In a nation where most of the political parties are known by the names of their 'owners' turning the political process into a kind of family fiefdom, the existence of a party that still runs on democratic norms and represents a completely different ethos, must be valued as a need of the society. That is the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is useless to indulge in the contemporary dichotomies and scuffles that mar its current framework.
These are trivialities and have been a part of every political party, including the Jan Sangh that saw much bitter scenes involving top guns even when that was hardly as strong as its new avatar the BJP has become.
The basic question is -- do we have a future for a party that symbolises Hindu aspirations and civilisational rejuvenation through political instruments and acts as a part of a larger saffron brotherhood that has grown stronger by each year since its emergence in 1925?
Suppose if there was no Jan Sangh or the BJP there would have been no Kashmir movement, no demands to scrap two flags and two constitutional provisions for an Indian state and abolishing two Constitutional heads system for it. Who would have taken up the cause of an invincible Indian security and carried out the Pokaran II nuclear tests while preparing for Pokaran III?
The last millennium saw the foreign attacks on Bharat that is India and the target of these barbaric assaults were essentially the Hindu population and their temples. The truncated independence should have given them the highest freedom to flower and come to their own as a free and fearless nation would have honoured the great spirit of resistance that made Allama Iqbal write 'Kuch baat hai ki hasti mit-ti nahin hamaari (There is something extraordinary that we -- the civilisation -- survived centuries of assaults)'.
But after the massacres during Partition/independence in Calcutta, Noakhali, Muzaffarabad and Rawalpindi, Hindus got the secular marginalisation and a State apparatus that looked down at anything representing their age old-bruised ethos. That is why to uphold the dignity of being a Hindu and ensure equal attitude of the State for every citizen without any discrimination on the basis of caste or religion, the Jan Sangh was founded in 1951. The principles were unity in diversity, one nation, one culture and one people and justice to all, appeasement of none.
At the first all India session of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, its founder president Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee had said, 'India has been for centuries past the homeland of diverse people pursuing different faiths and religions. The need to preserve and respect the personal laws of such people especially in matters of religion and fundamental social obligations is undoubted. In all matters concerning the rights and duties of citizenship as such, there must be complete equality for all. We must be able to carry all sections of the people with us by creating in their minds a healthy and progressive attitude of co-operation based on true equality of opportunity and mutual tolerance and understanding. Our party's door remains open to all who believe in our programme and ideology irrespective of considerations of caste and religion.'
'Our party,' he added, 'believes that the future progress of India must be based on a natural synthesis between its full economic advance and the development of mind and character of the people in accordance with the highest traditions of Indian culture and civilization. The political freedom that we have achieved will be meaningless without economic freedom. It is a tragedy that a vast country such as India, with its almost limitless resources and raw materials, should be steeped in poverty, disease, ignorance and degradation. Our party believes that without plunging the country into the vortex of violent chaos and conflict, it should be possible for us to readjust the conditions of our economic life so as to bring to an end a shameful era of exploitation and silent human suffering.'
Without mincing any words he declared, 'Our party though, ever prepared to extend its hand of equality to all citizens, does not feel ashamed to urge for the consolidation of Hindu society, nor does it suffer from an inferiority complex to acknowledge proudly that the great edifice of Indian culture and civilization, which had stood the test of thousands of years, has been built, most of all by the labour, sacrifice and wisdom of Hindu sages, savants and patriots throughout the chequered history of our motherland. We are not so mean as to forget that in this gigantic process our country came into contact and conflict with many foreign races and ideologies and our great ancestors had the courage to fashion and refashion the country's structure in accordance with new ideas and with the changed conditions of our society. If India's freedom is to be purposeful, a correct appreciation of the fundamental features of Indian culture -- the discovery of that unity in diversity, which is the keynote of her civilization -- is highly essential.'
These lengthy quotations are essential to understand the real purpose behind the BJP, which has accepted Dr Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya as its sources of inspiration showing the ideological path.
