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'.