Presidential Address by Shri Kushabhau Thakre April 15-17, 2000
I welcome you all to this meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party's National Executive.
We are meeting at a historic and proud moment in our Party's history. Earlier this month, on 6th April, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the BJP.
The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which was formed in 1951 and whose political legacy we have inherited, had joined hands with other Opposition parties to form the Janata Party in 1977 in order to offer a national alternative to the people and to save democracy. Unfortunately, that experiment failed and we came out in 1980, under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to form the BJP.
I recall Shri Vajpayee's stirring words at the first National Council meeting of the BJP in Mumbai:
"We can organise the people only if we are able to establish our credibility in their minds. The people must feel convinced that here is a party different from the crowd of self-seekers who swamp the political stage, that its aim is not to somehow sneak into office and that its politics is based on certain values and principles...Standing on the shores of the Arabian Sea beneath the Western Ghats, I can say this with confidence about the future: Darkness will be dispelled, the sun will rise and the Lotus will bloom."
Those words provided us with strength and inspiration during the early years when we had to face many ups and downs. At no stage did we lose heart. On the contrary, we gradually built up our organisation and won over the confidence and trust of the people.
Today, we are the largest political party in the country with more than two crore members. We are the largest Party in Parliament. We are the leading member of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. Shri Vajpayee, the founder President of the BJP, is the Prime Minister and the tallest leader in the country. Much of the credit for this goes to the hard work and dedication of our workers, the support and assistance which we have received from our friends and the faith reposed in us by the people.
On behalf of the entire leadership of the Party, I express deep gratitude to them.
This is no doubt a moment to celebrate. But it is also an occasion to take stock of the past and prepare for the future. In short, for introspection - so that we can build on our strengths and prepare ourselves for the tasks that lie ahead of us.
I look forward to fruitful discussion in this regard. I would urge you to focus on the future and how we can further strengthen our organisation by consolidating the gains of the last two decades, especially the last two years. The last three general elections have seen a major shift in Indian politics with the Congress losing its position as the dominant political force and suffering continuous erosion in its electoral strength. In the bi-polar polity that has emerged, the BJP is the stronger of the two dominant poles, the Congress being the other, albeit weaker, pole.
The new polity, as we see it emerging, revolves around what could be described as the politics of three 'C's - Coalition, consensus and cooperation. The previous polity revolved around the politics of a single 'C' - namely, confrontation. That era is definitely over, though, and regrettably so, the Congress and the Communists are yet to reconcile themselves with the passing away of their brand of politics.
The new polity has definitely placed a greater responsibility on our shoulders. Not merely because we are the largest Party and are in power, but because we believe in a larger purpose - that of serving the nation and the people. Our allies in the NDA enable us to serve this larger purpose. Their regional perspective forms the mosaic of the NDA Government's national outlook. This is a Government that is truly representative of the entire nation and in this lies its strength.
The 'Chennai Declaration', which was adopted at the National Council meeting in December last year, is a clear enunciation of our new thinking for the new century within the matrix of our ideology and values. The success of the National Democratic Alliance will depend, in a large measure, on how well we are able to fulfil our responsibilities in the new polity. That success will depend on your actively translating the 'Chennai Declaration' into reality.
Assembly Elections: The first test The most important development since we last met in Chennai has been the Assembly elections in Orissa, Bihar, Manipur and Haryana. We did well in the first three States - in Orissa, there has been a four-fold increase in our strength; in Bihar we have nearly doubled our tally; and, in Manipur we have won six seats.
We are partners in the new Government in Orissa. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, which we will discuss at this meeting, the NDA was unable to get a clear majority in Bihar. Our battle against the corrupt, criminal and casteist Laloo-Rabri regime in Bihar, however, is far from over. We shall continue our struggle to free the people from the jungle raj in Bihar. In Haryana we fared poorly, the reasons for which we should look into.
The Congress, of course, has once again suffered major reverses in this round of elections. But it is yet to learn any lessons, as is evident from the manner in which the party has joined hands with the RJD for crumbs of office. This is not tactics, but a gross display of total lack of ethics and morality.
Our success in the Assembly polls has had a positive impact on the recent biennial Rajya Sabha elections. The BJP's strength in the Upper House has increased and, to that extent, the task of the Government has become slightly easier in Parliament.
Here I would like to mention the despicable methods used by certain individuals, who happen to have access to money power, to win Rajya Sabha elections. Cross-voting, irrespective of which party stands to lose from it, is a blot on our polity as it is nothing short of abusing the system of secret ballot for personal gains. This is perversion of democracy.
We need to look into this debasement and abuse of secret voting and consider ways and means of tackling the problem. The Election Commission, too, should take serious note of this perversion and seek the opinion of all parties on possible cures for this malady.
President Clinton's Visit: Beginning of a New Chapter American President Bill Clinton's visit to India last month marks the start of a new chapter in relations between India and the USA, the world's two largest democracies. It also marks a new willingness on part of the USA to appreciate and understand India's concerns which, in the past, have gone largely unnoticed.
It is a matter of satisfaction that the USA has opted for a closer and qualitatively new relationship with India. It is only natural that India and the USA should be partners in the promotion of shared values like peace and democracy. The Vision Statement is an affirmation of the immense potential of such a partnership, especially in maintaining regional and international security as well as in enhanced cooperation, especially in the areas that constitute the 'New Economy'.
The outcome of President Clinton's visit is yet another example of the successful conduct of foreign policy and resolute pursuit of national security interests by the NDA Government.
India's position on the need to check Pakistan's policy of cross-border terrorism finds continuing support from countries across the world. On the other hand, Pakistan continues to face increasing isolation in the international community. The document adopted at the NAM Foreign Ministers meeting in Cartagena is further proof that there are few supporters of military regimes in today's world.
We must, however, continue to maintain constant vigil against Pakistan and its evil policy of cross-border terrorism. The massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir shows that the Pakistan-backed terrorists are getting increasingly desperate and more murderous in their campaign of terror. It also calls for tighter security measures in order to prevent a fresh round of ethnic cleansing in the Kashmir Valley.
The Government has done the right thing by insisting that no meaningful talks are possible with Pakistan till such time Islamabad gives up its policy of cross-border terrorism which poses a threat to peace and stability not only in India but in the entire region. Indeed, cross-border terrorism is a threat to open and free societies all over the world. I welcome the Government's initiative for institutionalising concerted international action against terrorism through a UN mechanism.
Budget 2000: State of the Economy There has been some criticism of this year's Central Budget on account of cutback in subsidies. We need to look at the Budget and its provisions in the overall context of today's economic situation.
Carrying the burden of subsidies beyond a point is virtually impossible for any Government. What is needed is focused spending on the poor and this will be possible only when there are cutbacks on massive general spendings.
Also, it needs to be explained to the people that subsidy bills get carried over till tomorrow. So, while they get subsidy today, it is their children who have to bear the burden of the expenditure tomorrow. This is hardly conducive to a healthy economy.
There are other aspects, too, that influence Government policy and over which the country has no control. For instance, if world oil prices rise, then our oil bill automatically shoots up. It would be unfair to expect the Government to pick up this bill.
Our task is two-fold. First, we need to explain to the people that some harsh decisions may have to be taken to correct the distortions in our economy. This is similar to a patient being administered strong medicines so that he can recover fully and be restored to health.
Second, we should vigorously project the positive outcome of the Government's initiatives. These are too many to be listed here, but the first thing that comes to mind is the extremely low rate of inflation that has been maintained for nearly two years now. Let us also project the rural development initiatives of the Government as well as the fact that much more is being spent today on human development than ever before.
Tasks Ahead The organisational elections of our Party, currently underway, will be over by May. Yet once again the BJP has demonstrated its commitment to inner-party democracy by holding organisational elections on time. I can only compare this to the reluctance of the Congress to hold organisational elections, the reasons for which are too obvious to be stated.
I would like to list four tasks for Party workers as we enter our 21st year in the 21st century:
l Expand further our political, organisational and electoral base so as to emerge as the most powerful political force in the country: Let us make the BJP into a truly mass party;
Every unit's and every karyakarta's dedication, efforts vision and attitude must get further strengthened;
l Understand the changing political scenario and in this context strengthen our ties with our allies in the NDA in order to defeat the nefarious designs of the Opposition parties;
l Mobilise support for Government initiatives wherever we are in power - both at the Centre and in the States - explaining to the masses the various steps taken by our Government to find solutions to the problems facing the people in the background of harsh realities of the present situation; and, l Carry our message of patriotism and nationalism to all members of the Great Indian Family, especially those sections of our society to whom we have not yet been able to reach out.
Before I conclude, I would urge all of you to look at the future with confidence and faith -- faith in the strength and conviction of our workers and well-wishers; faith in the people whose support has brought us to this point in our Party's history.
If we are able to march along the path that we charted for ourselves when we embarked upon our journey to provide a better alternative to the masses, then the future is surely ours.