Thursday, May 28, 2009

BJP must choose between ideology and drift


Comment
The varied response to my last entry, Locating BJP’s Ideology, is also indicative of the lack of unanimity and the confusion that prevails within the party.

There are those who swear by ‘Hindutva’ and believe that the path to electoral success lies through communal polarisation. Their logic: Muslims won’t vote for BJP in any event; the ‘Hindu vote’ is fragile and given to fragmentation along caste lines; and, in the final analysis, emotive and not substantive issues matter during elections.

Then there are those who believe ‘Hindutva’ (in whatever form) has been grafted on the party needlessly. They would rather go along with ‘Integral Humanism’. There’s a problem though: Not too many of those who espouse this line are well-acquainted with Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s exposition of ‘Integral Humanism’. Intellectual rigour is not the forte of either this group or any other; political rhetoric is often palmed off as ideological discourse.

There’s a third section in the party which is ‘ideology neutral’, does not have either the time or the inclination to study and internalise the ‘political philosophy’ of the party. They are there for reasons that I have elaborated upon in my previous post.

Confusion on the ideological front is confounded when senior leaders dismiss ideology in the most facile manner. LK Advani has on more than one occasion said that “ideology has no relevance to governance”.

Which perhaps explains why the BJP in power (1998-2004) failed to meet the voters’ expectations while dealing with terrorism, Bangladeshi infiltration and even something as ‘secular’ as reviewing the Constitution or dealing with corruption.

Let us not forget that after promising to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants, the BJP actually floated the idea of issuing ‘special identity cards’ (work permits) to them. The BJP had pledged to repeal the IMDT Act, but it didn't do so in the six years it was in power. It needed a Supreme Court judgement to spike this monstrosity after the UPA came to power.

The Prime Minister need not have visited the Vatican during the India-EU Summit in Rome only to be castigated by Pope John Paul II and handed over a demarche. A party president who was caught on tape taking cash was merely made to stand in a corner instead of being packed off in sack cloth and ashes. The bar for ministerial probity should have been set much higher. Arrogance came to substitute humility. The BJP played ducks and drakes with the Bofors scam case. Bureaucrats who discovered 'RSS links' were promoted over able and intelligent officers. Navin Chawla was rehabilitated.

The flip-flop over relations with Pakistan (Lahore bus journey-Kargil-Agra-Parliament attack-aar paar ki ladaai – let’s kiss and make up) and the constant hand-wringing made a mockery of the BJP-led Government. It’s not sufficient to distance yourself from the capitulation at Kandahar; it was a collective decision, never mind what certain individuals have to say. I was in the PMO those days and I can vouch for this fact.

Therefore, what is required is clarity of thought. The BJP must decide its ideological direction/orientation, reframe ideology within the matrix of today’s India, and stand by it. Or it must boldly stand up and say, “Ours is an ideology neutral party. We shall sway with the wave.”

The consequences of the former course of action would be three-fold:
. Those allergic to ideological rigour will make an exit. This could debilitate the party in the short and medium term, but strengthen it in the long term.
. The BJP’s integrity quotient will increase.
. The drift which began in 1998 will be arrested.


The consequences of abandoning ideology would also be three-fold:
. Those who lack morals and scruples shall take over the party.
. The BJP will, in due course, become a pale shadow of its past and jostle for space with the RJD and SP.
. The drift will gather speed; integrity quotient (at an all time low) will plummet.

A couple of points merit mention:

a. Commitment to ideology does not amount to shrill enunciation and raucous denunciation.
b. Hindutva does not have to be limited to politics of exclusivism or identity-based politics.

Linked to the issue of ideology are three other important issues:

a. Leadership
b. Organisation
c. Expansion.

I propose to write about these in the coming days. Tomorrow I shall write about 'Hindu expectations' and the BJP's role.

Your feedback is valuable. Comments are not ‘censored’ (an apprehension expressed by a reader) but we should avoid personal attacks and derogatory language.

23 comments:

iamfordemocracy said...

Kanchanji, thanks for listing BJP's unfulfilled promises in simple words. In your future articles, please could you discuss whether it is necessary to utter the word Hindu in order to support the Hindu cause. Afterall, all that Hindus need is a fair and just society and a level playing field for all religions. To deliver that, or to promise that, the word Hindu does not need a mention. I would appreciate your views.

