By Shyam Khosla
I have tremendous faith in the resilience of the Hindu nationalists. It is not for the first time that its political face?the BJP?has been battered. Its worst performance since the first general elections was in 1984 when it was reduced to two seats in the Lok Sabha. It didn'tlose heart. The defeat led to a churning process and the party set up a committee headed by the late K.L. Sharma to identify the causes of the defeat and future line of action. Going back to roots was suggested as its revival mantra. The party bounced back by identifying itself with an assertive Hindu agenda. The year 2004 was not as bad as 1984. However, it is no surprise that the BJP is in a soul-searching mould after the setback in the parliamentary elections and not in mourning as anti-Hindu forces would like us to believe. At the risk of being repetitive, let me reiterate that it was a setback?albeit unexpected?and not an ignominious defeat.
The BJP was behind the Congress by only a few parliamentary seats. It lost power for a number of reasons, including the miscalculation that there was no anti-incumbency. It paid heavily for dilution in ideology and idealism. Cadres were disenchanted. Yet another important factor was that its alliance was thinner than the rainbow alliance the Congress knitted. Several NDA partners deserted it during the run up to the polls and the BJP erred in kicking out some others. As luck would have it, those who remained with the NDA lost badly, taking the saffron party down with them. Losing power is not such a big catastrophe. It may be a blessing in disguise if the party can turn the setback into an opportunity by devoting its energy to rebuilding the party structure and reviving cordial and brotherly relations with apolitical Hindu forces. For a cadre-based mass party like the one we are talking about, it is easier to strengthen the party structure when it is out of power.
The popular perception that only three issues?Ram temple, Article 370 and Common Civil Code?constitute the Hindu agenda is myopic. These are not necessarily the concerns of all Hindus. Besides, these can be by no stretch of imagination the only concerns of the Hindu society.
The popular perception that only three issues?Ram temple, Article 370 and Common Civil Code?constitute the Hindu agenda is myopic. These are not necessarily the concerns of all Hindus. Besides, these can be by no stretch of imagination the only concerns of the Hindu society. There are countless issues and perceptions that together strengthen and fortify Hindutva. The nature of our national identity is the first and foremost. National unity and territorial integrity, internal security and national defence, respect and dignity of Hindu icons, social harmony and demographic changes, to mention only a few, are equally important. Any party that subscribes to the philosophy of Hindu nationalism will have to broaden its agenda to encompass countless Hindu concerns. Equally important is the need to reach out to all forces and groups that may have been alienated because of the policies pursued by the NDA government. Mistakes committed need to be acknowledged and corrective measures taken.
Time is a great healer. Every one in the ideological family will have to forget and forgive. Bitterness should give way to deep-rooted brotherly love and respect for each other. Honest criticism of policies is acceptable; personal attacks are not. Doubting others? intentions is not the family norm. It leads to disintegration and disaster. Blaming game helps no one. An honest introspection may reveal that mistakes were committed by all. It was a collective failure. It will have to be a collective effort.
Those in public life need to resist the temptation to live in luxury. There is no space for five-star style of living in a party nurtured by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and others of his ilk. If the late Indira Gandhi could celebrate her sons? marriages as private affairs where only a few were invited, why should BJP leaders?big and small?make the marriages of their children gala affairs. Why should there be display of wealth and affluence on birthdays of leaders? BJP is not a personality-oriented party. It has grown because of the hard work and dedication of tens of thousands workers and sympathisers. Idealism is of paramount importance in a party that wants to set standards and inspire millions. Let the party president assert his moral authority to instill a sense of discipline and dedication among the workers at all levels. No one howsoever popular, resourceful and articulate should be allowed to hijack the party for personal glory.