August 03, 2002 at New Delhi Presidential Address at the Meeting of the National Council of Bharatiya Janata Party
At the outset I would like to convey my profound sense of gratitude to the Party leadership for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the Bharatiya Janata Party, and to millions of my fellow workers for having accepted and endorsed this decision. All of you have whole-heartedly blessed me on my assumption of the office of our Party President.
I shall do my utmost to live up to the faith you have reposed in me. It shall be my sincere endeavour to expand our Party to new territorial horizons and new social frontiers and, simultaneously to consolidate the proud gains it has made so far. I would like to solemnly assure this august gathering that you will not find me wanting in this task.
My humble tributes to our past presidents
With all humility, I would like to confess that I feel like a small man stepping into big shoes. Great leaders have headed our Party in the past-and here I refer to the BJP's journey since 1980 and also to our politico-ideological journey since 1951, when the Bharatiya Jana Sangh was founded. Today I bow before the sacred memory of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.
Today, I cannot help recall the ringing words of Dr. Mookerjee at the founding conference of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh on 21st October 1951:
"I rise to welcome you all to this historic Convention which meets at a momentous period in the history of India. I am well aware of the fact that the task ahead of us is a difficult one. We have many obstacles to struggle against and have to face powerful opposition. What, however, must hold us together is an unflinching faith in the great cause that our Party claims to serve and a clear appreciation of the objectives we have set before us. I am confident that if we all proceed unitedly with undaunted courage and vigour, not deviating from the right path, keeping to service of the people and the advancement of the honour and dignity of our beloved motherland as the principal aim before us, we are bound ultimately to attain success."
What unbounded confidence! What rock-like commitment! And what supreme devotion to the cause of Mother India!
If Dr. Mookerjee could express such hope and confidence at a time when the Party was a mere seed, and when the Congress was a colossus, why shouldn't we have the same unflinching hope and confidence in ourselves, and the same uncompromising commitment when we have humbled the Congress?
Today I also express my gratitude to my illustrious predecessors. In Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, we have the oldest member, and the tallest leader of the Party. He was a founding member of the Jana Sangh, he was the founding President of the BJP, and now he is the leader of the one billion people of India, the most popular, the most beloved and, the most respected. Shri Atalji is not just a person, he is a phenomenon. He occupies a very special place in my political life, and I shall come to that soon.
I express my deep sense of gratitude to Shri Lal Krishna Advani. He is the pillar of strength for our Party -- and the strength he provides is ideological, political, and organizational and, above all, moral. In spite of all the growing responsibilities on him, he continues to assist the Party organisation, always finding time to guide and groom younger leaders.
I would also like to thank Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Shri Kushabhau Thakre, Shri Bangaru Laxman and Shri Jana Krishnamurthy. I have learnt from each one of them and look forward to their continued guidance.
From an ordinary Party Worker to Party President
Today being a special day in my political life, I am filled with emotions and memories. When I look back, I feel amazed, excited, overwhelmed and humbled.
I was born in a farmer's family in a remote village far down in the South. In my student days, I used to paste posters and write slogans on the walls whenever our leaders Shri Atalji and Shri Advaniji toured our areas. Today, with the blessings of these two great leaders and with your support I have been entrusted with this big responsibility. I think this kind of an amazing journey from being an ordinary Party worker in a hamlet to leading the Party at the national level is perhaps possible only in the BJP. This is the strength of our Party. Indeed, it is one of the many reasons why we proudly say that ours is a Party with a Difference.
During my childhood I used to frequent the RSS Shakhas to play kabaddi. Without my own knowing, the Sangh moulded my mind, infused patriotism and idealism in me. I was drawn by the magnetic personality of the Pracharak of the area, Shri Bhogadi Durga Prasad. This association brought about a radical change in my life.
My upbringing in the school of nationalism assumed an active dimension when I joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The ABVP perfected me as a disciplined worker and as a youth leader in people's movement. I can never forget the experiences of those foundation years.
Permit me to narrate an incident from my early days as an ABVP activist. While still a student of law, I had gone on vacation to a friend's village by the side of the Godavari river. We had a sumptuous lunch at his house and then decided to swim the river from one bank to the other. But as my stomach was heavy, I, halfway through the river, lost my confidence. My friends had gone ahead. I started shouting, afraid that I would get drowned. The thought that came to my mind at that moment, which I spoke out loudly to my friends, was: "Oh, my life is coming to end without seeing Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji as the Prime Minister."
Of course, some cattle breeders on the other side of the river came to my rescue and helped me swim to safety. But what I want to emphasise is that seeing Shri Atalji as the Prime Minister was the dream and wish of millions of people even in those days.