The second question is whether BJP's voters would accept a conspicuous absence of that word. My sense is that many of the staunch BJP supporters get some kicks with the mention of the word Hindu along with the mention of the word proud. Once that happens they don't really care whether Hindus have anything to be proud of about the current Indian society or about the way world treats them. That is a side issue though.

More than a change of ideology, BJP needs a change of language. In fact, if they wish to succeed against the combined forces of hostile international media and hostile national parties, BJP must evolve a new vocabulary. And yes, they should only promise what they can deliver. If article 370 is not part of that list, forget it. If common civil code is out, so be it. BJP first needs to function as a responsible political party, not as an upholder of morality, but simple down to earth provider of needs.

Karna said...

Keep these blog posts coming. They are very valuable in clearing the confusion that prevails right now. But is the BJP listening? I don't think so.

I will take your point further on ideology. My take is Modi should be made leader of opposition.

It will have the following affects.
1) He will get a platform to reach an all India audience. He is a no-nonsense person and talks value. Reasonable people will see the point in what he says.
2) Morale of the cadres will be boosted.
3) Hindutva oriented ordinary supporters will also get a morale boost.
4) 'Secula Mafia' media will continue to portray him as a fascist but being in parliament will negate that as he will get a platform to voice his opinions, which any sane and ideology-neutral person will find reasonable.
5) Flatterers will be discouraged and Karmayogis will be encouraged in BJP.

Bottomline on minority votes: Muslims and Christians will never vote for BJP and this is especially true of educated ones. They tend to be more connected with their respective ulemas and ideology hardened.

Thus, moving NaMo to the national politics will not be a loss, but at the same time, he might unite Hindus along efficient-governance and Hindutva lines.

This might backfire in the short run in a couple of state elections, but this is the only solution to put BJP on track.

I know this has been mentioned N number of times, but the importance of genuine neutral or right friendly media is a MUST. BJP supporters (from abroad or in India) who have the money need to invest heavily in vernacular and national media. Pioneer or a couple of vernaculars wont do.

I am of the firm belief, had the media scrutinized the record of UPA on national issues (in a national election) like job security, national security, mood of the urban youngsters might have been different.

Once can't forget the sad face of Burka and Sagarika Dosh when NaMo won in Dec 2007 and their visual orgams when UPA won now.

Media is a political tool now, it is no longer the fourth pillar of democracy. By and large, our media consists of a fifth pillar or serves as a political tool. Media doesn't play by the rules, sam-dam-dund-bhed must be used to make it more right friendly. A prostitute has higher principles than the Indian English media.

Anonymous said...

Kanchan ji,

As you said, these flip flops over what it stood for till 1998are the major reasons for it reduced the credibility of what bjp says and stands for.

There were so many issues that concern hindu mind (not only ram temple and uniform civil code.), which were not in domain of other religions and hence should not have bothered them.

Chief among them was things like temples administration, ensuring money from temples was associated only with temples and charitable works under the temple name and the money not going to other departments, either behave truly secular by not providing subsisdy for haj or allocate proposrtional amount for hindu pilgrims to go on pilgrimage. hindus expected laws to be made stringent to control influx of missionary money and ensure enough checks were in place on how money was spent.


These were important issues apart from some you mentioned.


I think karnataka bjp has started to address first of these. now its starting a subsidised tour for bpl hindu pilgrims. it has alloted 900 cr for temple renovations(large no of temples in kar reported to be close or without one time puja )besides funds for pilgrim facilities in many important temple. The temple devaswoms are not being made to pay for road developments.


bjp failed to adress even simple issues that were of concern to hindu minds, while it was seen trying to pamper to others. This led to the fall of bjp ability to address issues in peoples eyes.

BJP need not have worried about controversial issues, but atleast solved basic ones which were not controversial and which no one will dare oppose.

NR said...

Simply put BJP failed to walk the talk when in power, leading to a loss of face value.

somehow due to impressions created, this word hindutva is just being connected to hindu by average indian mind, and hence it needs to have an all encompassing term say bharatiya.

Ideology is the quintessential need of any party that wants to occcupy the space of credibility.

