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Meeting of the National Executive             
Ranchi - November 24-26, 2004            
Presidential speech by             
Shri L.K. Advani         

Dear Colleagues,

I welcome you all to this meeting of the National Executive here in Ranchi.

This is the first meeting of the National Executive after the National Council assembled in New Delhi on October 27 and formally elected me as the Party president.

It is taking place in the aftermath of two state assembly elections and before three upcoming state assembly elections.

Outcome of recent assembly elections

The results of the assembly polls in Maharashtra were truly disappointing to all of us. On the basis of performance, the Congress-NCP combine least deserved a renewed mandate, just as, judged by the criterion of performance, the NDA certainly deserved to win a fresh mandate. We thus see a certain disconnect between performance in government and performance in elections. I am not saying that such disconnect exists in every election. Nevertheless, it is a phenomenon that deserves a serious study.

It appears that lack of proper and sustained coordination between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, our alliance partner in Maharashtra, at various levels was one of the principal reasons for our defeat in the elections. We should learn the right lessons from this in evolving our strategy for the forthcoming elections.

I wish to congratulate our unit in Arunachal Pradesh for their impressive performance in the recent elections. Contesting on our own, we won 9 seats in the Assembly. We had also won both the Lok Sabha seats in the state. This shows the keen desire of the people of the North-East to see that the BJP emerges as a major political force in the region, to serve as a resolute defender of national unity and as a champion of peace, development and social harmony.

Three crucial elections ahead

In the months to come, we will face three crucial elections in Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. Our objective in these elections is clear.

Jharkhand: In Jharkhand, we must strive to win a fresh mandate. Despite all the odds, our government here has performed fairly well. Indeed, many of the difficulties it faced were a legacy of bad governance that the RJD government in undivided Bihar had left behind. The people of Jharkhand also know that the BJP is the only party that is both firmly committed to, and is fully capable of, harmonising the interests of both tribals and non-tribals in the state. We should impress upon the people that the difficult work of repairing the damage done by the previous government needs five more years of BJP rule to yield the desired results. We should especially caution them that a mandate to our adversaries would be an invitation to a reign of terror, social strife, criminalization of governance and unlimited corruption.

Liberate Bihar from the reign of Asuri (evil) forces

I would like to dwell at some length on Bihar, where the battle lines are clearly drawn and the bugle will be sounded at a massive rally in Patna on December 2.

This battle is not only for unseating an incumbent government that belongs to an opposition party. It is actually for emancipating Bihar from 15 years of jungle raj, the kind of which no state in the country has ever seen. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which now has the Congress as its partner, has impoverished the state, criminalised politics and governance, and made corruption its creed. In a bizarre act of perversion, its leader has sowed the poisonous seeds of casteism and communalism while masquerading himself as a defender of secularism and social justice. The strangest part of it all is that he is the darling of the entire pseudo-secular brigade.

I charge the Congress party, the communists and all those who support the RJD with being willing partners in the crime of pauperising Bihar, of reducing this rich and cultured state to such a helpless condition that no section of Bihari population -- poor, rich, students, teachers, industrial and agricultural workers, traders, professionals -- see any hope of a bright future for themselves in their own state. Worse, they do not even feel safe in their own state, such being the reign of terror, crime and lawlessness unleashed by the RJD. As a result, the largest stream of internal migration in India today is that of the proud but helpless people of Bihar.

The BJP charges the RJD and all its supporters of being assaulters on Bihari Pride, a pride that is rooted in the state's hoary past, in the glorious role it played in the Freedom Movement, in its having been one of the best managed and most richly endowed states in the initial decades of Independence, and in the contribution that its idealistic youth and students made to the defence of democracy under the inspiring leadership of JP.