In pre-Partition days, the independence movement essentially drew from Hindu nationalist symbols and writings expressed through Mahatma Gandhi's Ram Rajya, Sri Aurobindo's Bhawani Bharati concept which saw India as Durga incarnate and declared Sanatan Dharma as the nationality of India, Vivekananda, Lokmanya Tilak, and Subhas Bose. They were all deeply Hindu spiritual personalities who espoused the cause of freedom, liberty, equality and democracy.
There was less ideological apartheid that we see today and newspapers like The Hindu and The Hindustan Times were not looked down just because they bore a word Hindu and parties like the Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad etc were in the mainstream without experiencing any kind of 'ideological untouchability'.
It's only after Independence under the influence of Nehruvian left-to-centre policies that the assertive Hindus segment was sought to be humiliated and segregated.
In the contemporary political scene, the Congress, which once represented the federal liberal character of Hindu nationalist ideas advocating equality to all, has turned into a family oriented party where internal democratic process is completely subjugated to the wishes and whims of a supreme leader who also happens to be a family head. Except for the Communist parties and the BJP there is a hardly a party that is democratically run and controlled from the grassroot levels.
Hence, in spite of internal bickering and trivial issues cropping up, a party that was born post Independence representing a distinct ideology and programmes can only be a strengthening factor for democracy. Its amazing growth and power to rule the nation quite successfully have further added to its credibility. Those who oppose it must look at the fact sheet it has so far built -- giving India the best of the highways, an IT and technological revolution, best run states in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and above all a credible opposition that has a vast acceptability at an all India level, giving a pan India character to the polity.
The poet who wrote, 'Gagan mein laharta hai bhagwa hamara (The saffron flies high in the sky)' became the most admired prime minister, the first genuinely non-Congress one and his regime saw the best of relations with neighbours. Atal Bihari Vajpayee allowed Pokaran II, yet maintained better ties with the US, China and Pakistan without compromising on national interest.
This party has another distinct feature -- it can boast of a galaxy of national leaders who command a mass following unlike others who have none but their 'eternally elected' chiefs alone for the posters and platforms diminishing any second or third rank leadership.
And you don't have to belong to a family or a family's durbar to aspire for higher goals and posts in the party. Someone who was a village level worker and did his bit to gain acceptance could become party president and was never told, oh you don't have a particular last name hence can rise this far and no further.
Pardon me if in this context, to clarify a bit more, I recall a Q&A session I had in China where I was asked in a university by students 'What's the use of your democracy if it can't deliver? See Bihar and Orissa and UP's rural areas and farmers suicides? We may not be having the democracy you like to ape from the West but our one party system is delivering fine.'
I was not surprised. The value of democracy can be understood only when you lose it after enjoying its fruits. I simply said, even with half filled stomachs and often self defeating noises, we prefer freedom more than a totalitarian regime guaranteeing prosperity to all.
Liberty can have no alternative. And that's exactly the most powerful factor that makes the BJP indefatigable and invincible. The party's inner core promises to rise like a Phoenix if the outer shell fails to translate the ideals it was born to achieve.
It may look a bit preposterous to say these high pedestal things when the party is making news not for some happy reasons. It is sad, but it will pass. The party is not built by those who were adherents of a family, but by those small yet strongly committed young hearts who built it on their shoulders because they shared a vision and a dream.
I have seen three generations working together, first for the Jan Sangh and then for its new avatar, the BJP. They never aspired to make it big in Delhi but from Silchar to Shimoga and Doda to Port Blair, they have been working. These workers are the strength of the party and not those who make big speeches and then wash dirty linen in the media. They must be powered and their moral needs to be boosted by a united commitment to principles leaders claim they accept.
Today these workers have emerged taller because they have lived the ideals espoused by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya who had merged his identity with the common cadre and lived by his principles through his own life's example. He gave the alternative ideology of integral humanism before the two alien ones namely capitalism and communism. That almost supplements and complements Gandhi's Hind Swarajya whose hundredth year is passing so unceremoniously in the raj of the 'Gandhis'.
It is this perfectly ideological rock of our civilisation represented by the BJP in politics that India needs fervently.
Tarun Vijay is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation