The National Executive of BJP, held in Delhi, has retuned itself as a party of governance and reiterated the development mantra with clear content and intent
The first 2016 National Executive meeting of the BJP was held nearly two years after the victory of the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The old look to the past, the young have their eyes fixed on the future, and in a country as youthful as Bharat, it is important that the party which has been entrusted by voters of running the country adopt a policy matrix that addresses the needs of the future. Given the stresses on the nation fabric that are being caused by external and internal players, the core objective has to be the protection of national unity and resilience, and for this to be achieved, double digit growth is essential. If China has escaped serious social disruption during the past three decades, the explanation for that vests in the high growth rate which the country has enjoyed since the 1980s. A party that had been torn apart by the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s regained its resilience soon afterwards because of departures from past policies of surpassing boldness, such as the outreach to the US in the 1970s and the implementation of Deng Xiaoping's pragmatic economic policies a decade later. It was in the pages of Sunday Guardian four years ago that Narendra Modi was described as Bharat's answer to Deng Xiaoping, and by his boldness in foreign policy and in promoting administrative change, the Prime Minister has shown the accuracy of that forecast.
External and internal players are no longer coy about revealing their intention to propel Bharat towards the same quagmire that Pakistan has fallen into, a congeries of communal groups that tear each other part and which wreck the unity of the country. It is often said that “an idle mind is the devil's workshop”, so the prime task of government is to ensure that enough jobs get created each year to absorb 13 million fresh entrants into the labour market. Unless job creation reaches such a level, social stability will be affected. Prime Minister Modi was able to win the Lok Sabha elections for the BJP because he was regarded by voters as being the leader most likely to ensure rapid economic growth, and by 2019 this promise needs to be fulfilled. The National Executive has focussed on development along with a plethora of other issues that are social and political in nature. The party needs to appreciate that it is economic growth that will impact both politics and society in Bharat, and that its absence cannot be compensated by other means. Both the government as well as the party – separately of course – needs to be placed on course to ensure double digit growth, and for this to happen, mindsets and procedures need to change. In particular, the BJP President needs a 4-6 member Strategic Advisory Group that would serve as a Second Opinion Chamber on the ways in which party officials seek to direct events and actions. In the government as well, such bodies (small enough to be meaningful, never more than six) need to be set up, such as a National Security Advisory Board (NSAB),a Foreign Policy Advisory Board (FPAB),an Economic Policy Advisory Board and an Education Policy Advisory Board attached to each ministry that would review what is being done and suggest changes and improvements.
In Bharat, there is a penchant for placing “Yes Men” in such committees, so that each such group becomes an Echo Chamber for those at the top of the executive ladder in selected ministries and departments. Instead, those with viewpoints, not influenced by the official, need to be represented on each such committee Anupam Saraph in Information Technology and Telecom and a Jacob Puliyel in Health, for example. In the NSAB, those with a record of forecasting trends correctly need to be chosen, rather than those who parrot the biased views of foreign think tanks or sometimes stale governmental groupthink. The difference between China and Bharat is that in the former, a whole range of very different options get exhaustively considered before one is chosen, whereas in Bharat, a small group of mostly officials design policies that they favour, much as Jawaharlal Nehru fashioned the economic and foreign policies of Bharat out of his own predilections, keeping around him only those who agreed with his views.
Because of the debris accumulated during the UPA years, it is taking time before the system gets to a level of health and efficacy sufficient to ensure double digit growth. Once the economy begins to life off from the runway, the ambient noise now being heard about a range of less consequential issues will die down. Those who are creating such ambient noise, such as over the charge of “intolerance”, get oxygenated when the BJP responds sharply to them rather than treat them as the petty nuisances they are. An over-focus on Rahul Gandhi, for example, has helped the Congress Vice-President to compete with Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal in the battle to become the politician who is the biggest foe of Prime Minister Modi. The AAP leader too has benefitted from the constant attention being paid to him by the BJP, sometimes at the highest level. While those at lower levels in the BJP should certainly respond to the sallies of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, the top leadership needs to remain focussed on matters of national concern when going before the public. The BJP top leadership has to be perceived as Big Picture politicians rather than at the level of those with far less pulling power among the public. At the National Executive, it was welcome that relatively little attention was paid to those who are seeking to gain traction in politics by abuse of the BJP and in particular, its leader Narendra Modi
This is 2016,and it is no longer possible for any government to exercise the degree of control that Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi had over the lives of the citizen. If even China cannot curb freedom on the internet, it would be folly for Bharat to try. What is needed is to take such freedoms as a given in a society where technology is enabling the individual citizen to become empowered in a manner unimaginable even a generation ago. The BJP needs to follow Prime Minister Modi in adjusting to this new world and its freedoms and not believe that it can roll the waves back by laws or police action. Indeed, the police need to be used sparingly, rather than in the widespread manner that has been the case since the days of British rule. Such freedoms include freedom of dress, diet and lifestyle and that cannot be done away with through the imposition of colonial laws. Had such laws worked, all Saudis would be teetotallers when the reverse is true in practice, while innocent women would not face the danger they do at the hands of some males repressed by a Wahabbi straitjacket. The spirit of Sanatan Dharma is respect for other lifestyles and tolerance towards the same, and this noble spirit needs to be followed in Bharat, the home of this universal faith, that accepts all and harmonises all.
The UK rose to primacy through the Industrial Revolution. Bharat will do likewise through the Knowledge Revolution. This mandates a climate of freedom of speech and information and transparency, Prime Minister Modi has called for the use of technology to ensure that governmental processes be accessible for verification and assessment by the citizen. For too long, Civil Society has taken a subsidiary role to an all-powerful colonial-style Civil Service. The BJP led by Prime Minister Modi has before it the task of ensuring that the governance system of the country be such as will facilitate rather than hider the rise of Bharat. The National Executive was a step towards ensuring a “Nayee BJP” with “Nayee Soch” for the Naya Yug that has opened for the country since May 26, 2014.
Professor M D Nalapat (The writer is a political analyst and close observer of the BJP)