Friends, the RJD leadership is spreading the self-serving myth that their party is unassailable and is going to win Bihar for another five years. Its calculation is that, in the conditions of mafia-induced fear that prevails in the state, spreading such a myth would prompt the people not to vote for the BJP-JD(U) alliance. We shall puncture this balloon of the RJD's invincibility right at the outset of our campaign. We'll tell the people of Bihar:

"Have no fear. Our alliance is the real and the only alternative, which it is capable of liberating Bihar from the Asuri Shakti (evil force) that has captured your state. Our alliance is also capable of building a New and Proud Bihar in which every citizen belonging to every caste and community will feel justice done to them, and in which Bihar will be brought back to the track of rapid and all-round development, to occupy its rightful place in the march of a prosperous and strong India."

Haryana: In Haryana, our Party has decided to contest the elections on its own. The incumbent government and the ruling party have done little, either by way of performance or by their relations with the BJP, to create a conducive atmosphere for a united contest against the Congress party. In Haryana our primary objective will be to increase our own strength in the new Assembly to the maximum possible extent, so that we emerge as an effective alternative to the discredited Congress party.

Politics of mass mobilization and agitation

Friends, my long experience in politics tells me that a political party heightens its strength and brightens its public profile through three types of activities, and I'll mention them in the order of their effectiveness. Of course, the first and the most effective means is one's performance in an election - be it a parliamentary election, assembly election or a local body election. The second is the path of mass mobilization in struggles intended to champion people's causes and to defend the interests of our nation. The third is holding of political rallies.

Due to a combination of factors -- the foremost of which was the fact that we were ourselves in government for six long years - our Party has not organized any large-scale nationwide protest action in recent times. Our mass mobilization on the Ayodhya issue in the late '80s and early '90s was the last such effort. However, I am surprised that within six months of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, one issue after another is knocking at our doors to be picked up for mass mobilization and mass protest.

Recently, the BJP demonstrated its mass mobilization capabilities by taking up two issues that touched the hearts and minds of every patriot in this country - namely, the insult meted out by the UPA government and the Congress-Communist combine to a national hero, Veer Savarkar, and to a national icon, the Tricolour.

Arrest of Shankaracharya, an assault on Hinduism

Now two more issues have arisen that demand a firm and resolute response from the BJP. One has hurt people's pockets and the other has deeply wounded people's faith.

The arrest of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Math, His Holiness Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji, in a criminal case in Tamil Nadu is unprecedented in the spiritual and political annals of India. The manner of his arrest, the manner of his incarceration, and the campaign of slander launched against him and the Kanchi Math by the two principal parties in the state, joined by the communists and all the anti-Hindu forces in this country, have jolted the Hindu society like no other event in recent times has.

Two factors have principally contributed to this shocking turn of events. One is the politics of vendetta, confrontation, one-upmanship and social divisiveness that has marred both the society and polity in Tamil Nadu in recent times. The other is the general climate of pseudo-secularism in our country in which maligning of the Hindu faith, hurting of Hindu sentiments and denial of legitimate Hindu interests have been made the ultimate and sole criterion of one's commitment to secularism.

I would like to pose the following questions for the people of India to ponder:

  • Why did the then Congress government at the Centre apologise to a certain Muslim seminary in UP when, in 1994, the IB had to conduct a raid on a hostel inside the seminary to nab suspected ISI-backed terrorists with links to a terrorist act in Jammu & Kashmir? The Central government dispatched two senior ministers to the seminary to express regrets for the police action.
  • What would happen if a Central minister were to say in a public meeting that he is ashamed of being a Muslim or a Christian?
  • Why is raising one's voice against fraudulent conversions of poor tribals and other indigent people considered a communal act in this country?
  • Who has created this bizarre and perverse intellectual atmosphere in this country where anything associated with Hinduism, Hindu ethos and Hindu faith is considered communal, obscurantist and -- my blood boils when I hear the term -- "toxic"?
Preserve the Hindu ethos to strengthen secularism and national unity

Friends,  the time has come to proclaim, and proclaim with all the courage of our conviction, that India is secular principally because of its Hindu ethos. Remove this Hindu ethos, and there will be no India left. Let us make no mistake: A section of the Congress party, the Communists and some other political forces in this country are conspiring to slowly but systematically erase the Hindu ethos of this country and to obfuscate the basic Hindu identity of our culture and civilization.

