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DPM propagates BJP brand of secularism

DPM propagates BJP brand of secularism

Author: Sanjay Singh/ Bangalore
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 16, 2004

The Yatra is not just about seeking votes. While asking for a fresh mandate for the Vajpayee Government, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani is also propagating BJP's own brand of secularism - without being apologetic to Hindutva. The message is broad-based to include the minority community.

The main thrust of his appeal is based on "a comprehensive connectivity revolution", not just in terms of the infrastructure but "also for a connectivity of heart of all people from Kanniyakumari to Kashmir". The theme this time is somewhat different from his two previous yatras. In 1990 Ram Rath Yatra and 1997 Swaran Jayanti, he was fighting against "pseudo secularism." He had then pitted his philosophy of "cultural nationalism or Hindutva against vote bank politics." Having won against a dominant theme, he is now trying to send right messages to minorities, particularly to the Muslims.

Talking to The Pioneer, he said: "Secularism as opposed to its western concept has a different meaning for the Sangh Parivar. The Hindu polity has always regarded the state as secular. I first came to know of various interpretations of the term secular at the age of 20 in 1948, when the RSS was banned by the Govern-ment in wake of assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Pt Jawaharlal Nehru then said the RSS was not secular." "This came as surprise to Guru Golwalkar who then said it was ironical that Pt Nehru did not consider the RSS as secular when he had adopted Ashoka's pillar as the state emblem when the fact remained that Ashokan empire was the first theocratic state in India. Hindu polity had always considered state as secular. Secularism is therefore a part of a tradition to the ideology to which we belong," Mr Advani said.

On whether it was time for an image overhaul for the party and for himself, Mr Advani said he did not need an image correction. "Image and reality are two different things. My perceived image is different from what I am."

After being in power for the last six years, the BJP leadership realises the need to reach out to a wider social base. It is not without context that Mr Advani considers Swaran Jayanti Yatra, undertaken as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of Independence by the BJP, as the most gratifying.

What is most significant is the fact that despite being in power for the last six years, anti-incumbency is not an issue this time.

An enthused Deputy Prime Minister says "incumbency otherwise a liability for any political party, in fact, is the biggest asset for us."

The Hindutva is now packaged as an all encompassing concept of putting the task of nation building, the Bahartaiyata is linked with cultural nationalism.

He said: "An increased numbers of Muslims, particularly those who followed events in the last five years, have come closer to the BJP. The VHP's criticism of the Government and the party has not damaged us but on the contrary, it has convinced the Muslims that the Government did not endorse the VHP's views. We take VHP's attacks in stride and have asked our party men not to react to them. This may give solace to the Congress that there was rift in the Sangh Parivar, and to an extent create some confusion in our support base but it has in some ways boosted our credibility."

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