BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY Meeting of the National Executive
Mumbai - June 22-24, 2004
Salient Points made by Shri L. K. Advani
1: It is said that success has many claims to parenthood, but failure is an orphan.
This may be true about other organizations. But, as far as the BJP is concerned, it is invalid. Our ethos has always been one that emphasizes that only collective efforts achieve success; in the case of failure, we believe in collective responsibility.
This meeting of the National Executive, taking place in the backdrop of the recent Parliamentary elections, has continued and further strengthened this ethos.
2: Collective responsibility, however, does not absolve any of us of our individual accountability. As far as I am concerned, I accept that I too am responsible in some ways to the outcome of the elections. In my very first press conference in Delhi, I pointed to the shortcomings in the Bharat Uday Yatra that I undertook.
3: It may be appropriate to call this meeting of the National Executive a continuation of the process of introspection that has begun since the totally unexpected results of the polls stunned us on May 13. Each one of us in our own ways is doing introspection and soul-searching, and this will continue even after we go back from Mumbai.
However, it is the first time that we have an opportunity to sit collectively and share our views. Of course, an in-depth and comprehensive review of the election results requires a different, more systematic approach based on all the relevant facts right up to the constituency level. Which is why, we have decided to entrust this responsibility to a small committee. This committee will not only review the factors that led to our setback in the elections, but also recommend corrective measures for the future.
I would say that the report of this committee, and further discussion on its findings and recommendations at the National Executive, would mark the formal end of the process of introspection as far as the election results are concerned.
4: In this meeting, I would like to share with you my own introspective observations. You may call it "Loud Thinking".
There is no doubt that we had a very favourable atmosphere for getting a renewed mandate.
The six years of the NDA government saw the country move forward on all fronts.
We were blessed with the leadership of Shri Atalji, who was universally hailed as one of the best Prime Ministers India has seen.
There was no mood of anti-incumbency visible anywhere in the country.
Indeed, what was visible and audible was the general mood that the people were in favour of Shri Atalji's government getting a renewed term.
It is indeed this mood and this atmosphere that prompted us to decide to advance the elections by six months.
Why then did we fail to win the required number of seats?
5: It is not possible, nor necessary, for me to look at the multiplicity of factors that contributed to our performance.
Moreover, it is also true that the overall outcome of the elections is actually a numerical aggregation of highly non-uniform State outcomes.
6: Nevertheless, I would like to share with you one dominant thought that I am grappling with in my own mind. And that is: Did we become a victim of the dichotomy between governance and politics?
Our record in governance and on the development front was very good. But perhaps political behavior and strategy remained poor.
7: I would like to elaborate this thought in terms of our neglect of two types of constituencies. One type of constituency of course is the ELECTORAL CONSTITUENCY, which every MP is expected to nurse and, if chosen by the Party to re-contest, get re-elected from that constituency. The fact that 50% of our sitting MPs lost elections shows, mostly, that they were remiss in their work. There may have been other reasons also for their defeat, but, lately, lack of proper political conduct of MPs and MLAs is emerging as a major failure-causing factor in elections.
Many of these MPs perhaps did not nurse their constituencies well. They did not perhaps conduct themselves properly with different sections of the people in their constituencies. Equally important, they did not perhaps work in proper coordination with the local Party units and karyakartas.
This was perhaps the reason for the lack of enthusiasm and common resolve among Party workers in these constituencies to get the candidate elected.
8: However, what we observed this time was that there was also another critical constituency that generally lacked enthusiasm and common resolve to get our candidate and our Party re-elected. It is our IDEOLOGICAL CONSTITUENCY.
I do not call it our VOTE BANK, because we do not believe in vote bank politics.
I must also point out that, in the specific nature of Indian society, every political party has a given constituency. No party can invent an ideal constituency that it wishes to work in, in order to realize its goals in electoral politics. Every party has to necessarily work in a certain given situation, with a certain support base.
Like any other political party that wants to grow in the democratic space, the BJP too has consciously endeavoured to expand its base over the decades. But expansion is possible only if we are able retain what we have - and not at the expense of what we have.
9. Ours is an ideological party and over the decades, indeed since the inception of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, there has been a definite - and steadily growing - section of our society that has been supporting us because of our beliefs and the cause of Hindutva that we espouse.
We have reached where we have reached because of the dedicated efforts of lakhs of workers and well-wishers of our IDEOLOGICAL PARIVAR. They have laboured hard to put us in our present position. They have done so with a certain emotional attachment to the BJP.
Somehow our political strategy and conduct during the past six years was not oriented to strengthening and enthusing our IDEOLOGICAL PARIVAR and our IDEOLOGICAL CONSTITUENCY.
Indeed, there was a sense of alienation in our Parivar and a weakening of the emotional bond with our core constituency.
10. This does not mean that the BJP should not - or cannot - look beyond our core constituency. No. As a political party that has a national outlook, we are duty-bound to care for one and all. Our ideology does not bar us from so expanding our care and concern, because it is not a narrow and exclusivist ideology.
11. In the given situation, however, we should have balanced our focus on governance and development with an equally sustained political focus on our core constituency - through constant dialogue at various levels.
Individually, and collectively, we did not pay as much attention to our core supporters as we should have.
We were somewhat confused as to how to relate to our own ideological family.
12. As a result, a strange dichotomy emerged.
Our opponents in the country called us a "Hindutva government".
The rest of the world recognized us as a "Hindutva government".
However, the only two entities that did not so recognize this government were our ideological parivar and ourselves.
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I would like to express my appreciation over the fact that the Mumbai meeting of the National Executive has put a lot of emphasis on rededicating ourselves to our ideology and idealism. There is also a great deal of emphasis on overcoming our organizational weaknesses and shortcomings.
We need to sustain this emphasis. We need to monitor our own follow-up action taken on the views we express and the decisions we take in this regard.
We are a PARTY WITH A LOFTY MISSION.
We are a PARTY THAT IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF A MOVEMENT.
To the extent that we are able to reflect this in our policies, political conduct, organizational activities and individual behavior, we will be again seen as a PARTY WITH A DIFFERENCE.