NATIONAL EXECUTIVE 12-14 April, 2002 - Panaji, Goa
Remarks made by Shri L.K. Advani National Executive Meeting
Last October, our Party celebrated the fiftieth year of its political yatra, which had commenced with the founding of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951 by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
Just one week back, on April 6, 2002, the BJP completed 22 years of its own existence. During this half a century, we have seen many ups and downs.
There have been moments of intense exhilaration; and there have been times we have felt ourselves down in the dumps. But our track record has been such that, after every setback, we have bounced back with greater strength and vigour.
It is this unstoppable onward march which saw us win the people's mandate to serve the nation as the ruling party, at the head of the National Democratic Alliance, in 1998 and a renewed popular mandate, after a Congress-inspired conspiracy of destabilization, in 1999. On March 19 this year, we completed four years in office, a feat unequalled by any non-Congress government at the Centre. The credit for liberating India from a debilitating spell of instability, and for providing a stable and forward-looking government, goes principally to our leader Shri Atalji, to his ability to inspire confidence among all sections of our diverse society.
The Party has recently suffered a series of electoral setbacks. For the last four years that we have been in office in New Delhi, we have been proudly affirming that during our rule, communal incidents have been minimum, and that there has been no major communal riot. After the recent happenings in Gujarat, we can no longer make this claim.
The cover story of a leading periodical bears the caption "BJP: The Party Is Over"! One can be sure that soon we shall be seeing variants of this story in other sections of the media as well.
This is not the first time we have confronted a situation in which not only our adversaries but even our well wishers have been inclined to write us off.
I can recall at least three such occasions - in 1953, after the death of Dr. S.P. Mookerjee; in 1976, when after the passing of the 42nd amendment, democracy was virtually declared dead; and then in 1984, when out of the 228 candidates put up by the BJP in the Eighth Lok Sabha elections, only two could manage to win!
But the prophets of doom have invariably been proved wrong. We shall prove them wrong once again.
The NDA Government, under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has performed well on all fronts - and against many odds. Inflation has been firmly held in check. Foreign exchange reserves have soared to an all time high. An ambitious plan for girdling the entire country with world-class highways and rural roads - indeed, the most ambitious infrastructure project since Independence - has been going ahead at a rapid pace.
Farmers and agriculture have been the recipients of special attention from the Government throughout these four years.
Our Government has done exceedingly well in housing - as many as 36 lakh new houses have been built in rural and urban areas in the past one year alone.
We can take legitimate credit for giving a big boost to Information Technology and Telecom sectors. Thanks to the bold and progressive National Telecom Policy of 1999, India is today adding as many as 1000 new telephone subscribers, many of them in rural areas, every hour! Tariffs have fallen dramatically. In IT, India has now come to be globally recognized as a Software Superpower.
For us, Vikas and Suraksha are two sides of the same coin. A multi-faceted approach to problems of national security enabled the country to become a proud member of the Nuclear Club, defeat Pakistan in the Kargil War, contain cross-border terrorism, and revamp the management of the defence system.
In its conduct of international relations, the Vajpayee Government has acquitted itself admirably. Today India enjoys goodwill and respect throughout the world.
But the BJP needs to understand that the spectacular gains of our Party made in the last decade of the twentieth century was on the basis of the popular hope the BJP-led government would not be just another government, not even just a better government, but a government qualitatively different - a government that would be perceived by the common citizen as one that converted Swaraj into Su-raj. "A Party with a difference" was our main slogan when the BJP was launched. It should be our mission to make our government, "A Government with a difference".
Let us accept that even though our Government has been better than the Congress governments, than the United Front and other Congress-supported governments, and that our ministers are acknowledged as upright and competent, both the Government as well as the Party have not been able to measure up to the very high expectations of the people. Indeed, we have not been able to fully measure up to our own high ideals that inspired us to found the Jana Sangh and later the BJP.
This is the main factor responsible for the disillusionment of the people with the Party. It is also the basis of the present state of demoralization among tens of thousands of our karyakartas.
A coalition government comprised of diverse ideological groups has necessarily to draw up a minimum common programme of governance and run the government scrupulously on that basis. Indeed, a very large area of governance has nothing to do with ideology. It has, rather, to do with formulation of good policies and programmes and their proper implementation; it has to do with responsive and responsible administration, with a high degree of transparency and accountability, and people's enthusiastic participation at all tiers of the democratic set-up.
Throughout these four years, the BJP has scrupulously adhered to the common programme drawn up by the NDA. But, sometimes, we betray a tendency to be rather apologetic about our Party's ideological moorings. Here I do not refer to any specific issue as such, but to our entire guiding outlook on enlightened cultural nationalism, on positive secularism as against pseudo-secularism, and on samajik nyay and samajik samarasata. I hold that this is yet another factor that has contributed to the people's disenchantment.
Our political opponents have an innate hesitation, on account of their ingrained calculations of votebank politics, on issues concerning national security - both external and internal. Which is why they are soft on the anti-national activities of certain organizations, on burning issues such as the ISI's conspiracy in India and the illegal infiltration in the North-East. The stance of the principal opposition party, the Congress, on Pokhran, Kargil, and POTO has been either hostile or ambivalent. Their recent opposition to POTO showed that, even on so self-evident a threat as cross-border terrorism, they are prepared to put the considerations of votebank politics above those of national security.
It is this compromising and short-sighted attitude of the Congress party on the fundamental issues of nationalism and national security, coupled with a conscious and unconscious promotion of corruption at all levels over the past many decades, that has weakened the Indian State, made it soft against external and internal threats to national security.
I would like to make a special mention here of the Ayodhya issue. It does not figure in the common manifesto of the NDA. Nevertheless, no one can dispute that it is an issue agitating the entire country. Its speedy and amicable resolution would contribute immensely to communal harmony and national integration. We are happy that leaders like Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and others have taken the initiative to start a dialogue with representatives of the Muslim community for a mutually agreeable resolution of the issue. The Government's own position, to which all constituents of the NDA have agreed, is that this issue has to be resolved peacefully either through a mutually acceptable agreement or, failing which, through a judicial verdict. The Government will remain solemnly committed to this position, and so will our Party.
Of late, there has been some speculation that the BJP could abandon the common manifesto of the NDA and go back to its own agenda. This will not happen. The BJP, which is the main component of the NDA, will remain faithful to the coalition's common agenda.
This Goa meeting of the National Executive must draw up a plan of action which deals with the factors I have identified as being responsible for the electoral setbacks we have suffered - namely, shortcomings in delivering good governance and a needlessly apologetic posture in respect of our ideological beliefs.
For this, our plan of action must deal with the following four urgent imperatives:
1) Strengthen the Government, especially by speeding up the process of implementing our various policies and programmes. We will have to devise practical ways of energizing the bureaucracy to make it deliver what we have promised to the people.
2) Strengthen the pro-growth, pro-poor and pro-employment orientation of our economic policies.
3) Strengthen the system of information and publicity, so that the many remarkable achievements of our Government are effectively highlighted and our overall vision of Good Governance is better projected to the people.
4) Strengthen the Party at all levels, if necessary by inducting some of our talented colleagues in the Government into Party work. We should also comprehensively strengthen the Party at the State level, especially in those States that will go to the polls next year. If necessary, there should be some deterrent action in some cases of gross indiscipline.
In short, we should return from Goa with renewed self-confidence and strengthened resolve to buck the recent setbacks and emerge, in keeping with our proud track record, as a qualitatively Stronger Party and a qualitatively Better Government.