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The courage of conviction

The BJP’s problem is ideological drift and lack of leadership. It must affirm its RSS fundamentals.

Written by Rakesh Sinha |
June 19, 2009 1:31:45 am

The crisis in the Bharatiya Janata Party should not be seen as an outcome of the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections or merely a rumpus hinting at the change of leadership. Even if BJP had emerged victorious,the crisis was inevitable.

The party can ill-afford to be insensitive to its core constituency. Ironically,those who constituted,either formally or otherwise,its core group and managed the election campaign are now appearing in the role of interpreter of maladies. Of course,there is also an element of personality and factional clash masquerading as ideological debate. And so,some radical suggestions have been advanced,which range from redefining the relationship with the RSS to abandoning Hindutva and acquiring the space of an Indian centre-right.

It would be an exaggeration,if not downright presumptuous,to say that Kandhamal,the anti-pub campaign and Varun Gandhi’s speech alienated the middle class from the BJP. These were discussed inside the party as well as in the media,and RSS has taken its categorical stand. Moreover,they remained localised and isolated issues. The real problem with the party is growing individualism,which turns the party into a federation of competing clubs of loyalists. It is disastrous for a party,whose role is not confined to electoral performance but also promoting alternative ideological debate. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh had faced a similar crisis in the 50’s. Pt. Mauli Chandra Sharma became the party president after the death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. He interpreted organisation and ideology according to his political convenience,and also nursed ambitions of disengaging the party from the RSS. There were many prominent men with Sangh backgrounds in his coterie. At this juncture,Deendayal Upadhyay intervened,leading to the expulsion of Sharma and his men.

Those who believe that RSS or Hindutva is a stumbling block to the growth of BJP have misconceived the RSS worldview. The question is can BJP manage without them?

The membership of the RSS is virtually a daily trial. RSS itself is an idea,more than merely an organisation. It signifies an alternative socio-economic philosophy. Egalitarianism is the core guiding value for RSS and its affiliates whether Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra or Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. The opposition of appeasement does not mean anti -minority politics. Although it rejects categories like right and left,its ideological moorings are closer to left of centre Gandhian socialism. All efforts to create a common front with Swatantrata Party and the BJS failed in the past due to the RSS aversion to laissez faire ideology. The Jana Sangh faced splits and desertions more than once when it took a radical approach on socio-economic reforms,like abolition of zamindari,jagirdari and support to the rights of central government employees. Veteran leader Balraj Madhok’s plea to grab the space of Indian right did not cut much ice in the party and Parivar. Nothing has changed the perception of the parivar. Therefore,the BJP cannot be allowed to take the space of the Indian right,as people like Brajesh Mishra and Swapan Dasgupta suggest.

Moreover,the party has been a victim of indolence on the ideological front after the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and Rath Yatra . Had the party done so it would have changed the course of politics more effectively. But it could not even counter the Nehruvian-Marxist propaganda against the Rath Yatra,which alleged it was a precursor to communal riots. The party missed one of its finest moments,and individualism increasingly took centre stage. Of course the party attracted a large number of intellectuals but their role remained undefined and underutilised. RSS affiliates work among workers,peasants,tribal and slums. BJP is a natural beneficiary of their selfless work. However,it failed to give expression to their socio-economic perspective of Sangh cadres. Does Hindutva prevent BJP to struggle for farmers committing suicide or presenting an alternative of the western model of globalisation? No Hindutva stigma could deter Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh from becoming the largest central trade union in India. Nor Hindutva derail the Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra from carving its niche among our tribes. So why should Hindutva be a hurdle for BJP’s return to power?

The party also became coalition-oriented and wilfully ignored basics to remain acceptable for allies. Thus its strength became its weakness. Orissa is a typical case where state units suffered humiliation as the high command sometimes overrode them to appease BJD. The same thing is being repeated in Bihar. The party changed itself to suit allies,like rectifying the size of foot instead of changing the shoe. BJP should resurrect ideological debate not only on secularism but also economic reform and its impact.

The importance of the BJP is not only due to its emergence as the second largest group in the Lok Sabha but due to its ideological distinction. BJP leaders should do soul searching not only on ideology but also on the image-deficit of its leadership. It should not be a hostage of journalistic thinking,of those whose understanding of the RSS is skin deep. RSS could not be used even by the Hindu Mahasabha in 30’ and 40’s when its leaders Hedgewar and Golwalkar were little-known personalities in comparison to tall Hindu ideologues like VD Savakar,Dr B S Moonje or Bhai Parmananda. Even in 1978-79,the Janata Party faced the dual membership crisis and the demand for dissolution of RSS was raised. RSS remained uncompromising. BJP cannot make any concession on its social philosophy. Its present suffering is a forerunner of a long due ideological and organisational consolidation.

The writer is associate professor,Delhi University and biographer of RSS founder Dr K.B Hedgewar

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