National Executive Meeting Indore (Madhya Pradesh) : April 04-5, 2003
Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Shri L.K. Advani National Executive Meeting, Indore - April 4-5, 2003
Our National Executive is meeting at a unique high-point in the Party's history. The completion of five years of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministership is no doubt a proud landmark in the history of independent India, a point that was very well brought out in the President's address yesterday. But it also holds a very significant place in our Party's history.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Party's 23rd Founding Day. The founding of the Bharatiya Janata Party had taken place at a time that was decidedly a low point in the history of our ideological-political journey dating back to the birth of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. The Janata Party Government had collapsed. Indeed, those of us from the Jana Sangh background, who had voluntarily merged our Party into the Janata Party, had been forced to go out on the issue of dual membership. Within four years, our newly formed Party met with yet another low point - the worst ever electoral setback in the Parliamentary elections in 1984. We could secure only 2 seats in the Lok Sabha.
From that low watermark in our history, we have today arrived at a point when our leader has become the third longest serving Prime Minister and is set to lead the BJP, and the National Democratic Alliance, to yet another victory in the next general elections.
It is necessary for all of us to seriously ponder how this change has come about. What were the external and objective factors that contributed to this change? And what have been the factors internal to our Party that have enabled us to make this transition?
Three eras in Indian political history
As I look back, national politics in India has passed through three main phases.
The first two decades (1947-1967) following Independence can be described as the Era of Congress Dominance. The year 1967 saw a round of elections in which strong disenchantment with the Congress manifested itself in several States.
The next two decades (1967-1980) add up to an Era of Anti-Congressism. The Congress suffered a series of setbacks, not only at the State levels, but also at the Centre (1977).
In 1980, the BJP was born. This proved to be a turning point in the political history of India. The two decades since then constitute the third phase - the Era of a Stable Bi-polar Polity. The BJP and Congress have emerged as the principal poles of national politics.
The transformation of a situation of Congress hegemony into a balanced bi-polar polity has come about because of two factors:
· Deep disenchantment with the Congress; and
· High hopes from the BJP.
The talisman that people judge us by
The people at large trusted us when we affirmed, at our founding conference in Mumbai, that the BJP will prove itself "A Party with a Difference". By projecting this slogan we have given to the people - and also to ourselves -- a very strong talisman to judge us by.
We have no doubt proved ourselves different from others in several respects, such as:
1: Hard work and pace of growth;
2: Ability to adapt to changing situations;
3: Ability to win the confidence of regional parties;
4: Commitment to national interests and capacity to overcome the temptation of vote bank politics;
5: Performance in government.
All this has strengthened the Government's capacity in the field of delivering better governance.
But the BJP is still to inspire confidence in the people that even in respect of idealism and values, our activists are absolutely different from their counterparts in other parties. We have still to prove that we have the ability to overcome the weaknesses which power politics breeds.
Government performance is important, but even more important is the behaviour and conduct of the BJP's ministers, MPs, MLAs, office-bearers, etc.
Why do I place such overriding importance on this requirement? The answer should be evident to those who know the initial part of our ideological-political history. For as long as the Jana Sangh was in existence - and that is over quarter of a century - our activists were nowhere near power. What sustained them in politics? What made them bear hardships and yet have a smile on their faces, self-confidence in their hearts, discipline in our ranks, and bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie among Party's leaders and workers?
Our distinctive tradition is our sustaining force
It was idealism, it was the conviction that we were striving for a goal higher than our individual selves, a goal for which it was proper and necessary to shun everything that had to do with oneself - home, comforts, security of a job or profession - and do everything that had to do with the Nation.
This was not just preached by our leaders, it was practised. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya led and guided us by his personal example. And that became our Party's culture, our tradition, our distinctive identity in Indian politics. Everybody knew that we were a small party, a marginal party. But everybody also knew that we were a party of disciplined, idealistic and hard-working activists. People did not vote for the Jana Sangh in large and winning numbers. Nevertheless, they admired our Party. They said, "Yeh achche log hain, nihswaarth log hain."
If the Jana Sangh had not been like that, if we too were like other parties, our subsequent political journey after 1980 would have been very different. Most certainly, we would not be where we are today.
Therefore, our culture of selflessness, our distinctive tradition of idealism must be understood as our greatest strength. Ideology is important, and we are distinctive in that respect too. But ordinary people do not judge a political worker by his ideology, by what he preaches. They judge us by our conduct in public life.
The question I ask myself - and I would like all of us to ask ourselves - is: why should something that has been our strength, our sustaining force, get diluted now when we are in power? Does this mean that idealism and power politics cannot go together? There are many who think so. We have to prove them wrong. And we to remind ourselves, that without that distinctive strength we risk ourselves to rejected by the people in the same way that they rejected the Congress from 1967 onwards. Without this unique aspect of "A Party with a Difference", the BJP will be seen as a party like any other.
Because the people have high hopes from the BJP, they have made us the principal pole in Indian politics. They expect us to play this role for the coming several decades. Because their cherished goal of seeing India become a Developed Nation by 2020 - free at last of poverty and unemployment, free of all traces of underdevelopment and backwardness, strong in national security, strong in internal security, peaceful and harmonious - is realisable only with a party of resurgent nationalism leading the Nation.
Therefore, we must remind ourselves that we are not in power for the sake of power - and that all that it entails. Rather, we are in power, and we want to be in power for a long time to come, because we want to be instruments for the realisation of a high national ideal. An ideal in whose light our individual "Self" counts for nothing, but our collective "Self" as the Party counts for a lot.