01 May 2009

The BJP's History and Right-Wing Ideology

On the 50th anniversary of India's independence, Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote an essay in "Frontline". In his inimitable way, Vajpayee traces the history of the BJP and in the process, also outlines a genuine right-wing ideology:

India might have had to sacrifice territory at the altar of the Muslim League's communal politics, but like Sardar Patel, many of us were convinced that we would be able to mould what remained of this ancient, timeless land into a modern nation-state, firmly anchored in the republican values of democracy, equality and fraternity.

Soon after, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh was formed, largely with the purpose of floating a nationalist political party that would offer an alternative platform different from that of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the party grew, with more and more people joining it. We began carrying our nationalist message of "One country, one people, one culture" to the farthest corners of India.

The Chinese aggression came as a rude shock to the people and for the first time the Congress began to lose its nationalist appeal. Instead, more and more people turned towards the Bharatiya Jan Sangh's nationalist agenda.

Indira Gandhi's Emergency in 1975 brought the wheels of democracy to a grinding halt. Suddenly, our polity was endangered as never before and dictatorship appeared to be a very real possibility. Since ours was by then a large organisation, our party cadre jumped into the battle against autocracy.

Prior to the merger and the formation of the Janata Party, we had made the relationship between the RSS and some of us very clear to the other leaders. They had emphatically stated that they had no objection to this as the RSS, and here I quote them, "is a cultural organisation devoted to good work". The same RSS, however, was unacceptable to these same people who raised the "dual membership" issue – they went back on their word.

The BJS was reborn as the Bharatiya Janata Party on Good Friday in April 1980.

While the Congress tried to abuse its brute majority in Parliament to impose itself in a most arrogant manner, we regrouped our forces and drew sustenance from our uncompromising commitment to ideology, morality and ethics. Our hard work, relentless campaign against Congress corruption and dedication to the nation paid dividends in the next general election.

Our uncompromising nationalism, our commitment to probity in public life, our war against politics of opportunism, our opposition to pandering to casteism and minorityism gave us the strength to prove these Cassandras wrong.

The Ayodhya movement has no doubt contributed to this success. We joined the movement because Sri Ram epitomises the cultural heritage of all Indians, he symbolises our cultural nationalism. Through this movement, we were able to unleash the suppressed aspirations of millions of Indians and canalise their nationalist fervour towards nation-building.

What has also contributed to our success is our slogan "Justice for all, appeasement of none". The BJP believes in creating a society through able governance where every individual, irrespective of caste, religion or sex, will have a place under the sun; where optimism, opportunity and oneness will provide the impetus for the creation of a strong and prosperous nation.

The spirit of nationalism that spurred our freedom fighters to sacrifice everything for their motherland was sought to be suppressed by the Nehruvian consensus in the decades immediately after Independence. But nationalism cannot be killed by transplanted ideologies or pseudo-ideologies.

I am confident that India will enter the next millennium with its head held high, a strong and prosperous nation, proud of its past and confident of its future as a leading member of the comity of nations. The mantra that will see us yet achieve this goal is the same mantra that ended foreign rule – uncompromising nationalism, nationalism that verges on devotionalism as epitomised by Vande Mataram, nationalism that puts the nation above everything else.

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