Subsequently, I invited JP to my university in Vishakapatnam to address the youth. This inspired me to plunge into the JP movement. Like thousands of pro-democracy political workers, I was also jailed during the Emergency and spent 17 months in prison. This period of trial and hardship helped me in strengthening my determination and rousing my spirit of action to pursue our Party's objectives.
Our vision of India
Friends, a lot has changed in the political landscape in our country since the time I began my life in the Party 25 years ago. But what has remained unchanged is our commitment to our Party's ideology and ideals. Power for us was never an end in itself. We always viewed it as only a means to an end. That goal was, and continues to remain, India's all-round progressive transformation, to build an India that is strong, secure, self-confident, prosperous, cohesive and harmonious; an India that is free of hunger, poverty and other ills of underdevelopment; an egalitarian India that provides equal opportunities to all her citizens irrespective of their caste, religion, region or language; an India that rediscovers and surpasses her past glory in culture and arts; an India that begins to be better respected all over the world and plays her rightful role in the affairs of the world - in short, it is the goal of reconstruction of India as Swarnim Bharat.
Pandit Deendayalji describes this goal in a very inspiring way in his last lecture on Integral Humanism. This is the goal that I rededicate myself to, and I would like our Party to rededicate itself to, today.
Generational change: blend of experience and youth
Many commentators have observed that there has been a generational change in our Party. This is both true and not true. Yes, a set of relatively younger Party functionaries like me have been given important responsibilities. At the same time, we are fortunate in receiving continued guidance and assistance from Shri Atalji, Shri Advaniji and other experienced elders. Thus, our Party presents a good combination of experience and youthful dynamism, of wisdom and vigour.
I would like to assure the National Council that, although I am the President, I shall strictly follow the principle of teamwork and collective leadership. I do not believe in the `follower' school of thinking. I have an abiding faith in the 'collegiate' school of working.
Road half-travelled, but many more miles to go
This meeting of our Party's National Council is taking place at a crucial time. The BJP, at the head of the National Democratic Alliance, has been in power at the Centre for over four years now. From our experience of governing the affairs of the country, we have certain lessons to learn so that we could go about providing more effective governance. Similarly, as a ruling party at the national level, there is much for us to learn for taking up necessary corrective measures. Any individual, institution or a political party should have the necessary honesty, ability and readiness to address shortcomings so that the journey ahead could be more focused and productive.
This is the right opportunity for all of us to discuss the issues before our Government and the Party, analyze the political landscape in which we are operating, and crystallize the action plan for the future. Our main task is to evaluate if the BJP as a ruling party and the BJP-led NDA Government have acquitted themselves well or not. In my view, on both these counts we have done well. However, it does not mean that there is no scope for improvement. The main focus of this meeting is to identify areas where we-as Party and as Government--can improve ourselves, so that we can better meet the expectations of the people.
Our political line: BJP Jhanda and NDA Agenda
It is in this context that I would like to reiterate what I said on assuming the office of the Party President. The way forward for us is to march ahead with BJP jhanda (flag) in one hand and the NDA Agenda in the other.
One of the most significant achievements of the BJP is our success in forging a broad alliance of parties based on a common minimum programme. The National Democratic Alliance is the most stable coalition at the Centre in the history of independent India. It has harmoniously synthesized legitimate regional aspirations with a sound national outlook.
The BJP forged this experiment after much thought and with a clear purpose. This was not a compromise for power, but a principled response to the needs of the situation for providing a stable and purposive government to the nation, which was badly shaken by the dangerous destablisation games of the Congress party. This needs to be explained to our workers and our supporters with clarity and confidence. There is no need to be apologetic about this.
Nor should we be apologetic about our ideology. We never gave up, nor will we ever give up, our Party's ideology. We are only conscious of the fact that in the present scenario we are moving ahead in the spirit of the NDA Agenda. We will never force our views and ideas on our allies.
It should be the endeavor of the BJP and our alliance partners to further strengthen the NDA. The success of the NDA experiment is not only the BJP's responsibility, it is the collective duty of all its members. This is possible if all follow the Dharma of Coalition. Personally, I feel that there is a need for greater interaction among the NDA constituents from time to time. It is important that differences are sorted out through dialogue and consultations. By so doing, the BJP and our allies will strengthen India's democratic culture, which is the need of the hour as the era of coalitions has now come to stay.
Congress party's increasingly irresponsible behaviour
The success of the BJP and the stability of the NDA Government have demoralized the Opposition. The Congress, which is the principal Opposition party, and the Communists, who have become the B-team of the Congress, cannot stomach the fact that the Vajpayee Government is all set to complete its full term of five years with a strong record of performance. Which is why, they have become increasingly irresponsible in their political conduct and behaviour in Parliament. Disruption of the proceedings in Parliament, for no rhyme or reason, has become their favourite pastime. Their boycott of the Defence Minister, Shri George Fernandes, in Parliament is not only against the spirit and norms of democracy, but also has no precedence in Parliamentary history.
Filled with frustration and propelled by prejudice against the BJP, the Congress stooped to a new low of negativism by opposing even an important legislation like POTA. That the situation in the country demands a strong anti-terrorism law, and that POTA is only an improved version of TADA, which was enacted by none other than the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1986, is lost on its present leadership.
Such irresponsible behaviour, however, is not new to the Congress. The nation knows how it opposed our Government historic decision to make India a nuclear weapons State in May 1998. Also, public memory is not so short as to forget that the Congress party opposed the Government during the Kargil war - and that too in a manner that could have affected the morale of the soldiers fighting on the border.
All right-thinking people in the country are bewildered that a national party that claims to know the complex problems facing the country because it has the longest experience in governance, has come to conduct itself in such unprincipled manner. But the reasons for this degeneration are not far to seek. Only a party that has lost its sense of purpose, only a leadership that has no vision about the destiny of the nation, only an organization that has mortgaged its mind to the Marxists, only a once-great national institution that has reduced itself to a dynastic fiefdom, can show such bankruptcy and irresponsibility.
How completely contrary such behaviour is to the dictum, given to us by Dr. Mookerjee, which we followed during our long years in the opposition. He had exhorted us:
"Opposition does not mean senseless or destructive approach to all problems that confront a responsible Government. While, therefore, we may have to attack or criticise official measures or acts, our aim will be to approach all problems in a constructive spirit so that we may keep the public vigilant and make our humble contribution in developing a real democratic structure for the sound administration of our country."
Here it may not be out of place to mention the exemplary parliamentary conduct of our leader, Shri Vajpayeeji, when he sat in the opposition for four decades.
The Congress party may be in power in many States, but it is incapable of addressing any of the major issues facing our country and leading it toward greatness and glory. Precisely for this reason, the responsibility on the BJP has increased manifold.
In today's political situation, my call to our Party workers is clear: Let us be ever vigilant against the destabilization instincts of the Congress and the Communists. Let us counter the Congress party effectively and defeat it decisively. Only then will it be forced onto the path of genuine self-transformation. We are progressive in our thinking. Now let us be aggressive in our action to foil the cynical politics of the Congress-Communist combine.
Secularism - Genuine and Pseudo
The success of the NDA experiment has punctured a big hole in our adversaries' propaganda against our Party. By calling us a "communal" party, these pseudo-secular forces tried to isolate the BJP from the rest of the political establishment. They have failed miserably in their crooked plan and, increasingly, they themselves are getting isolated.
Nobody needs to preach to us the virtues of secularism. We are committed to our motherland's time-tested dharma of secularism. We believe in Sarva Panth Samadarana (equal respect for all faiths). This true concept of secularism is in the blood of the Indian people. We are committed to ensuring justice for all. However, we do not believe in appeasing any particular section of society for the sake of cornering their votes or for advancing our political ends. The real threat to secularism comes from the pseudo-secularism practiced by our political and ideological rivals with vote-bank politics in mind.
The more we grow, the more is their inability to digest our growth. Their progressive rejection by the people has deepened their frustration. They try to occupy the media space and wage a disinformation campaign against us. They are trying to create confusion by spreading falsehoods. On the one hand, they are trying to mislead our cadres by constantly sending messages that the BJP has given up its political agenda. On the other, they are making a determined bid to drive away our allies, as well as those who are neutral, from us by saying that the BJP is implementing a "hidden agenda"! This only reflects their bankruptcy. I would like our Party workers to counter this vile propaganda effectively - both on political and intellectual fronts, by fully engaging the media, intelligentsia and cultural resources and through mass contact.
J&K: 'No' to autonomy; 'Yes' to greater powers, with regional devolution
On Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP's view is very clear: it is an integral and inseparable part of India, and will always remain so. No force on Earth can take an inch of this land. The only dialogue with Pakistan can be regarding that part of Kashmir, which is illegally occupied by our neighbour.
We are in favour of decentralization and greater devolution and of powers to all States, including Jammu & Kashmir. Our approach to J&K Government's request for more powers shall be within the spirit of this. There cannot be an autonomous state within our country. There is no question of reverting to the pre-1953 position. If anybody wants to raise this issue, the answer is a big NO.
When we talk of devolution of powers, we shall keep in mind the regional aspirations of Jammu, Ladakh and Leh. The feeling of alienation of the people of these regions should be addressed on priority by the State Government and the Centre. The BJP shall support any agitation in this regard.
NDA Government's proud record of initiatives and achievements
During the last four years, our Government has sincerely and consistently tried to implement the promises contained in the NDA's common manifesto. We have launched several developmental programmes and welfare initiatives for the benefit of our people and the country. The national security mechanisms, so important for the defence of our motherland, have been further strengthened. Internal security has certainly improved.
Diplomatic offensive against Pakistan: One of the most significant achievements of our Government has been to expose Pakistan as a promoter of terrorism before the world and to channelize international pressure on Pakistan by highlighting the menace of Pak-sponsored terrorism. Never in the past five decades has there been such widespread international appreciation of, and support for, our stand on Kashmir and the issue of cross-border terrorism.
Terrorism is the enemy of mankind. India is the worst sufferer on account of this. It is quite surprising that the Western countries who have taken an oath to eliminate terrorism are relying on Pakistan, which is the headquarters of international terrorism. It has aided and abetted the Taliban, it is harbouring the Al Quaida, and is waging a proxy war on us. While the Government should continue to impress upon the West to lean on Pakistan to end terrorism, we must repeatedly remind our people that, ultimately, we have to fight - and win - the battle against ISI-sponsored terrorism on our own.
Economy - from shortages to surplus: An economy of chronic shortages has been transformed into one of surpluses. Our food godowns are filled to the brim. Allocations for Public Distribution System have been doubled. BPL families are getting more at less rates. There is complete food security in the country, thanks to record production of foodgrains by our hardworking kisans. India today is the largest producer of milk in the world.
The foreign exchange reserves are the highest ever. Today our country can boast of more than 60 million tones of food stock and about 60 billion dollars of foreign exchange reserves. The rate of inflation is the lowest ever. Prices of essential commodities have been effectively contained. Removal of controls and unshackling of the human energies has given a boost to the Information Technology and Educational sectors. Industries such as auto and pharma have achieved world quality. Consumers are today provided with choice, quality and cost effectiveness.
There was a time, not long ago, when one had to suffer waiting periods of several years for a humble telephone or a gas connection. Today they are available on demand. What the previous governments could not do in telecom services in 40 years, has been achieved by us in just four years. We had heard of prices going up, but here is one sector where tariffs have dramatically gone down.
Rural and urban development: We have reasons to be happy with the way our Government has accorded priority to rural development by significantly enhancing budgetary allocations. The launch of the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, with an allocation of Rs. 10,000 crore, including provision of foodgrains worth Rs. 5,000 crore, has given a big fillip to food-for-work and asset-creation programmes in rural areas. The scale of the housing construction programme, both in rural and urban areas, currently being implemented is unprecedented.
Regular enhancement of the Minimum Support Price for farmers, start of a crop insurance scheme, issuance of nearly three crore Kisan Credit Cards, increasing rural lending from Rs. 40,000 crores to Rs. 75, 000 crores - these show our commitment to the development of agriculture and rural economy.
The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, which our Government launched two years ago, will change the face of rural India. By aiming to connect all the unconnected villages in the country by 2007, it will revolutionalise the rural economy. There is also a revolution in the making on India's highways with the speedy implementation of the National Highway Development Project. Over the next five years, more than Rs.120,000 crore will be invested in both these road projects, which are the most ambitious infrastructure projects since Independence.
We have been successful in evolving a consensus on revitalising and strengthening the Panchayati Raj system through decentralization.
Other important initiatives: The Prime Minister has been constantly reviewing and monitoring the economy, and directing the removal of bottlenecks to faster growth. A clutch of innovative measures, including the ambitious scheme of Special Export Zones, have been unveiled to make India a major exporting nation. Native industries have been given due protection through many steps, including anti-dumping measures, to face the challenges of the WTO. Small-scale industries and the KVIC sector have been given a big boost. For the first time, the Government is providing Rs. 17,000 crore for implementing, within five years, a massive scheme for Railway safety. A new spirit of competition has been infused in the insurance sector. The process of disinvestment, aimed at much-needed restructuring of PSUs, is being implemented with full transparency.
At the same time, the Government has intensified its focus on the social sector. Some examples of this are -- the launch of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rajrajeshwari Scheme for women, Bhagya Lakshmi scheme for girls, Ashraya Beema scheme for unorganized labourers, Valmiki Ambedkar Yojana for slumdwellers, etc.
The Government has also moved forward in respect of electoral and judicial reforms. Several outdated Acts have been abrogated. A new Civil Procedure Code has been introduced that will significantly cut judicial delays.
For the first time, our Government showed the courage to correct the many distortions in school curricula and in the functioning of educational institutions, which were due to long years of colonial and communist influence.
Protection of reservations for SCs and STs: Our Government has taken several historic decisions for the benefit of SCs, STs and other weaker sections. Five Office Memoranda, with reference to reservations in promotions issued by the previous Congress-backed United Front governments, have been amended. Subsequently, a Constitutional Amendment was introduced to ensure and further enlarge employment opportunities for SCs and STs.
The above list is only illustrative, not exhaustive. It shows how, against many odds, our Government has been trying to fulfill the promises made to the people.