The ideology should be moulded in such a way it is driven by the energy of dharma and all acts and decisions hence have its power.

Integrity and credibility is most important and it needs to become a true party with a difference.

The strength of ideology must be such that it should allow the ability to take decisions on any issue however complicated based on its power in a correct manner.

This empowers the decision of the leadership, unites the organisation as well.

That BJP failed to take its decision based on what it stood for, was the biggest fall down. The opposition never claimed such lofty pedestals.

Narendra modis remark of how people assess him stands good for bjp as well. People set high standards for sachin, and the moment it is down, even if it down position is greater then up postion of others the clamour for his head grows as the perception is he failed.

Same holds true for BJP. When you fall from high, the impact of the fall is much greater,


Let those hanging around for personal benifits be purged and a fresh start be made.

LG said...

Kanchanji,

Your grouping of BJP folks into (using a short hand)- rabid Hindutvawadis, Integral Humanists and Ideologically Flexible is indeed a useful starting point. But just to step back a bit, Hindutvawad need not be always rabid. How about defining Hindutva more appropriately? E.g. instead of the negative it seems to currently indicate (ie non Muslim etc.) why not define in terms of the term Dharma? Indeed as a postor pointed out earlier, the Karnataka variant seems to have understood it better (rather than the UP / Varun Gandhi variant). That Dharma has room for all, seeks to define paradigms in Indic context, maintains the quintessential Hindu character, ceaselessly seeks reform of Hindu institutions, reconciles with modernity, finds no difference between economic development and itself (Dharma)

Just taking one issue - on economic development, pronouncements from RSS leaders (eg Sudharshanji) indicate that they favor ascetism (= reducing one's own needs)to seeking wealth. Actually this runs contrary to the Hindu way of thinking which defines seeking wealth as one of the Purusharthas - as long as it is through correct (dharmic) means!

At a broader level the Sangh has foresaken Thought and favored Organisation in the last few decades. Consequently ideas are ossified and we seem to need referring to Guru Golwalkarji - whose thoughts were based on 1930s stimulus!

Let us define ideology in the paradigm of Dharma!

Arjun said...

Kanchan,

Please find below a link by Rajinder Puri from an article written in 2004. A very nice article that clearly states why the BJP has no future unless something miraculous happens. I think given the details in Puri's article that it is pointless pondering over the BJP. It is finished.

The link to the Puri article:

http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090528&fname=puri&sid=1

Arun said...

If we spin off BJP into smaller regional parties in AP, TN, Orissa, WB and Kerala, it won't alter the party's seats tally. Don't you think multiple BJPs (clones) will be more difficult for the media to victimize?

GHATOTKACHSERIES II said...

The case is one for majoritarianism. This country is overwhelmingly Hindu and therefore state policy must reflect this loud and clear. The Hindu tradition is naturally tolerant and not given to pogroms against adherents of other faiths unless pushed to the wall with intolerable provocation. This cannot be said for the the monotheistic religions- Christian, Muslim etc... They have not only been most aggressive against other religions throughout their history but lace it to date with social condemnation, cultural abuse, desecration, racial bigotry and so on. Nehruvian secularism in its under confidence plays to an outdated and theoretical British tradition ( God knows they did not practice what they preached), designed to demonstrate how civilised we are ( as nothing but Wogs), and how deserving of praise... even if all we got was damnation by faint praise. As for the BJP stint in power under an adroit Vajpayee-- there were compromises and distortions caused by the exigencies of coalition politics. It is a little unfair to demand standards of the BJP that do not exist anywhere in our public life. Still, we are evolving, and gradually it is not unrealistic to expect better standards all around, in governance, in economic progress, in social modernism. I am convinced that this country has no choice but to come out of its coy secularist closet and be counted for what it is - a Hindu nation with equal status for all, with carrot for the nationalist and unmistakeable stick for the traitor.

BJP_Sympathizer said...

There is lot of confusion in people's minds as to what type of Hindutva ideology BJP stands for, assuming that it continues to stand for Hindutva.

BJP should come out with a document that clearly articulates its Hindutva ideology. Such a document should be the final one for all clarifications and BJP should clearly tell all its criticizers & haters not to use any other source (be it Veer Savarkar's or Guru Golwarkar's) to attack/criticize it.

