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The BJP: Victim of its Own Strategy; and a comment - The Times of India

Surendra Mohan ()
17 December 1996

Title : The BJP: Victim of its own strategy
Author : Surendra Mohan
Publication : The Times of India
Date : December 17, 1996

The zig-zags of the BJP's political line would baffle anyone, including its
staunchest supporters. The flexibility of manoeuvre it has displayed in
moving from the core agenda of Hindutva to moderation and back is an
indication of its confusions rather than its suppleness. In 1994, when it was
preparing for assembly elections in six states, it opted for the three-point
programme of probity in public life, national security and self-reliance or
Swadeshi. As the elections approached, however, it could not resist
politicising the communally sensitive abattoir and Idgah issues. It made much
of the infiltration of Bangladeshis in Mumbai and sought the deletion of
names of hundreds of thousands of voters of the minority community from the
electoral rolls of that city.

In 1995 it raised the Mathura and Kashi issues while simultaneously targeting
the Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, and some of his cabinet colleagues
on corruption charges and playing the anti-reforms card on the economic
front. But the choice of the moderate Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee as campaign
commander took the sting out of the party's attack.

Bitterest Moment

The BJP's bitterest moment came when its government found itself almost
totally isolated in the national political scene. Apart from its allies, the
Shiv Sena and the Samata Party, only the Akali Dal joined it. It did
everything possible to break that isolation, offered a very moderate
programme in the President's address and sought to focus on several popular
measures on which there had been a consensus among political parties.

But, as its government was forced to submit its resignation, it went back on
these pronouncements. In his speech in reply to the motion of confidence,
even the moderate Mr Vajpayee, the BJP Prime Minister, pointed out that the
President's address was an enunciation of the BJP's policy in a situation
when it formed a minority government. Otherwise, it continued to be committed
to the full agenda of Hindutva, and that whenever it returned to power on its
own, it will pursue that agenda.

However, the loss of a historic opportunity could not be easily forgotten.
The party decided to woo the regional parties once again. With the help of
Mr George Fernandes, it forged an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (NTR)
led by Ms Lakshmi Parvati though it failed again to entice Ms J. Jayalalitha,
the leader of the AIADMK. But the strategy was clear; every effort must be
made to occupy the middle ground once occupied by the Congress. Once again,
the pre-election mood of 1994 and 1995 came back.

It was as part of this strategy that the BJP went slow on Hindutva in the
U.P. elections. Indeed, it adopted a policy of social engineering as
enunciated by party general secretary Govindacharya. There were powerful
voices in the leadership which were not in tune with this theory. However,
the party gave more tickets to the OBCs.

Personal Mistrust

But, once again it failed. Although it repeated its performance of the 1993
election, it fell far short of a majority. But the anti-BJP forces which had
come together to remove it from power from the Centre could not repeat the
act in U.P., owing to the personal mistrust among the leaders of the UF and
the BSP-Congress combine.

The BJP also failed to repeat the 1995 experiment when it had installed the
BSP into power. Even though Mr Murli Manohar Joshi was in favour of extending
support to the BSP, Mr Kalyan Singh opposed it. It was interesting to see
that the old aspiration of promoting harmony in Hindu society, which was used
as an argument in 1995, was not mentioned at all on this occasion. Mr
Govindacharya's social engineering was also strongly challenged and a section
argued that if the selection of candidates had reflected the composition of
the party's support base, that is, largely forward castes, then, the results
would have been more favourable.

The disappointments that the BJP suffered in U.P. and Gujarat, too, have,
however, renewed all the controversies. This tension was best reflected in
Parliament on December 6 when the M.P.s of the party raised all the
Hindutva-linked slogans relating to Mathura, Kashi and Ayodhya, and the
imperative of chanting Vande Mataram. One of the members, Ms Uma Bharati,
even pleaded that the demolition of the Babri mosque be observed as a
national holiday. The leader of the parliamentary party, Mr Vajpayee,
however, absented himself on this occasion.

All talk of moderation and of occupying the middle space just disappeared
into thin air, and the thought of breaking the isolation which had cost the
party its government at the Centre was also buried deep under the
slogan-shouting on that occasion.

(The author is a Janata Dal leader.)



Does it not smack of intellectual dishonesty on part of the Times of India to
permit a Janata Dal leader to write an article like this?

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