Scam-free record of the NDA Government: In contrast to the record of scams and scandals of previous regimes, the NDA Government has maintained a clean record. From time to time, driven again by frustration, the Congress and the Communists have been trying to make allegations to tarnish the image of our Government. However, none of their allegations have stuck.
Yes, our Government has many achievements to its credit. But where our Party is lagging behind - and where our Government too is lagging behind - is effective communication of these achievements, as also our various policies, programmes, and planned initiatives in the future, to the people. We have to overcome this weakness with determination and speed.
Development: Need for acceleration and improvement
The Vajpayee Government deserves to be complimented for speeding up economic reforms, while assiduously trying to give them a human face. There is both need and scope for further improvement.
There are certain pressing issues that are demanding undelayed redressal. For example, the power situation in many states has assumed crisis proportions. No doubt, this is the sad legacy of many years of neglect, compounded by the initial serious flaws in power sector reforms launched by the Congress government. No doubt, power is a State subject and much of the remedial work is the responsibility of state governments. Nevertheless, the Centre must further intensify its efforts to evolve an early all-party consensus to solve this vexed problem.
Similarly, the looming threat of drought in many parts of the country calls for a combined effort of the Centre and state governments to initiate both immediate relief measures and to undertake permanent steps to drought-proof our agriculture.
We also have to find consensus response to several long-standing issues on the reforms agenda, such as the fiscal ill-health of state governments, phasing out of unmerited subsidies, long-awaited labour reforms, etc. All these are necessary to achieve the target of 8% GDP growth rate, as envisaged in the Tenth Five Year Plan document. However, we need to educate the people on the short-term and temporary difficulties that they might have to face for achieving our long-term developmental goals, which will benefit all our citizens. For this, the Government should further harmonise its welfare and developmental approaches.
My appeal to political parties
Besides these developmental issues, the country also requires urgent consensus on ways to end the corrosive influence of money power and muscle power on politics. I also have to make another appeal to all the political parties:
"Let us work together to raise the level of political discourse in and outside Parliament and State legislatures. Let us focus more on people's issues and challenges before the nation, such as population control, environment, water conservation, etc. It is our collective responsibility to remove the widespread sense of cynicism about politics and to improve the image of politicians in the eyes of the common people. It is time we joined hands to end negativism in political and public life. Let us remember that we are not enemies of each other; we are only political rivals in a vibrant democracy.
Frequent strikes, and bandhs cause inconvenience to the public and the destruction of public property as a way of political protest must be deplored by all of us. Instead, let us rather appeal to our people to focus on development by improving work culture and producing more. In this let all should heed the call of our Prime Minister--Development, faster Development and balanced Development' "
Present concerns and future challenges before the Party
What I have narrated above shows that the BJP has come a long way since its inception. But there is no room for complacency. There are major challenges confronting our Party, our Government, our society and our polity. I shall now turn to these. First of all, let me focus on the immediate political task before our Party. I shall come to the organizational tasks a little later.
Only one thought in your minds and only one word on your lips-Victory
The BJP is unquestionably the main political party in India today. We displaced the Congress from this position way back in 1996. Since then, political equations in the country are crystallizing around two main poles represented by the two national parties-BJP and the Congress. Although our Party has grown from strength to strength, we have to admit that our growth has not fully exploited the opportunities caused by the decline of the Congress.
This makes the immediate tasks before the party self-evident. First and foremost, we must train our sights on winning renewed mandates in the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and putting up good performance in Jammu & Kashmir. Simultaneously, we should gear up for the assembly polls in nine (?) other states next year, including in important states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. We are in the process of restructuring wherever the need is felt in the States.
I strongly appeal to each and every worker of the Party in the States going to the polls this year and the next to work with single-minded determination to win. Let there be only one thought in your minds and only one word on your lips-Victory. We can succeed only then.
BJP's twin growth objectives:
Beyond the immediate task of preparing for victory in the coming State Assembly elections, we should aim to rapidly expand our Party's regional and social base on the lines of sarvavyapti (covering all regions) and sarvasparsi (touching all sections of society).
Since 1951 we have only covered half the political journey. We need to become omni-present and reach out to all, so as to secure a much larger mandate on a consistent basis. It is for all of us to evolve the BJP into a `mini-Bharat'.
Rapid regional expansion: We have extended our base from Andamans to Assam and from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. However, in recent times, we have suffered some setbacks in States where we were otherwise strong. This requires an in-depth analysis for necessary course correction. We have to target the Southern, Eastern and North-Eastern regions of our country more vigorously.