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Priyadarsi said...

Kanchan da,

Diagnosis is half the cure. The 'interpretor of maladies' in you have done the first part, it is for the patient to follow the prescription. But BJP still may not realise how sick it is. The 'lean warrior of faith' loses discipline when it becomes 'the obese ruler'. Wrose, after losing authority it loses the strength to spring back as well. The much vaunted 'second generation of leadership' is nowhere visible. BJP's Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan was a pre-liberalization era phenomenon. Many of those who voted for the first time in 2009 were not born then. BJP will have to reinterpret it Hindutva to this youth who are living in ideological and intellectual vacuum. Elections are won on three things- ideology (if the party has one), organisation and candidates. The last is the greatest flaw of the BJP, and forte of Congress. A BJP member may be very committed, intellectual (let's presume) and articulate. But he has a problem mixing with 'common people' in his constituency. BJP marginalized its mass leaders. A Congress MP may be dumb but easily mixes with people, listens to their grievances. Just take a walk/drive around any morning in MP/MLA quarters. How many people have come for 'their work' to Congress, and how many to BJP MPs. For Hindus it is always 'what this party has done for me' (for Muslims it is 'what this party has done for my community'). Hence BJP loses Hindu votes, and Congress laps them up.

Vijay said...

Dear Kanchan ji

A major reason for BJP getting a bad rap is the media campaign against it.

I would suggest finding ways of disseminating the Hindu view points throughout all of India, with a view to counter anti BJP and also to empower the Hindus.

Assuming you get everthing right, but are faced with a unfriendly media, this is good enough to thwart the best of campaigns.

Of course there are other issues such as going alone without partnering with parties will only use BJP, having local BJP or Hindu outfits in Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, etc.

At the most basic level, which the sangh parivar has to work together would be to "create" the Hindu identity, which by a large does not exist. If it exists they will never vote for Congress or other anti majority clones.

Balaji said...

Kanchanji,

As someone pointed out can you please give your definition of Hindutva before proceeding further? For me, Hindutva is fascism. But most Hindutvawadi's don't know a thing about Fascism and decline that they are Fascists.

For instance Guruji never mentions the word Hindutva in his Bunch of Thoughts except as Savarkar's book. Neither does Deendayal in his lectures on Integral Humanism. But suddenly BJP and Advani started claiming from the mid-80s that BJP stood for Hindutva as in "Hindu way of life"? Wasn't that just a ploy to appease the Hindu fundamentalists. How can vote bank politics become ideology?

Also can you elaborate which part of Integral Humanism do its proponents don't understand?

And why do you think the NDA govt didn't follow ideology? Did Atalji waver from Humanism at all? Or do you claim that Atalji believes in Hindutva?

If the following are not standing up for ideology, namely Integral Humanism, then what else is?

1. Going nuclear at Pokharan? Announcing a voluntary moratorium. And the relentless effort to convince that we only want a deterrent. Won't a Humanist, who wants a nuclear free world, find it acceptable?

2. Trying to solve Kashmir issue which was so close to Syama Prasad Mukherjee's heart? Atalji, the humanist even had the heart to ignore Pakistani misadventures and looked for a solution relentlessly. Anyway do you think any a Constitutional amendment to abrogate 370 would have passed in that Lok Sabha? And did NDA partners approve such a measure?

3. Trying to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya thru dialog with Muslims? Did any Muslim object to that dialog started by Vajpayee? And remember using the services of religious leaders like Kanchi Sankaracharya and not rowdies like Advani did in 1992.

4. How do you explain chasing away poor Bangaladeshi Muslims looking for a decent living in India, their mother nation? Didn't Atalji chase the Akhand Bharat dream with his Mekhong-Ganga project? And no, why is Akhand Bharat not a cultural concept but a political concept?

5. His call to Narendra Modi to maintain Raj Dharma? Do you remember the agony, the humanist in Atalji felt when he visited a Gujarat savaged by Hindutva fanatics?

6. His decision to release militants to save Hindu (Indian) lives in Kandahar? Except for that Hindutva guy Advani, no body in that cabinet has been ashamed about it. Jaswant Singh went to extent of saying he would repeat it if the situation demands. And Advani named another Hindutva guy Arun Shourie as the decenter. And you are claiming it was by consensus. Seems Hindutva champion Advani has lot of answering to do on this issue.

