By M.V. Kamath
The Bharatiya Janata Party can justly be proud of the services it has rendered to the country in the twenty five years of its existence. For political parties?and there have been, amazingly enough, over fifty of them that came into being since Independence?have lasted that long and it speaks about the BJP'srelevance that it has not only survived but has become the premier Opposition party in Parliament. It is truly a ?national? party in every sense of the term and is co-equal to the Indian National Congress in more ways than one.
The Congress, sadly enough, lives on its past glory. Its strength is its brand name. It has been around for over a century and in its heyday it represented the spirit of India. No longer. Its claims to ?secularism? ?whatever it means?sound hollow. It has lost its pre-eminence in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; lesser parties have taken over the reins of power in Uttar Pradesh, once the home of none else than Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira, not to speak of men of such distinction as Govind Vallabh Pant. Bihar, once the home of Babu Rajendra Prasad is now a hotbed of caste intrigues, and a hunting ground for the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Northern India, with the possible exception of Rajasthan, has fallen prey to petty politicians without the law. It is against this background that one hails the BJP'sSilver Jubilee and wishes it greater days ahead. It has in recent times shown its muscle in Bihar and, no doubt, in years to come, it will recover its earlier elan to return to power in Delhi.
It would be invidious to single out individual leaders within the BJP though L.K.Advani, the departing party president deserves every encomia heaped on him. It was he, more than many of his colleagues, who helped give BJP its strength and backbone. The coming years are going to be very demanding. Whether Shri Advani, like his senior colleague Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee will continue to be active or not, it is a fact of life they are getting on in years and cannot be expected to exert themselves unduly.
The BJP, in days to come can increasingly be expected to be the party of the GenNext. Shri Advani'sparting advice to his colleagues is sound. Commending to them the qualities of ?self-confidence, dedication, discipline, commitment, hard work and determination? and the ?in-born desire to see that India emerges as a great nation? Shri Advani rightly advised his junior colleagues to stick to them through thick and thin, remembering that with these one can ?move mountains?. Surely, one can.
The BJP leaders don'tneed advice from the media on how to conduct themselves in the years to come. They have seen life and they have fought elections. And they have paid dearly for wrong decisions undertaken. Times have changed and they are changing rapidly.
But it is one thing to have ideals and quite another to practice politics. If there is one enemy that idealism or ideology has to reckon with, it is politics. Politics is reality, idealism is illusion. And the twain seldom, it ever, meet. And this is where the BJP will have, of necessity, to make compromises. If the Vajpayee government succeeded to any extent? and even the worst enemies of the party will concede that it did succeed?it is because it compromised in order to stay in power. And one can rest assured that no matter how high its aim and how noble its sentiments, in the days to come the BJP will have to adjust itself to grim reality. That is wisdom.
The BJP leaders don'tneed advice from the media on how to conduct themselves in the years to come. They have seen life and they have fought elections. And they have paid dearly for wrong decisions undertaken. Times have changed and they are changing rapidly. As the English poet Lord Tennyson rightly noted: ?The old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.?
The communists in the erstwhile Soviet Union realised it a long while ago. Mao Tse-tung'smost ardent successors learnt their lesson also in due course. That is why China today is making giant stride and fast becoming a competitor to the United States. In time it could well be a true and inevitable successor to the former Soviet Union. Shouldn'twe learn a lesson from history?
Jawaharlal Nehru had a great vision for India. In his early days as Prime Minister socialism was the watchword and most intellectuals fell for it in a big way. Nehru was the hero of his times as, in an earlier era, was Mahatma Gandhi with his cry for swadeshi.
?Swadeshi? is a battle cry and it was appropriate in the twenties and thirties but does not make much sense in these days of globalisation. Similarly ?socialism? or as Nehru put it, attainment of a socialistic pattern of society, had its ardent adherents. It would be foolish to run it down for Nehru'svision took us a long way. But it had its limitations as anybody now will tell from past experience.
The word ?secularism? has now become a joke and is rarely used even by the Congress. But it had its day. There are here lessons for the BJP to learn. This does not mean that the BJP has to give up its ideals. Shri Advani rightly referred to commitment; it is the biggest single factor that helps promote brand value. And that should constantly be borne in mind. One fact that must be steadily borne in mind is the age-level of contemporary society. As is being ceaselessly argued, about 70 to 75 per cent of India's1.2 billion population comes within the age group of 18 to 35 years. How should one approach this age group which, as one hears of it, has only one aim: To make it to the top in the world of Information Technology? How should the BJP conduct itself to catch the imagination and willing support of GenNext? Even caste is becoming irrelevant when it comes to voting in elections as was amply shown in the recent elections to the Bihar Legislature.
And who would have imagined that the Muslim candidates elected to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly from Godhra would rather stand by the BJP than with the Congress? What this only indicates is that we are living in times of change and it would be a very foolish BJP if it does not change with the times. Shri Advani was referring to the last twenty five years as a period of ?great learning?.
Actually India saw some of the greatest changes in society in just the last one decade. And greatest changes can be expected in the next decade. In the circumstances it would be a wise BJP which fashions its ideology to match the times. It is going to be a hard task. But it has to be undertaken. It is one thing to go on but it is quite another to go abreast, ahead of everyone else. A party which is not afraid to change is more likely to win than the party which is comfortable with maintaining the status quo.
The BJP has great inner strength which it must cash in on. Currently it has even a strong base on which it can build a grand structure worthy of the nation. It has every reason to be proud of its quarter century of history. The future beckons and the BJP must get ready to answer the call.