The BJP’s three-day conclave in the coastal town of Kozhikode was remarkable for two reasons.
First, the BJP seems to have come of age as the ruling party. It ignored the war-mongering hawks within and outside who wanted military retribution for the terror attack on Uri army base . The party met them midway through aggressive rhetoric against Pakistan, but endorsed the government’s move to first isolate it diplomatically.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direct outreach to the people of Pakistan at a humane level --- through his address at a public rally in Kozhikode --- was an out-of-the-box idea aimed at rattling the Pakistani establishment. It might go down well with the hawks at home as well.
Second, the Kozhikode conclave saw the BJP making a conscious attempt to break the mould. The deliberations at the national council meet underscored the 36 years old party’s intent to keep pace with the times and evolve- from a party that fiercely guarded its rightist political space, with Hindutva as the cornerstone of its ideology, to one that showcases inclusiveness with ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan. Addressing the party meet, Modi sought to counter the BJP’s anti-minority image , quoting Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhayay to say that Muslims are “our own”.
It might take the BJP a lot more to convince the Muslims of its sincerity - given provocations from its ideological patron, the RSS, and its affiliates- but Modi’s remarks could be the first step in that direction.
Economic slowdown is attributed to the rise of many right-wing parties in Europe but it’s the inverse in India’s case. The BJP has established itself as a pan-India party and it has no reasons any longer to go down that path.
The Kozhikode conclave also saw the ruling party trying for an image makeover to counter the opposition allegations of being pro-rich and anti-Dalit. The BJP has decided to launch Garibi Kalyan (Welfare of the Poor) programmes -- a la Garibi Hatao slogan of late Indira Gandhi’s government in 1970s.
The political resolution adopted by the party’s council spoke of its commitment to end all social disparities and establish an egalitarian society, and to bring Dalits and tribals into the mainstream of development.
Another significant takeaway from Kozhikode was the Prime Minister’s announcement that India will ratify Paris Climate Agreement on October 2. It should calm many frayed nerves globally. There were reports that New Delhi was linking the ratification with the membership of the nuclear suppliers group (NSG).
NITI Aayog deputy chairman Arvind Panagariya had said on the sidelines of G20 summit at Hangzhou early this month that India would not be able to complete domestic procedures to ratify it before the end of 2016. But Modi is known to set his own deadlines and it will give a big boost to the global fight against climate change.