For example, there are certain States in which, in spite of a supportive objective conditions, our Party has not been able to make inroads. West Bengal and Kerala are prime examples. The Communists' base is fast eroding in these States and the Congress is highly faction-ridden. The people have been looking for a viable alternative, but the BJP so far has been unable to rise to the occasion. I would like our Party units in these two States to honestly introspect, evolve a new strategy and redouble their efforts to achieve a big breakthrough within the next few years.
Rapid social expansion: Ours is a diverse society. Although the BJP has extended its sphere of influence to many new sections of society in the past two decades, some are still beyond our reach. We need to move closer to them. Two categories that are crucial for our Party's sustainable growth and electoral success in the future are: one, farmers, rural artisans and weavers, fisherman, and unorganized labour; two, people belonging to SCs, STs, OBCs and most backward sections of OBCs. Our support base has grown considerably among these economically backward and the socially neglected sections. However, there is immense scope for further expansion.
Kisans: As our successful experience in many States has shown, the way to endear our Party to kisans is to regularly take up issues concerning rural people through mass movements and by better communication of our Government's policies and programmes.
SCs, STs, and other weaker sections: We need to do the same to further draw SCs, STs, and other weaker sections towards our Party. We should also take up all their legitimate issues of social justice. Our workers should be in the forefront of mobilizing them in instances of injustice and atrocities. This will help create an enduring emotional bond between them and our Party. However, in so doing our workers should also ensure that samajik samarasata (social harmony) is well protected.
Minorities: As a consequence of the disinformation campaign by our rivals, the gulf between our Party and the minorities continues to remain wide. We need to look at this issue in great depth and evolve an action plan to win them over. In this effort, our Government's performance and attitude towards the minorities can be made good use of by our workers.
Women: The work of our Party among women has grown considerably over the years. Nevertheless, we have to admit that we need to make greater efforts to mobilize and promote more women in our Party organization and in its various programmes. We have not been able to give greater representation to women in elective bodies beyond what the Party Constitution provides. The reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions has greatly increased the opportunities for their participation in political activities. Soon, we would like a similar empowering legislation to be passed for Parliament and State legislatures. This is going to create a silent socio-political revolution in the country. Our Party should not only be prepared for it, but also lead it. For this, all our Party units should actively encourage greater representation for committed and dynamic women activists. The scope of the work of our Mahila Morchas also should be rapidly expanded.
Voluntary and constructive work: A relatively new area which our Party should focus on in the coming years is the voluntary sector and constructive activities like water conservation, tree plantation, literacy campaign, population control, helping rural people in conducting gram sabhas, etc. Our workers should establish active contacts with good NGOs and, wherever feasible, set up their own NGOs. They should also set up cooperatives, educational and healthcare institutions, social reform groups, etc. Among other things, all these activities will help the Party to mobilize the youth, who are the main channels of constructive energy. These also multiply and strengthen our Party's links with the people. I may also point out that both the Central and State governments have many schemes, backed by significant resources, to support such activities.
Party Cells: We have recently restructured the existing Party Cells and also expanded their number to cover many new social categories and professions such as weavers, fishermen, slum dwellers, beedi workers, unorganized labour, and also for various professional groups. In response to the growing importance of urban India in national affairs, we shall also set up a new Cell for municipal good governance. Similarly, we shall set up a separate Cell for the better governance of Panchayati Raj institutions. I would like our State and district units to set up similar Cells at their own levels. In all this, our guiding objective should be to make the BJP more development-oriented and more focused on people's welfare.
Let us reinforce our image as a Party with a Difference
I have touched upon what we have accomplished so far. I have also dealt with what we should be doing to consolidate our gains and to forge ahead. I would now like to dwell on how we should be doing it.
The answer, we have to recognize, lies in the unity and strength of the Party organization. It lies in the dedication, discipline and dynamism of our Party workers. It lies in the exemplary qualities of idealism and ideological commitment of our self-sacrificing leaders, and their ability to mobilise and inspire the people.
It is these traits that made the people believe that the BJP, like the Bharatiya Jana Sangh previously, was a Party with a Difference. They saw a clear distinction between the BJP and other parties, many of which had succumbed to the corrosive effects of power politics. This image of the BJP, which has been a source of great strength to our Party, persists even today.
Nevertheless, we have to ask ourselves: "Are we fully living up to the ideals set by the founders of our Party? Are we fully measuring up to the expectations of the people?"
An honest answer to these questions makes us admit that some problems and weaknesses have crept into our Party organization in recent years. We have to accept that some undesirable and unacceptable tendencies - such as groupism, factional fights, craze for power, pursuit of personal ambition at the cost of Party's interests -- which are the hallmark of Congress and other parties, have found their way into our Party also, though mainly on the periphery. This has caused much harm to our Party in some States.
