, while briefing the media, said: “There is no fundamental difference between the thoughts of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and Mahatma Gandhi on economic issues.” This is seen as a clever attempt to co-opt Lohia, whom the Janata Pariwar parties claim sole proprietyship. In any case, Modi has co-opted Mahatma Gandhi by invoking Swachh Bharat campaign and has also set the deadline of 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma to see Bharat free from filth and dirt—all these are seen as being strongly and powerfully pro-Bharat, meaning pro-common man.
It is not only on the issues of land acquisition bill, skill training and Make in India programme that the BJP is seeking for image change-over. Its emphasis on “Namami Gange” (Clean Ganga Campaign), Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao and making Bharat free from manual scavenging are all conscious efforts to position the party and the government on the right side of the masses.
But it is the ‘terminology’ used in the foreign policy resolution the BJP seeks to position itself as a strong votary of nationalism, something dear to the RSS and its outfits. In the six-page resolution passed unanimously, the terminology “Bharat” has been used as many as 73 times while the term “India” has been used only three times. At the same time, the tone and tenor of the resolution—praising Modi for pursuing a robust foreign policy that had enhanced the prestige, reputation and image of Bharat—has everything that is music to the ears of the nationalist forces.
Short of using the two terminologies—“Hindutva and Swadeshi”—in its lexicon and day-to-day political discourse, the Modi government is all set to implement exactly the agenda of the nationalist forces, without, of course, being explicit and becoming obvious. It remains to be seen whether the BJP’s attempts to image change-over will be fruitful. But as Modi, the master-strategist, said, “It is not what we say but what we do in specific and concrete terms, the groundswell of support increases silently but substantially.” The BJP has taken Modi’s words seriously.
“Strengthen The Party From The Panchayat To Parliament Level”
“Trust Modiji, he will not do anything that would cripple Army’s powers to deal with the menace of terrorism,” Ram Madhav, National General Secretary, BJP, said in a conversation with S A Hemantha Kumar, in Bengaluru. He said this when asked about BJP’s stand on Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) which is being opposed by its coalition partner PDP. “No matter who tells what, ultimately it is the Prime Minister who has to take a decision on this issue. Trust him, he will not make the Army a lame duck,” the BJP general secretary added.
What is the message of the BJP’s National Executive Meet held in Bengaluru?
Strengthen the party from the panchayat to parliament level; convert members into active workers; hold orientation camps for ideological indoctrination; defend the government’s actions and take government’s programs and schemes to the people and last but not least, expose the double-standard, anti-people and anti-development, negative and obstructionist attitude of the Opposition parties.
Did the executive discuss the statements made by some ministers which had put the party and the government in an embarrassing position?
This is an internal affair of the party which we do not discuss in public. But all that I can say is that the party will not remain a mute spectator for any of such statements that will deflect the government’s developmental agenda.
BJP cadre and the people who are sympathetic towards BJP nurse a genuine apprehension about the party’s role in J & K. An impression has gained ground that the PDP has taken the BJP for granted.
I can understand the genuine concern but I can assure you from Ground Zero that there is no such thing in the Common Minimum Programme that would endanger nation’s security and integrity. It is not that the BJP has a perfect understanding and agreement with the PDP on all issues, not at all and it cannot be given the diametrically opposite directions on ideology. But all that I can say is that the BJP-PDP has entered into a governmental alliance—not political, not ideological—in order to pursue a development agenda. Through this arrangement, we seek to bring most of the elements to national mainstream.
Is it possible? And if yes, how?
It is a process and evolution. I will give you an example. There used to be a separatist leader, the late Abdul Ghani Lone. His son, Sajjad Lone is MLA. He took oath as minister under BJP quota. He swore on Indian Constitution and took oath that he would defend and safeguard India’s sovereignity and integrity. Is it not a positive development? There are thousands who would like to be the part of democratic process and also join the national mainstream.
What about Article 370? BJP has been talking of its abrogation but it is now silent?
We have not sacrificed our stand; we have only said that we will maintain the present status quo. Now what does it mean? It only means that nothing can be done to abrogate it in the present situation. It is possible to scrap Article 370 only when BJP gets 2/3 majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as well as 2/3 majority in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. In order to get majority in Rajya Sabha, we have to win many state assemblies hands down. Till then, what is the point in harping on the subject, over which we cannot do anything substantial, concrete, meaningful and practical. So, we decided to reiterate our stand that Art 370 needs to be scrapped but also took a matured stand to maintain status quo. It is by no means we have changed our stand for the sake of power.
What about AFSPA? BJP is silent and PDP is strident to remove it?
AFSPA is being used by the Army only in Disturbed Areas as notified by the Disturbed Areas Act. Now there is a Unified Command headed by the chief minister with representatives from the defence forces, para-military forces, Intelligence Bureau and the state police. This Unified Command periodically examines the Disturbed Areas Act and decides if some areas need to be de-classified from being Disturbed Areas. The recommendation will then go to the Prime Minister. We of the BJP have said that let us examine the Disturbed Areas Act. There is nothing wrong in examining as it is being done periodically. Let us trust the Prime Minister, he will not do anything that would cripple the Army’s powers in dealing with the scourge of terrorism. Interestingly, except Leh-Ladakh, entire Jammu and Kashmir valley are categorized as Disturbed Areas. Army invokes AFSPA only in Disturbed Areas and if more and more areas are removed from Disturbed Areas list, then there is no need for the Army to invoke AFSPA. So the onus for bringing normalcy and large areas out of Disturbed Areas list is on the state government. The government is working towards that end.
So do you mean to say that there is a perfect understanding between BJP and PDP in all respects?
Not in all respects. We have understanding on developmental issues. As I said earlier, it is only governmental alliance to usher in equitable development in all the three regions of Jammu & Kashmir – Jammu, Valley and Leh-Ladakh. It is not even political alliance, forget ideological alliance. PDP is free to articulate its views and so the BJP is also free to articulate its views but that would not endanger the stability of the government.
But Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has said that he would speak to Hurriyat and BJP is opposed to it. How do you reconcile this?
The BJP government at the Centre will not talk to Hurriyat on the issue of Pakistan because our considered and consistent stance is that India-Pakistan engagement is bilateral and there is no need for third party intervention. It is in this context the BJP government headed by Narendra Modi called off the secretary-level talks, when Pakistan insisted that it will speak to Hurriyat. But there is a lot of difference between the government of J & K speaking to Hurriyat and Centre talking to Hurriyat. J&K government speaking to Hurriyat is nothing wrong; in fact the government must engage in talks with all stake-holders in the state. It has been a reality that many state governments have spoken to Naxal-representatives. It is necessary to bring everybody and all right-thinking persons and forces to bring on board for the development of the state, without compromising on the nation’s unity, integrity and security. In fact, the BJP-led NDA government headed by Atalji offered to speak to Hurriyat also. So, there is nothing wrong in Jammu and Kashmir government talking to Hurriyat. Ultimately, it is the Centre that has to take a call on matters pertaining to country’s unity, security and integrity.
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru