Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Locating BJP's ideology

There was a time when the BJP prided itself as an 'ideological political party' with clarity of thought and purpose. Many of those who are members or supporters of the party were/are loyal to the organisation because of its 'ideology'.

I say 'many' because not all are ideologically motivated. There are those who are drawn to the BJP because of its position on certain issues (terrorism), the appeal of its leaders (Narendra Modi) or because it offers a platform for anti-Congress politics.

Then there are those who are time-servers and are on the lookout for goodies which could range from bagging contracts to brokering deals to loaves and fishes of office.

There's a third category: Flatterers whose survival (and prosperity) is linked to their treacly flattery, though it must be said that not all BJP leaders are swayed by what is crudely referred to as chamchagiri. The power wielded by the 'Flatterers Club' is demonstrated by the ease with which a 'psephologist', who now enjoys Government perks and privileges, misled the party leadership with bogus opinion and exit polls. Just how bogus can be gauged from his 'exit poll' estimate, calculated on the eve of May 16, that the NDA would get 217 seats while the UPA would halt at 176! His clout and access remain undiminished.

Soon after Shankarsinh Vaghela had brought down Keshubhai Patel's Government, Narendra Modi had ruefully told me how the party was divided in three categories of leaders/workers -- 'Khajurias', 'Hajurias' and 'Majurias'. The 'Khajurias' were the turncoats looking for an office to profit; the 'Hajurias' were the flatterers who spent their time doing 'jee hazoori', and the 'Majurias' were those who toiled 24x7 without any expectations.

Ideology, therefore, was limited to the third category.

After the BJP's defeat in the 2009 general election, three issues have been raised in the course of the ongoing debate in the public domain, although there is as yet no indication that a similar debate/discussion/deliberation has begun behind the shuttered doors of the leaders' houses in Lutyens' Delhi or at the BJP's 11, Ashoka Road headquarters.

These can be summed up in three questions:

1. Has the BJP lost the election because it has cut itself loose from its ideological mooring?
2. Has the time come for the BJP to take a re-look at its ideology and whether it is relevant for the times we live in?
3. Has Hindutva outlived its appeal, and hence its utility as a tool to mobilise support for the party?

There is nothing frivolous about any of these questions. They need to be answered, preferably by those who preside over the BJP's destiny in the short, medium and long term.

Here are my views:

1. Ideology should be neither static nor rooted in dogma. Times change, situations change, people change. There would be nothing more tragic than the BJP treating its ideology as immutable. It would make the party similar to the CPI(M) which is irrevocably wedded to Stalinist dogma.

2. But what exactly is the BJP's ideology? The ideology of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-1977) was sort of centred around Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya's exposition of 'Integral Humanism.' It would, however, be instructive to remember that the BJS was launched by the RSS as the political front of the Sangh; the first president, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, was a Hindu Mahasabhaite and subscribed to Savarkar's political philosophy. Ideology took a back seat when the BJS disbanded and merged with the Janata Party (1977-1980). When the party was reborn as Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980, there was a protracted debate on what should be its ideology. Since some of those who had joined the BJP were 'Congress Socialists', the party settled for 'Gandhian Socialism' as its ideology. The Jana Sangh component was appalled; Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia was vocal in opposing it and circulated a note questioning the very concept of 'Gandhian Socialism'. Faced with mounting opposition, 'Gandhian Socialism' was unceremoniously replaced by 'Integral Humanism'.

3. In June 1989, the BJP adopted a resolution at its National Executive meeting in Palampur (popularly referred to as the 'Palampur Resolution'), commiting the party to the agitation for the liberation of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, which was then being spearheaded by the VHP. It was a presidential resolution, which means it was adopted without any discussion. There were discordant voices, including that of Jaswant Singh, but these were drowned in the enthusiasm that followed and was visible during LK Advani's Somnath to Ayodhya 'Ram Rath Yatra' (terminated by Lalu Prasad Yadav at Samastipur).

4. It was around this time that LK Advani introduced two new terms into modern political discourse -- 'Pseudo-secularism', linked to the Shah Bano judgement and its fallout; and, 'Cultural Nationalism' or (the BJP's version of) 'Hindutva', with elements borrowed from Veer Savarkar's eponymous treatise, Hindutva.

5. Linked to this was the BJP's stirring slogan, "Justice for all, appeasement of none." And the three principled positions it took -- a) Abrogation of Article 370 (dating back to SP Mookerjee's agitation for the full and final integration of Jammu & Kashmir with the Union of India); b) Construction of a Ram Temple to commemorate Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya (this followed the Palampur Resolution of 1989); and, introduction of a Uniform Civil Code (which was included in the party's charter after it adopted a resolution in end-1995) -- became the symbols of the BJP's 'Hindutva' or 'Cultural Nationalism'. It was further fleshed out with issues like cow slaughter and Hindu political aspirations. And it became an over-arching national motivator during the bleak days of VP Singh's divisive Mandal politics, getting a further fillip when Islamism erupted with full fury in the Kashmir Valley.

6. It is doubtful whether barring a handful, others in the BJP are fully acquainted with either 'Integral Humanism' or 'Hindutva'. It exists in their consciousness in a nebulous form. For the flatterers, not even that.

7. Which brings us to the question: What, then, is the BJP's ideology? The official Website of the party does not list any 'Ideology', though it has a section on 'BJP Philosophy' listed under 'About Us'. This section lists both 'Integral Humanism' and 'Hindutva', in that order, as the BJP's philosophy.

8. And therein lies the problem. What does the BJP subscribe to as its core value? Though 'Integral Humanism' and 'Hindutva' are, at one level, all-embracing and all-inclusive, they are not one and the same.

9. The BJP has never really tried to explain, and elaborate, on either. Preaching to the converted does not help. It needs to 'sell' ideas contained in both to a wider audience, not necessarily to convert but to convince.

10. The issue really is not one of the BJP 'revisiting' its ideology or revising it; it is of internalising that which it lists as its 'philosophy' and extrapolating from it. To jettison either or both would be to give up its distincitve identity, of which some still remains, and become just another party hankering for power, a clone of the Congress but minus its inherent strengths.

By the way, the revamped and redesigned BJP Website has dropped a key feature of the old Website. There used to be an icon on the side-bar by clicking on which you could hear the full version of Vande Mataram. Since those who are responsible forrevamping and redesigning the Website are also the brains behind the mission to 'secularise' the BJP, I can only assume that it was a considered decision to distance the BJP from Vande Mataram and disown the National Song as being part of its identity. Ironically, it was the BJP's efforts that led to Parliament according equal status to the National Song as that accorded to the National Anthem -- each session of Parliament begins with Jana Gana Mana and ends with Vande Mataram.

There could be two reasons for dropping Vande Mataram from the BJP Website. One, it makes the BJP 'look' Hindu and thus 'offends' Muslim sensitivities. Two, it makes the BJP appear 'old fashioned' and hence prevents it from 'connecting' with the youth. But Muslims aren't exactly tripping over each other to embrace the BJP, nor are the youth rushing to vote for the party.

Interestingly, although perhaps not coincidentally, the redesigned RSS Website has also dropped Vande Mataram.

I guess nationalism, Hindu, cultural or any which way, is no longer a dirty word only for the 'secularists' but also for our so-called 'nationalists'.


M. Patil said...

Kanchan said,

"Two, it makes the BJP appear 'old fashioned' and hence prevents it from 'connecting' with the youth. But Muslims aren't exactly tripping over each other to embrace the BJP, nor are the youth rushing to vote for the party."

If youth are not rushing to vote for the BJP, the fault lies with the media cell of BJP. Did the 'youth' get an opportunity to hear BJP manifesto or BJPs views about stability and security and economy? No, all they heard was filtered news from NDTV and CNN-IBN.
These two channels convinced people/youth that dynasty is 'cool' but not bread and butter issues. Suppose there was another channel say Aasta news, which was constantly talking about how retrograde, anachronistic and medieval monarchy is, the youth would have gotten a different perspective.

Indian youth is no less religious than their parents, just look at the rush at Tirupati/Srisailam and other temples after the exams. It is not surprising that these youth think highly of NDTV, they are young and not media savvy. It is a surprise that BJP was completely blindsided by the power of visual media.


Karan said...

Well, I agree with both Malaviak and Kanchanda. The problem is neither the media has hailed BJP in good light. It has associated everything that is Saffron with BJP. Ram Sene which fought against BJP was painted as a pert of BJP. However BJP is losing touch with it's core ideology in order to get back to power, that is the reason BJP does not do well in polls inspite of good governance in BJP ruled states. The youth fail to associate BJP with any ideology. They do not take governance into account or do not bother to dig deeper than what the News reporters broadcast.

Arun said...

There is one problem that goes unaddressed in the party - the role of Swadeshi folks. The party is currently split evenly between Leftists like Murli Manohar Joshi and rightists like Arun Shourie.

