At its recent national executive and national council meeting in Delhi, the BJP has exuded confidence that it is well on its way to return to power in Delhi. This reminds us of Samuel Johnson, who compiled the first dictionary of the English language. Apart from giving the meanings of words, he also gave witty explanations of certain terms. Among the most famous was his definition of a ‘second marriage’. He characterised this as a “triumph of hope over experience”. For the BJP, the marriage is still a long wait. Yet, it is hopeful, like a character of Charles Dickens; ‘Barkis is willin’.
Advani is eagerly willing to don the Prime Minister’s mantle. The BJP president, Rajnath Singh, conveniently forgetting the bluster he generated before the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, only to have his nose rubbed in the ground, claims that the BJP-led NDA would come back to power. This, he claims, is on the basis of the fact that compared to the UPA government, the previous NDA government fared far better. Such illusions continue to haunt the BJP leadership despite the fact that the voters gave a solid drubbing to similar claims in the 2004 elections by decisively rejecting the ‘India Shining’ and ‘feel good’ campaigns. It was the NDA’s economic policies which laid the foundations for the creation of two Indias — ‘shining’ and the ‘suffering’. The current agrarian distress with the continued suicides of our farmers is a result of the ruinous policies pursued by the Vajpayee government. It is a different matter that the present UPA government has not been able to decisively reverse this trend. The fact, however, remains that the previous NDA government pursued the liberalisation agenda of economic reforms to the detriment of the livelihood of the vast majority of the people.
The essence of the BJP conclave is the reassertion that its hardcore Hindutva agenda is the only basis for its return to power. The BJP president spoke of the compulsory singing of Vande mataram, minority (read Muslim) appeasement, the softness in tackling terrorism etc. The tenuous link between the absence of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the growth of terrorist attacks was once again made, forgetting the fact that the attacks on the Parliament, the Red Fort, the Akshardham temple in Gujarat, the Raghunath temple in Jammu & Kashmir etc. — all took place when Pota adorned the statute books under the NDA rule.
The BJP’s ‘minority appeasement’ is only a thinly-veiled camouflage to advance its objective of consolidation of the ‘Hindu’ vote-bank. The announcement of giving 33 per cent of the seats in party committees to women, hypocritically seeks to conceal the fact that when the women’s reservation bill was first introduced in Parliament, the BJP MPs sabotaged its adoption demanding reservations for OBC women within this reservation. They have succeeded in this for over a decade.
Moreover, the BJP has cleverly taken care to exclude the central office-bearers and its parliamentary board from such a requirement.
By seeking to return to its basics as the backbone of its electoral support, the BJP has set in motion an irreconcilable contradiction. The BJP-led NDA could complete its term on the earlier occasion only because it had put its hardcore Hindutva agenda — the construction of a temple in Ayodhya, uniform civil code, and the abolition of Article 370 — on the backburner. The NDA could be forged, in the first place, only on this basis. By bringing Hindutva as its frontrunner, the BJP risks the alienation of its NDA allies.
As many as nine former NDA constituents have deserted because they had alienated their minority support base due to their association with the BJP. This consideration is bound to impact upon the allies’ thinking particularly with the strident BJP campaign to convert all states into Gujarats. Such a ‘Modification’ of the polity will have few takers.
This trend is buttressed by the justification of Advani as the future PM because of his ‘special place’ in India’s political firmament. An accused in the Babri masjid case, the protagonist of the infamous ‘rath yatra’ that left behind a trail of mayhem and bloodshed setting the stage for the demolition of the Babri masjid, Advani is seen representing just one of the various streams that constitute India’s rich plurality and diversity.
Herein lies the irreconcilable contradiction. By focusing on Hindutva in the hope of garnering a larger electoral support, the BJP risks alienating potential NDA allies without whose support it is impossible to form a coalition government.
With a typical ostrich mentality, Advani, in his valedictory address, chose to sidestep this contradiction by obliquely raising the issue of foreign origin. While the Congress has a ‘foreign-born leadership’, the Communists follow, according to the age- old discredited RSS definition, ‘a foreign-born ideology’. It is a different matter, we presume, that Advani is seeking to lead the government in a parliamentary democracy borrowed largely from the Westminster model. Advani goes on to state, “No party has given such place to Communists as the Congress has done. It has indeed resulted in the‘kremlinisation’ of Indian politics.”
Advani, of all people, must know that of the 61 Left MPs in the Lok Sabha, 54 of them reached there by defeating Congress candidates. The place that the Communists occupy in the Indian polity today is a place that has been given to them by the
Indian electorate and not by any party’s ‘charity’. The refusal to accept this reality does not merely mask congenital anti-Communism but is also supremely anti-democratic. This is not surprising given the fact that this comes from a person blinded by his devotion to US imperialism and infatuation with Israel. Gravely disappointed that the US rejected the Vajpayee government’s unsolicited offer to serve as an ally post-9/11 and, instead, chose Pakistan, Advani justified this on the grounds of ‘logic of geography’. He remains, till date, the only home minister of India to have paid an official visit to the CIA headquarters.
However, the BJP’s ire against the Left is understandable. The Left’s support to the UPA has not only kept the present government going but has severely limited the BJP’s manoeuvres and manipulations for horse-trading to opportunistically forge a government under its leadership. Further, it is the Left’s consistent opposition of communalism and its contribution to strengthening the secular-democratic foundations of modern India that has often checkmated the BJP’s efforts to return to power. It is the Left that relentlessly raises people’s issues, opposes neo-liberal anti-people economic policies, defends national sovereignty and denies any dilution of India’s independent foreign policy.
However, the BJP’s renewed efforts to leave no stone unturned to return to power poses a serious challenge to the future of our modern secular-democratic republic that needs to be squarely met.
Let us return to Barkis. After continuously offering his unsolicited willingness, he finally gets to marry Peggotty. That, however, is fiction. Advani’s willingness to be the PM is best left at the level of fiction. For the sake of India, ie Bharat.
(Sitaram Yechury is the MP, Rajya Sabha and Member, CPI(M) Politburo)