The BJP Silver Jubilee
It is 25 years since the Bharatiya Janata Party was born. The party is organising grand silver jubilee celebrations in Mumbai this week to mark the occasion. We are happy to extend our greetings and best wishes.
The BJP is a unique entity in Indian polity. It has played a meaningful role all these years and has come to be regarded as the right of centre pole in Indian democracy. Of these 25 years, it was in power at the Centre for six years and is in power in seven states at present. When started, the BJP was perhaps, the smallest political party in the country. What is the secret of the BJP success? The parties, which were dominant on the national scene in the eighties, now exist only for namesake. Some have even gone out of the political matrix.
The BJP is lucky in having scores of towering leaders of national eminence. It is equally lucky to have a dedicated cadre. It also benefited from the anti-corruption campaign of the late eighties under V.P. Singh. But the real growth of the party as a pan-Indian force was the result of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, which spurred an ideological debate in the country and attracted people from all strata of society cutting across caste, region, urban, rural divide. The agitation brought large goodwill, resources and youth involvement. The Janmabhoomi campaign was both innovative and creative. It was the time when women and tribals swelled its ranks. In power the BJP attracted more intellectuals and fence-sitters, setting the stage for a credible alternative to socialist secular sloganism that so far dominated the political space. All through, the Congress shrank, and now there are only few states the Sonia party is in a position to bid for power on its own.
The BJP charted out a year-long plan for this silver jubilee celebration, holding massive women, tribal and youth rallies in different parts of the country. In over 12 volumes in Hindi and English the party history is ready for release. During the year, the party scored major electoral victories too in Bihar and Jharkhand and demonstrated its hold in the local bodies and by-elections in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Its governments in these states are rated as the best in the country. The Janata Dal(U)-BJP in Bihar and BJD-BJP in Orissa are considered governments more responsive and development oriented. Its parliamentary intervention resulted in the resignation of a number of tainted ministers from the central cabinet. Despite all these positives the party was mired in internal conflicts attracting media attention for wrong reasons.
The BJP has shown that it can manage contradictions better than the Congress. The coalitions with the BJP as partner work better than those with the Congress. The Congress is comfortable only in dominant roles. And it has the advantage, if it is one, of individual-centric leadership. Most parties in India have no ideology. Their ideology is what the one individual at the top says. This is so with the Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, TDP, AIADMK or LJP. Nehruvian negationism is their borrowed robe. But there are both regional and national parties, which are ideology driven: Like the BJP, CPM, BSP, Akali Dal and DMK.
Some analysts believe that ideology has no role in electoral success. It'sthe atmospheric at the time of election that decides the outcome, they say. For this they cite the example of 1971, 1977 and 1984 when emotions overrode party preferences. But in these elections the overriding emotion was the idea of India as a nation.
This idea is better represented by the BJP than any other party. Some people say that the BJP defeat in 2004 general election was the result of cadre fatigue or indifference. Others laugh at this suggestion and want to shape the party as an instrument for power. Is ideology a hindrance for making alliances? Except for the communists and the Congress no other party has made political untouchability an electoral philosophy. The BJP was credited as a party with a difference because of the belief that it is committed to socio-political transformation, a collective leadership accountable to the cadre and a level of reticence in public conduct.
A party like the BJP cannot exist only for power. When pursuit of power becomes the only goal, clash of personalities ensues. The recent sparrings in the BJP in state after state have nothing to do with ideology. Ideological commitment of the leadership is what inspired the cadre to serve, sacrifice and combat. Effective leadership has to balance between its core constituency and the other constituency. It is suicidal to believe that the committed constituency is a captive one and go about wooing the other. It is crucial to improve the over-all image of the party. Along side the brouhaha of the birthday bash, the BJP will do well by reiterating a clearer vision of its political understanding.