Ajay said...

BJP should transform into party of common man, by the common man, for the common man.

Vijay said...

Balaji said...
Kanchanji,

>For me, Hindutva is fascism.

Hindutva only means essence of Hinduism and the supreme court has also interpreted it to mean something similar and something which has nothing to do with Fascism a product of Western civilization originating from Catholic Italy.

But you seem to be indoctrinated too much already. What is the point in trying to explain to you.

Bhavananda said...

In my humble opinion, Balaji is completely lost when he equates Hindutva with fascism. Hindutva, like the Sanatana Dharma, is liberal enough for different people to have different interpretations. To me, Hindutva is the means to defend the civillizational ethos of Bharat - this includes the Dharma and everything else that stood the test of time.

But, from his statements on integral humanism, it looks to me that Balaji (with all respect) belongs to the kangress party. For example,

"Trying to solve Kashmir issue which was so close to Syama Prasad Mukherjee's heart" - trying?? How many Pandits did the NDA rehabilitate? I'm not expecting them to abrogate 370, but its unacceptable that after 5 yrs in power, Pandits are still in makeshift tents in slums of Delhi.

"Trying to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya thru dialog with Muslims?" - It ain't never gonna happen. We'll keep trying ...

"How do you explain chasing away poor Bangaladeshi Muslims looking for a decent living in India, their mother nation" - Thats typical kangressi appeasement. Balaji is openly advocating Bangladeshi infiltration. These Bangladeshis and their sympathyzers should've thought of employment and Akhand Bharat before '47.

And, I won't even mention the statements on Gujarat and Kandahar because these are the reasons that BJP lost the Hindu votes. And, it makes me very, VERY angry.

Finally, no matter how much we decry MMS as a weak leader, he had the guts to speak out the kangressi philosophy that "Muslims comes first". Is there anyone in BJP who'd clear up the ideology?

senthil said...

kanchan ji..

I just want to make one point clear..

A Hindu India has space for every religion.. but a muslim or christian india will be intolerant to other religions.

SO, its natural justice that Hinduism should be promoted by the government for the good of all.

First we should not be apologetic about demanding Hindu india.. Only then we can bring about an ideological unity..

Anonymous said...

BJP has so far been working on how to canvass for votes.. But has it ever thought of how to rule the people?

The answer is no.

All the existing BJP ruled states, just use the existing british system.. But do they have the capability to model a new system for governance and ruling?

In order for us to have a indigenous sense of ruling and raj dharma, what we need to do?

There are numerous literatures in our hindu literature on how a king should and should not be...

Has BJP imbibed any of those?

Secondly, where is the leadership in BJP? They are all merely organisers, simply wishing that people vote for them and they get to rule india..
But they never realised that voting is just an outcome of people's satisfaction.. And that satisfaction will come only out of efficient ruling over them..

Here, we can rule people, Even sitting in opposition..

The biggest reason that i specify for BJP's current debacle, is dominance of brahmins and vaishyas in the top leadership.. we can see the difference in the leadership of Modi and advani..

And i recall Aurobindo's words.. Politics is the duty of Kshatriyas, and others should only guide them.. I believe, its time for us to leave politics to kshatriyas..

hemantp said...

Sir,

Could most of the BJP's shortcomings during their 6 year rule you and many of the commentators have pointed out, be related with the fact that its was NDA which was in power and not BJP only (the numbers were not that strong) which forced the BJP to act 'softly'?

Why not give BJP the benefit of the doubt and vote them with clear majority?

Having said that, I think the real cause of worries are not the 6 year rule but the current leadership of BJP and the flip-flops they are till doing (even after losing the elections). The first statement after losing by 'could not be PM' was perhaps the worst of his career...

Karan said...

Hey Kanchanda,
I agree with all the points provided by you. BJP has drifted from it's ideology in the lure of votes and acceptance from people who would never vote for them.In the process they have lost Hindu vote. Having said that, all this is possible only when BJP is in complete majority. I thought BJP did a reasonable job in Jammu, POTA, law reforms. Having a permanent enmity with Pakistan is not feasible and not possible, however much I would like India to nuke Pakistan to stone age. I thought BJP did a reasonable job when in power. But at present is suffering from an ideological drift.
Regards,
Karan.

