BJP?s summer catalogue
Should the country pay any attention to the BJP’s Vision Document 2004? As L.K. Advani has stated, even if the BJP gets a parliamentary majority on its own, it will only form a government as part of the NDA.
And any NDA government will be bound by that alliance’s common programme, not by the agenda outlined in the BJP’s own Vision Document 2004. Thus, the manifesto does not offer us a guide to what to expect from any future BJP-led NDA government. The only purpose that the Vision Document 2004 serves, therefore, is as a marketing exercise for Brand BJP. And certainly, with its shiny graphics and leaden prose, the pamphlet resembles nothing as much as a brochure produced by a public sector undertaking, eager to please the prime minister, of whom the 48-page booklet contains over 55 pictures. (In contrast, Mr Advani is only identified in three photos.)
As for the content, the Vision Document 2004 is noteworthy only for its attempt to suborn all ideological issues beneath the cult of personality — ironic, given how much the BJP criticised the Congress over the years for playing up the personality of its leader. And even the few ideological positions seem open to varied interpretations. The document says that the party is committed to the construction of a Ram mandir in Ayodhya but adds that it also wants “a negotiated settlement”. After the release of the manifesto, BJP leaders clarified that they meant that the mandir would have to be built on the disputed spot and that this was non-negotiable. The same day, Mr Advani declared in Porbander that “the dreams of millions of Hindus” would be fulfilled with the building of a temple once the BJP was voted back to power. A little later, in Junagadh, where there are more Muslim voters, the deputy prime minister once again reverted to the need for Hindu-Muslim cooperation in the building of a temple.
The message that comes across is that the BJP has still not settled the ideological debates of old. The party’s position on these contentious issues depends on the audience it is addressing at the time. For this election, however, the party’s campaign will not be fought on these issues. Instead, it will urge the country to vote for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His stature as India’s tallest leader, it hopes, will be enough to swing this election for the NDA.