Introspection, the need of the hour
Clearly, the time has come for all of us, at all levels, to do some serious and sincere introspection and take immediate corrective steps. Every Party member has to earnestly endeavour to correct his or her deficiencies. I want to assert that the Party has to act firmly and nip in the bud such undesirable tendencies. If the Party fails in this task of self-vigil and timely self-correction, then this virus will spread to cause grave maladies. There is no scope for complacency in this regard.
A good way to focus on our self-cleansing exercise is to remind ourselves that the symbol of the BJP is the Lotus, that majestic and pure flower which remains untouched by the pollution surrounding it.
Yesterday, we have issued a Code of Conduct with a clear set of Dos and Don'ts for our leaders and workers. Strict adherence to the Code will go a long way in improving our image as a Party with a Difference.
In the context of our ongoing efforts to revitalize the party, I have a few specific thoughts and suggestions to offer.
1: Be more devoted, more committed and better organised
After becoming a ruling Party at the Centre, the tasks before us have increased immensely. To accomplish these manifold tasks and to achieve the goals of political consolidation and expansion, our leaders and workers at various levels have to demonstrate greater devotion and commitment. We need to approach this task in a focused and systematic manner.
Accordingly I have institutionalized a new arrangement with clear allocation of roles and responsibilities for all the central office-bearers. Political management and social expansion will be looked after by General Secretaries and one of the Vice Presidents. They will guide the State Units in these respects. Prabharis will exclusively look after organizational matters, the expansion of the organizational network, the health of the Party and functioning of the Party machinery at various levels.
I would like to emphasize the need for a better coordination among State Party functionaries, legislators and MPs from the respective States, Prabharis and Central office-bearers.
2: Be agile, be mobile
Ours is a vast country. And we have set ourselves the goal of expanding our frontiers and reaching new horizons. How can we achieve this goal? The only way is by moving out of Delhi and our respective State headquarters. We have to fan out to every nook and corner of the country. There is no substitute to intensive and constant touring by the office-bearers to galvanize our cadres, get a first-hand feel of the problems and developments, and revitalize the Party machinery. Touring cannot be a one-time affair. It has got to be a regular exercise.
Here, we need to follow the example of Deendayalji - "One foot in train, the other foot on the ground". We also have the inspiring example of Shri Atalji, Advaniji, Joshiji and Thakreji, who traveled untiringly and built the Party organization brick by brick.
As the President of our party, I desire that all our national, state, district and mandal level office-bearers spare a minimum of 15 days in a month to go around various territories of our country to accomplish the tasks given to them. I suggest that national level office-bearers, between them, have to cover each and every district headquarter in the country in the next one year. State office-bearers and MPs have to reach out to each and every mandal; and district level office-bearers have to fan out to each and every village in the next one year. As often as possible, we should make night stay at villages and in bastees. All this is a part of the yagna that we propose to undertake to galvanize the Party. I would like to inform you that the Party will soon launch a massive "Gaon Chalo" programme countrywide.
3: Recognise and respect karyakarta
Our cadres are our soldiers in this campaign. No Party can survive if it neglects its workers. There is a need for a live, vibrant and constant interaction between the workers and leaders. Central Ministers, MPs, MLAs and other elected representatives should always remind themselves that it is the Party and its countless humble karyakartas that have made them what they are. So, they too must pledge to give their best for the Party and to do all they can to enthuse and assist its workers. They should always be accessible to Party workers and endeavour to solve their problems.
In turn, our Party workers should be always accessible to the common people. As far as possible, karyakartas must be careful to take up public issues, and not grievances of personal nature, to Ministers, MPs, and MLAs.
4: Achieve better coordination between the Party and our Government
More than four years of the NDA Government have convinced me that the good performance of our Government itself can be a powerful new plank for achieving the Party's goal of consolidation and expansion. For this, however, we need better coordination between the Party and our Government.
It so happens that, in these four and a half years, I have had the useful experience of working both in the Party and the Government. My work as the Minister of Rural Development made me aware of the immense possibilities for educating the people about the vision, policies, programmes and achievements of our Government. Conversely, it gave me an opportunity to hear first-hand from the people their feedback on the performance of various schemes and programmes. This way, both the Government and the Party will be benefited through better coordination.
This process is now in need of institutionalization. Under the guidance of the Prime Minister, I have decided to enlist the participation of some of our young and enthusiastic MPs to run an efficient coordination center at the Party office. This center will receive grievances/suggestions and ideas from Party workers across the country and forward them to the respective Ministries. It will also liaise with ministers and bureaucrats for the speedy redressal of their problems and grievances.
I urge all ministers to fully cooperate in making this effort at coordination successful.
5: Change the mindset of our workers
The fact that our Party was in the opposition for a long time has naturally influenced the thinking of our workers. No doubt, the BJP performed its role as an opposition party admirably. The mindset of the workers of an opposition party is to oppose, to agitate, to criticize, and to highlight the shortcomings. However, now the Party's role is different. Our workers have to reorient themselves as disciplined soldiers, enthusiastic communicators and skillful mobilisers of the people in the service of the Government. In performing this role, they have to also realize the limitations and constraints within which the Government functions and that many of these constraints are a legacy of the past which cannot be immediately removed.
