In his first address to the partys national council after taking over as BJP president,Nitin Gadkari,whose election was ratified here on Thursday,asserted that Deendayal Upadhyays antyodaya will be the partys ideological compass. At the same time,good governance and good economic policy,which he said were witnessed under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government,along with a nationalistic stance on foreign policy and terror would be the partys poll plank.
Gadkari cited B R Ambedkar and former RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras to emphasise his partys drive to reach out to the Dalits. And,almost as a post-script,towards the end of his hour-long speech,he touched upon the Ram Mandir issue.
If I dont mention it,I will be accused of reneging on the partys core issues. The matter is sub judice,so I would not like to say much. But the ongoing research shows that there existed a Ram temple at the Ayodhya site. Ram is a symbol of our cultural nationalism,as also our heritage. I appeal to my Muslim brethren to give us the small stretch of land there so as to enable us to build a Ram temple. This would mark a new chapter (in Hindu-Muslim amity). We would help our brethren from the Muslim community to build a grand mosque at some other place, said Gadkari to a thunderous applause from the 4,000-odd delegates attending the two-day national council here.
He also seized the occasion to showcase the partys future face. Sushma Swaraj was hailed as an excellent orator,Arun Jaitley as an intellectual and Narendra Modi for providing a governance model that is being hailed and emulated elsewhere. Significantly,Modis name was initially projected by some quarters in the party as a candidate for the BJP chiefs post.
While reaffirming his commitment towards a 10 per cent-plus strategy to catch up with the Congresss vote percentage,Gadkari said the outreach programme towards Dalits was not driven by electoral concerns. Babasaheb Ambedkar taught us about social equality so I sought his blessings at the outset of the party meet. (Former RSS chief) Balasaheb Deoras had said at a convention in Pune that if untouchability is not a crime,then theres no crime in this world. We are committed to working towards eradicating untouchability, said Gadkari,adding that his visit to the house of a Dalit worker here on Wednesday was not a photo opportunity.
Gadkaris interventions on national security and terror were on expected lines. China,Pakistan,Nepal were mentioned to stress the BJPs critique of the UPAs soft approach while dealing with a hostile neighbourhood,even as he lashed out at the Congress for turning Azamgarh into a tourist spot.
Gadkari made no direct reference to the RSS. He,however,reminded the party that when the BJP was not still far away from political power,it was the tireless efforts of the sangathan mantris (organising secretaries) and RSS pracharaks that had expanded the partys influence. The party is greater than the individual,but the philosophy is greater than the party.
Earlier,former party president Rajnath Singh had a strong message for the party. He gave the example of two soft drink giants,one of which tried to copy the formula of the other in order to boost its sagging sales,but ended up falling far short of its target it not only failed to attract new consumers but also lost its original clientele. We need to stick to the core. If we change our character we will be wiped out, Singh said. I may have made a few mistakes but the party did well in several states, he said.