In stating this, I do not in the least deny that India is a multi-faith nation. We are proud that our land is home to practically every faith in the world, and every faith here is respected. Adherents of every faith have the same rights and responsibilities. Discrimination on the grounds of religion is alien to our age-old culture and against our Constitution. But let every adversary of ours be warned: if anybody tries to take the cover of secularism to indulge in anti-Hindu politics and statecraft, the BJP will stand in their path like a rock, prepared to make any sacrifices.

Which is why, the BJP, after a lot of inner-party deliberation, decided to associate itself as a party with the public outrage against the arrest of Kanchi Shankracharya. We have made it clear that the law must take its course in the specific case in which allegations of his involvement have been made. But this is not an issue concerning one individual. It has far wider ramifications.

By launching the relay hunger strike and dharna on November 20, we have begun a campaign through which, as in the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, we will powerfully counter our ideological and political adversaries, reaffirm the meaning of genuine secularism, strengthen national unity, and rededicate ourselves to the adoption of life-enriching dharmic values in society, politics and statecraft. I wish to sincerely thank the former President, Shri R. Venkatraman, former Prime Minister Shri Chandrashekhar, NDA Convenor Shri George Fernandes, and several respected sadhus and sants for having joined our Party colleagues in this protest action.

Agitation against price rise

The other issue on which the Party has launched a programme of mass agitation, culminating in a massive protest demonstration in front of Parliament on December 1, is the back-breaking price rise within six months of the UPA government. The Congress party went to the polls tomtomming its slogan: "Congress ka haath, Aam aadmi ke saath". The truth has turned out be: "Congress ka ghaath, Aam aadmi ke saath". This betrayal is acutely felt every time a common man goes to the market to buy items of daily need, every time a housewife brings a new cylinder of cooking gas, and every time a kisan purchases diesel to run his pump.

I call upon our Party workers to conduct a sustained campaign to educate the people about this betrayal and also contrast it with the success of the Vajpayee government in keeping inflation and the prices of essential commodities firmly under check for six long years.

Vigorously expose the failures of the UPA government

We should also vigorously expose the ruinous consequences of the UPA government's failures on the internal security front. Nothing illustrates this failure more glaringly than the manner in which the government has completely messed up the handling of the naxal menace. Naxal extremism is spreading its tentacles to newer and hitherto unaffected places. This became frighteningly evident when naxalites killed 17 cops near Banaras in UP in a landmine explosion last week. The NDA government, after sustained consultations with the governments of all the affected states, had evolved a coordinated and multi-pronged strategy to overcome this grave threat to India's internal security. The Congress party lost no time in dismantling this strategy by lifting the ban against the PWG in Andhra Pradesh and inviting naxalites for talks without first insisting that they give their arms.

As a highly respected retired police officer from Punjab recently bemoaned, "It is indeed strange that, on the one hand the Indian government is assisting Nepal to overcome the challenge posed by Maoists; on the other hand, the same government has legitimized Maoists by inviting them for talks on almost equal footing."

Similarly, BJP workers everywhere should expose the UPA government's neglect of the plight of kisans, artisans, workers in the informal sector and its blind eye towards the unemployed youth. We should tell the people how the much-publicised Food-for-Work programme, launched recently by the Prime Minister, is a badly repackaged version of a similar programme started by the NDA government, with little additional resources allocated to it. In any case, it is a far cry from the promise of providing guaranteed employment for 150 days a year to every able-bodied person in rural areas and urban slums.

