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Minus ideological anchor, BJP’s adrift

The BJP seems content to get seats on the basis of caste combinations instead of its basic beliefs. It no longer has anything to offer its old conservative followers, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2009 22:18 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, continues to distance itself from it core competence, Hindutva, in the hope that it may be able to form the next government with the help of allies. The party manifesto released after a gap of 11 years has touched on the core issues of the Sangh Parivar in passing, not as its main agenda.

The Ram Mandir, the issue on which the BJP came to power after getting 182 sets in the Lok Sabha, has been relegated to a single paragraph towards the end of the manifesto released by ``Ram Bhakts’’ L.K.Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murali Manohar Joshi on the Ram Navmi day. It appears that Joshi, who was entrusted with the task of writing the manifesto, had dwelt at length on the subject, even advocating a solution through an enactment by Parliament. However, some members of Advani’s coterie overruled him.

Similarly, core Jana Sangh issues like abrogation of article 370 and uniform civil code have not been given the prominence one would have expected in a BJP manifesto, especially after a hardliner like Mohan Bhagwat has taken over as the RSS Sarsangchalak. Clearly, the focus on coming to power has taken precedence over ideology. The BJP, it would seem is content to get seats on the basis of caste combinations instead of its basic beliefs. It no longer has anything to offer its old conservative followers.

It’s odd that parties continue to churn out manifestos that are nothing more than documents of record. In this coalition era, the common minimum programme supersedes the manifestos. Each alliance partner has to make adjustments in tune with realpolitik. The NDA is expected to come out with its document shortly. One wonders what then will happen to the BJP manifesto.

Nitish Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister and an ally of the BJP wasted no time in reacting to even the passing references to the core Jana Sangh days issues in the BJP manifesto. He declared that these would not be a part of the agenda of any government of which his party, the Janata Dal (United) was a part. Nitish knows that his complete alignment with the BJP could be politically suicidal since his support base includes votes from the minority community in Bihar. The Bihar CM realises that since Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan have distanced themselves from the Congress in Bihar, he has one more option open when post-poll alliances are worked out.

The BJP seems to have become a bundle of contradictions. Its supreme leader Advani has likened Varun Feroze Gandhi to Jai Prakash Narayan, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Morarji Desai. One way of interpreting this comparison is that Advani must have a dim view of Vajpayee, Morarji and JP. Another way would be to assume that Advani has great regard for Varun and considers him a future leader of this country. Both the interpretations do not find favour among many of his supporters.

Many BJP leaders are living in a make-believe world but Sushma Swaraj has her finger on the pulse right now. She was recently candid enough to admit that the chances of the NDA coming to power were remote. Her comment should serve as a wake-up call for her colleagues to put in an extra bit for the party. But the absence of Hindutva as the main agenda will hurt the party since it will no longer attract its hardcore supporters. Many in the RSS have always been of the opinion that only a strong BJP can attract alliance partners. Today the alliance partners are far stronger than the saffron party.

The release of manifestos and the promises made in them by political parties including the Congress, BJP and Left should also concern the Election Commission which wants to enforce the model code of conduct in letter and spirit. Some of the promises made in the manifestos amount to enticing voters through monetary incentives. This should not be permitted.

Finally, uncertainty continues over the outcome of the polls. The Lalu, Mulayam and Paswan alliance and its allegiance to Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi shows insecurity on the part of these leaders. It will be interesting to see whether archrival Nitish Kumar continues with the BJP or changes partners after the polls. Between us.