I say, let them both co-exist - in different parties but under a common coalition. I see room for a few regional parties where BJP has no presence. 'Baby Bells', if you will. Swadeshi leftist policies (with emphasis on rural development and decentralization of power) will work in these states and will bring ideological cohesion.

Even if they do not come to power in any of the states, they can act as a 'Pressure Group' and can provide some support to 'moderate Hindutva' in the media. BJP alone is an easy target for the media, as we have seen.

By the way, the English media used to give SJM a lot of coverage during NDA regime so as to highlight internal differences in the parivar but since NDA was voted out, they hardly receive any coverage.

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iamfordemocracy said...

It is truly amazing that this defeat has ignited a discussion on BJP's ideology and not on the way BJP operates. It is like discussing the design of the car when the driver fails.

Kanchanji, will you please discuss the driver/s before discussing the design of the car? Was BJP running a tractor on a motorway and expecting to win the race? I have been looking for some answers of that kind. Could you please help me?

What has BJP DONE for Hindus (as opposed to doing things for India) in last 15 years? In other words, BJP talked about an ideology. What did it deliver? Did it take up the issue of temple management? Did it stop the witchhunt of Shankaracharya? Did it help Hindus abroad? What did it exactly DO?

Did the car have a competent driver? Was an 80+ man a suitable leader? Did all BJP workers agree on that? If there was disagreement and people could not express it, it is just another form of dynasty culture. If there was agreement, it was a huge mistake.

BJP was certainly unhappy with the choice of the election commissioners. Did BJP try to get other parties on their side? Did BJP keep the issue in focus? What did BJP do the guard against possible result manipulation? If BJP failed to do anything was it because BJP did not have the right leader?

Karan said...

@iamfordemocracy: BJP stands for "justice for all and appeasement for none". I do not have good enough knowledge on most of the points that you have made, so I will refrain from answering them. BJP being a pro-hindutva party should see to it that Hindus are not neglected in their own land. Having said that, I think BJP should be seeing to it that it follows appeasement to none policy and does not return to combative hindutva(like VHP and Bajrang Dal, let them remain at their place). It is the problem that Kanchanda has adresses, the party alongwith the driver has failed to address the ideology issue. LK advani has no core ideology like Vajpayee had. Also he is not BJP's unanimous choice as a leader like AB Vajpayee was. What BJP lacks today is an ideologically strong leader and mass organizer like Narendra Modi. Narenedra Modi does not tolerate people who are just for flattery or people who are there for office of profit and drives out people who are rebellious. Waiting for him to be officially anointed as PM in waiting.

Anonymous said...

Sri.Kanchan Gupta writes:

" The issue really is not one of the BJP 'revisiting' its ideology or revising it; it is of internalising that which it lists as its 'philosophy' and extrapolating from it ".


BJP mercifully is not synonymous with either Advani or Vajpayee or Jaswant Singh as 'india is indira/indira is india' peddled by congress.

Why isn't anyone bothered at all about the congress's dubious credentials? Suddenly everyone chants 'youth' SMKrishna,pchidambaram,karunanidhi,pranab mukherjee are in their teens right;))

Or still ,what is the use of youthful bodies with atrophied intellect & decaying internal infrastructure of values??

Irrespective of Advani or Sushma's desire or the lack of it , Sri Ram Temple is definitely going to be rebuilt. It is a matter of time.As overwhelmingly Hindus who have internalised Vedic Dharmam WANT it.Period.

Politicians come & go.They imagine themselves to be invincible and mighty. Majority of suckers worship them. So what?

Even hiranyakasipu for a protracted period of time persecuted Prahlad. And ruled over many as a megalomaniac.Who do we remember and worship today?

iamfordemocracy said...

Karan, what do you mean BJP stands for? What does that mean? Could you explain?

What special knowledge do you need to conclude that BJP did not protect Shankaracharya? Don't you know that most temples are administered by governments? Don't you know that temple money is diverted to causes for which tax money should be used? Did you ever here BJP do anything about this?

These are the questions I have been asking for years. Rajeev Srinivasan began censoring my comments when I asked those questions. Let us see whether Kanchan Gupta can answer them.

Swapan Dasgupta said...

Too much is being made of the dropping of Vande Mataram from the redesigned BJP website. I don't think the apolitical techies who undertook the exercise thought the omission was a political act.