Madhya Pradesh News said...

You are absolutely right. However, whatever the verdict of people, UPA would certainly not come to people's expectations. India certainly needs a government other than UPA, because in the country there are several problems which it overlooked for decades. When there was handicapped government in Centre led by UPA, it dared conducting survey through Sachar committee. Now, when it has complete majority, we might see special recruitment drives and privileges for minorities.
Whatever the situation, we need to know, where majority people are going. Who's here to think of majority communities?
The setback of BJP was not only for the party, but lakhs of people in the country. The party should compulsorily come out of this situation and stand back, at least for the people of the country. They should overcome the problems of infighting and search for good leaders and once again make efforts to gain the power.
The party should also come out of dreams that it would continue to remain in power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Particularly in Madhya Pradesh, it has already started losing base which was evident in the parliamentary polls. Besides, the miracle of ‘Chawal Baba’ would also not continue for long in Chhattisgarh because the party is continuing second term there too. In the next five years, when the party would face polls again, it might also lose base in Karnataka with the anti-incumbency factor.
In my opinion, 2004 elections were the best chance for BJP to have gained the power, when it had Rajasthan too in bag. At that time, the party had a face of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which had wide acceptability among the people and within the party.
The main factors for defeat this time, I believe were absence of Atal Bihari and choosing LK Advani as prime ministerial candidate. In the next elections, it is doubtful, whether present allies would continue to support BJP.

Vicky said...

Sir,
Hindutva need not be the only ideology, BJP has always said Hindutva is about Indian Nationalism, but it appears that the people are not buying that argument. Why should the ideological choice be between Hindutva and 'Integral Humanism', why can't it be Indian Nationalism, without involving religion.

Congress has always maintained that role in Indian politics, but their response to the 26/11 shows that they are becoming a far more leftist/liberal party. Doesn't this give BJP an opportunity to move to the centre-right space?

Such a shift has worked in other countries, look at Christian Democrats in Germany, they have changed their ideology from overt religious one to a more centrist nationalistic one, and they are winning election after election.

In several parts of the county BJP is not even considered a right-wing party, but instead as a extremist far-right party. Some BJP supporters conveniently say its all media fault, but I believe it's also BJP's fault. Let's take the example of Kandamal, BJP gave ticket to the main accused in the riots case (and iirc he lost) and this was widely reported in the media. God only knows how many voters where turned away from voting for BJP because of this. Who would you blame for this the media or the BJP?

BJP has to stand up to the far-right fringe in the party, otherwise they will drag the party down with them. IMHO, this will decide whether BJP can expand in other states or not, afterall not many people would vote for a party that they consider far-right.

I hope that they get their house in order and become a truly national party, with the interest of all the nationals at their heart.

Vicky said...

Sir,
Hindutva need not be the only ideology, BJP has always said Hindutva is about Indian Nationalism, but it appears that the people are not buying that argument. Why should the ideological choice be between Hindutva and 'Integral Humanism', why can't it be Indian Nationalism, without involving religion.

Congress has always maintained that role in Indian politics, but their response to the 26/11 shows that they are becoming a far more leftist/liberal party. Doesn't this give BJP an opportunity to move to the centre-right space?

Such a shift has worked in other countries, look at Christian Democrats in Germany, they have changed their ideology from overt religious one to a more centrist nationalistic one, and they are winning election after election.

In several parts of the county BJP is not even considered a right-wing party, but instead as a extremist far-right party. Some BJP supporters conveniently say its all media fault, but I believe it's also BJP's fault. Let's take the example of Kandamal, BJP gave ticket to the main accused in the riots case (and iirc he lost) and this was widely reported in the media. God only knows how many voters where turned away from voting for BJP because of this. Who would you blame for this the media or the BJP?

BJP has to stand up to the far-right fringe in the party, otherwise they will drag the party down with them. IMHO, this will decide whether BJP can expand in other states or not, afterall not many people would vote for a party that they consider far-right.

I hope that they get their house in order and become a truly national party, with the interest of all the nationals at their heart.