In the new role, our workers have to perform another important task: that of receiving people's feedback on the performance of the Government, serving as a useful link between the Government and the people, and functioning as an effective watch-dog. This role will have to be performed not in an agitational way, but with responsibility, discipline, and tact, always mindful that one's pronouncements and conduct do not embarrass the Government, confuse the people, affect the cohesion of the Party, and give a handle to the opposition to criticize our Party and the Government.
A ruling party's mindset also entails that our workers develop the ability to ensure effective implementation of the Government's various programmes for time-bound results, ensure people's participation in such programmes wherever necessary, and to ensure accountability of the implementation machinery at various levels. All these functions also make it necessary that they develop an aptitude to learn various developmental issues and be trained in communicating effectively with the people.
In the months and years to come, the BJP will have to pay a lot of attention to this imperative of mindset transformation. We have a massive training programme in the offing for various levels of Party functionaries.
6: Groom leaders of tomorrow
Leadership development is an important component of our effort to revitalize the Party. However, we are not paying adequate and sustained attention to this need. Just as the Party needs a large army of karyakartas who will work as dedicated soldiers, it also needs a large number of dynamic, determined capable and exemplary leaders at various levels. We should especially catch promising karyakartas in their youth and groom them and train them well to take up more and more challenging assignments. Development of leaders with charisma and mass appeal, but wedded to the ideals, ideology and ethic of our Party, should be considered one of the most important tasks in Party building.
Traditionally, ABVP and Yuva Morcha have served as good grooming grounds for young Party leaders. We will continue to look to them for fresh blood. At the same time, I would like the various Morchas and Cells also to attract men and women with leadership qualities and launch them into challenging tasks.
Similarly, our political recruitment process should set an example to others. We should promote the entry of more and more people with proven qualities and abilities into our Party.
7: Resolve to make the Aajivan Sahyogi Yojana a success
Our Party has always underscored the importance of transparency in the way it collects funds and spends them for various legitimate Party activities. As the Party has grown, so have its financial needs. A unique initiative that we launched five years ago was Aajivan Sahyogi Yojana to collect small but regular (annual) contributions from all those who wished to be its life long associates. While the scheme is undoubtedly laudable, its progress has been indifferent, with many State Units not exerting fully to realize the targets given to them.
I earnestly call upon all members of the National Council to make the success of the Aajivan Sahyogi Yojana a personal priority.
Four Ds for the Party and the Government
My dear Party colleagues,
If I have to sum up the main requirements that would make the BJP "A Party with a Difference", and the NDA Government "A Government with a Difference", I would encapsulate them as the Four-D Formula.
The four Ds for our Party are:
Dedication, Discipline, Determination and Dynamism.
The four Ds for our Government are:
Democracy, Decentralization, Development and Defence.
If we master this Four-D Formula, I have no doubt that both our Party and our Government will find themselves on a path of sustainable success, adding strength and stature to our nation and bringing well-being and happiness to our people.
Nation first, Party next, Self last
Yes, we can master this formula for growth and success. All we need is belief in ourselves, faith in our Party's founding ideals, pride in our past, confidence in our future, and courage to take big steps forward.
We have the torch of our ideology of nationalism and humanism in our hands, inspiring our hearts and illuminating our path. Let us recall the famous quote of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya ji.
"The whole of Bharat is one and the people are one and the people must feel this. The different organs cannot be synthesized into human body; the body is a whole and the organs are its parts. This way every organ works for the whole body. Similarly the various organs of a nation must shape themselves to suit the national interest. The sects, provinces and languages are all important but only so long as they are favorable to national interest. If they are not so, they must be sacrificed in national interest".
We are blessed with the wise leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a leader, a statesman, of course. But he is so much more. Under his stewardship, the prestige, image and respect of our country has gone up in the international community. In Shri Lal Krishna Advani we have a strong and determined personality with unmatched organizational skills and moral authority to guide us. These two towering personalities are followed by a band of dedicated leaders which includes a talented and highly promising second generation, followed by a budding third generation. We also have a vast organization of dedicated and self-motivated karyakartas and a huge network of well-wishers, which contributes to our Party's strength.
There is love and affection for us among the people of our country. Our task is to reach out to them by going to their inviting doorsteps, to educate them and to learn from them, to mobilize them and be motivated by them, and to together march on our chosen path of duty towards our cherished goal. In this journey, let each and every leader and worker of the BJP take a solemn pledge that for us, "Nation is first, Party is next and Self is last."
Victory shall be ours.