The visible slowdown in the implementation of major infrastructure projects, initiated by the NDA government, is a matter of deep concern. Little is being heard of the ambitious National Highway Development Project, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the National Rail Vikas Yojana or the Valmiki-Ambedkar Awaas Yojana - not to speak about the River Linking Project.

I am mentioning these only to highlight how the focus and the priority of the UPA government have shifted from governance and development to relentless vendetta towards the opposition and daily infighting within the ruling coalition.

Kashmir issue: Compromise of national interests will not be tolerated

Friends, recent months have seen considerable activity, at least in terms of statements and counter-statements, between the governments of India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. The BJP has made it clear on more than one occasion that the process of normalization of relations between our two countries, which had been initiated by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, should continue. However, we are concerned that some of the pronouncements and actions of the UPA government reflect a troubling dilution of clarity and commitment on how to safeguard India's national interests. First came the joint statement issued after the September meeting between Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf in New York, in which India failed to secure a reiteration of Pakistan's commitment to renounce cross-border terrorism as an instrument of its Kashmir policy. Such a commitment was explicitly made in the joint statement issued after the Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting in Islamabad in January this year.

Cross-border terrorism in J&K is still alive and kicking. A loud and rude reminder of this came when terrorists struck in Srinagar, just 200 meters from the venue of the Prime Minster's public meeting on November 17.

Then came, Dr. Manmohan Singh's statement that "all options are open" to resolve the Kashmir issue. On his part, Gen. Musharraf floated the idea of dividing Jammu & Kashmir in seven parts on religious and regional lines. The Minister of External Affairs responded to this by saying that India was willing to consider this proposal if it was presented in a formal manner.

The Prime Minister has stated in Srinagar that "no new lines can be drawn on the map of the subcontinent". At the same time, there is talk of some lines being "erased" as a part of a "package solution".

The BJP flays this kind of kite-flying and ad-hocism on the part of the UPA government on a vital issue like Kashmir. The Party also demands that the government take both the people and Parliament of India fully into confidence on how it wishes to deal with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Growing consensus on the Ayodhya issue

Friends, an important development during the period between the meetings of the National Council and the National Executive was the meeting of the leaders of the constituent parties of the National Democratic Alliance on November 10. You will recall my remarks on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue in my speech at the National Council. While reaffirming our party's unwavering commitment to the construction of a Ram Temple at Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya, I had said that, out of two options for resolving the issue - judicial verdict or a negotiated settlement through dialogue between representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities --, the BJP prefers the latter. Unfortunately, there was a lot of needless speculation, intended to manufacture a controversy, that our NDA allies were unhappy over my remarks.

I am happy to state that the NDA meeting put paid to attempts to create a rift between the BJP and our allies. In the resolution adopted at the meeting, the NDA formally stated its preference for a negotiated settlement, arrived at through a process of dialogue in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, goodwill and peace. I do not think that any right-thinking person can object to this stand.

I am saying this to drive home a larger point. There is a growing body of opinion in the country that there should be no further delay in resolving a sensitive issue like this one. It is significant that, on the Ayodhya issue, the 2004 manifestos of the NDA and the Congress party were saying similar things. Now, the NDA has gone a step further in declaring its preference for the process of dialogue yielding an amicable settlement. Today, from this meeting of the National Executive, I urge the Congress party and all other parties to see the compelling logic and the undeniable desirability of a negotiated settlement, and contribute to the firming up of a national consensus on how to resolve the Ayodhya issue soon.

Dear Colleagues, before concluding I would like to remind all of you about an important task that we have recently set for ourselves. It is implementation of the decision to begin a Party-wide discussion, right from the central level down to the mandal level, on the 'TASKS AHEAD' document. It has identified a wide range of duties for strengthening the Party ideologically, politically and organizationally. Considering the importance of implementing this decision, I have decided to entrust this responsibility to Shri Venkaiah Naidu.

I look forward to fruitful deliberations during the course of our three-day meeting.

Thank you

Vande mataram!