You have shown that the BJP's ideology has undergone change over the years. Remember that Shyama Prasad's politics was Savarkarite and not inspired by RSS. Also keep in mind that the BJP's success in 1998 and 1999 stemmed from a non-Hindutva manifesto.

Political parties are defined by their ethos. The BJP is perceived as a pro-Hindu party and that won't change in a hurry. But when pro-Hindu becomes viewed as narrowly sectarian, the appeal shrinks dramatically. Hindus don't like being viewed as exclusionary.

Hindu imagery has come to be equated with Muslim militancy. This has cost BJP the youth vote.

In the 1990s, the BJP came to be associated with change. Today this is no longer the case. The BJP hasn't taken well to new ideas. It is still insistent on prioritising sectarian schisms such as Kandhamal.

Can we talk of coherent BJP responses to economic and foreign policy issues?

Anonymous said...

Our Shankaracharyas do NOT need to be protected by any politician or party. It is the latter who use them.

The hand symbol of congress was an unabashedly shameful lift of Kanchi Shankaracharys's Abhaya Hastham by indira who staged a dharna after her emergency excesses in Kanchi Mutt ordering Him to bestow blanket pardon on her!

Hindu ethos is the only Dharmam that is intrinsically secular.So wantonly wrong perception of Hindus as militants or "exclusionaries " by ill informed others ought not to demoralize us.

Karan said...

@Swapanda: From what I see around myself, it is the way the BJP leaders have been projected by media has led people to believe that BJP is nothing but sectarian militant Hindu organization. Nobody focused on how the BJP has got some fantastic leaders who are still in their prime. I also have another point to make:
A leader does not necessarily have to be young esp. in a country like India. Even in the corporate world the directors/chairpersons are the elder people who have experience to weather any kind of storm or to take decisions. It is just a media spread propaganda. Also why does media focus on youth like Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Scindia, Deora, Jitin prasad etc. These people have got their seats on platter from their parents. I would see more youth who have made it on the basis of their merit in BJP than in Congress. Just that the youth of Congress are more glamorous.

Anonymous said...

Balaji Chitra Ganesan said...

Both Kanchan and Swapan Dasgupta are making too much of Syama Prasad Mukherjee's association with Savarkar.

Remember he was with Hindu Mahasabha, all of 3 years and left the party blaming them of assassinating Gandhi. And yes, he was very much against the Muslims but there is no reason to believe he supported the kind of Fascist ideology which Savarkar was obsessed with. Unless you guys think being anti-Muslim is Hindutva. Hindutva is a much more sickening ideology.

And since Mukherjee was part of Nehru's cabinet will you call him a "progressive socialist"? Besides Mukherjee was BJS president for less than 2 years, while Deendayalji shepherded the organization for more than 15 years.

BJS was never really interested in Hindutva. And as Kanchanji has eloquently put above, the 'BJP Hindtuva' is a bogus addition to the BJP/Sangh pantheon by Advani. Atalji on the other hand was always a humanist. Its time for the BJP to choose between Humanism and Fascism. BJP needs a heart operation not a band-aid.

Anonymous said...

When BJP lost earlier , everyone pilloried Pramod Mahajan & India Shining slogan. Now it is lack of youth, disconnect, yadayada.

This only betrays the visceral antipathy that inimicals of Hindus including the jejune media harbours towards Hindus.

Our objective should not be winning their hearts.Instead focus on our strengths. Both Narendra Modi & Vasundara Raje have been illustrious enough.Let the hindu baiters go ballistic towards Modi.What else can you expect?

Despite being in power for toooo long what has congress achieved other than perpetuating glorification of poverty , cricket, dismal standards of education? Now EVM fraud.It harangued big about chimerical "clean" image.Now has accommodated dmk:))

Let us not compromise on our principles , salivating for crumbs like international opinion.

Bhavananda said...

@Swapan da: The BJP manifesto was ~50 pages of long talk about economy and national security. Yet, the media jumped to page 47 and all that went to press was Ram temple and other controversial issues. All BJP did in last 5 yrs is talk about economy and terrorism and foreign policy. May be it wasn't perfect, but BJP tried that. You still want to keep trying that? Is this working? Shouldn't we try something else? Like discussing our ideological drift?

Yes, BJP imagery has been linked to Muslim militancy. But, this is largely ELM propaganda which I mentioned before. Even if you discuss foreign policy 99.9% of the time and ideology 0.1%, all the press will do is print the ideological discussions.

Anonymous said...

Good post kanchan ji.. but is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

Do we need to look for some new organisations with clarity of thought and focussed actions?

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