BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY
National Executive Meeting
Presidential Address by Shri L.K. Advani
This year, the Bharatiya Janata Party completes 25 years of its existence. In this relatively short period of time, our party has made a profound impact on India’s polity and society. We can be justly proud of the BJP’s contribution to making India a self-confident, democratic, forward-looking nation, which should be marching boldly to claim its rightful place as a global leader. But even as we work to make the 21st Century India’s Century, we need to constantly remind ourselves and the people of India that the BJP stands for certain core values that have defined its ideological and political postulates over these decades.
It needs reminding that economic goals must be achieved in consonance with the values deeply ingrained in our culture and civilization of more than 5000 years. Modernity, therefore, must not be at the expense of tradition; similarly, tradition cannot stay frozen in the past but must be vibrant enough to adjust to the challenges of modernity. Only the BJP has the vision and the werewithal to modulate the gigantic socio-economic transition that India is currently undergoing, thanks largely to the dynamic initiatives undertaken by the NDA Government under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The BJP is different from all other parties because it is the only one that believes in the equality of every citizen of India irrespective of gender, caste, creed, language or ethnicity. Almost every other organization promotes sectional causes, be it of particular regions, social groups or beliefs.
The Congress party has adopted promotion of a particular dynasty as its political credo and divisiveness as its principal strategy. It nurtures and promotes religious and social disharmony, practices ideological apartheid and is engaged in consciously widening fissures in Indian society. It is ready to compromise national security if it thinks its electoral interests will be served. It is prepared to overlook the terrorist challenge to India’s social and territorial cohesion if that helps it to perpetuate its rule at the Centre. It has no qualms about sacrificing the nation’s economic independence at the altar of the forces of reckless globalization.
NATION’S MISFORTUNE: A WEAK PRIME MINISTER
Hemmed in from all sides, the authority of its Prime Minister is no firmer than it was when he was selected to the office by its supremo 16 months ago. Heading a post-poll alliance of disparate forces that fought bitterly against one another in the elections the UPA Government continues to stumble from blunder to blunder. The ideological flexibility and political promiscuity demonstrated by the Congress in order to stay in power for its own sake has surpassed the party’s dismal record of the past.
This is most dramatically exemplified in Bihar. One Cabinet Minister is leading an alliance comprising several UPA allies such as the CPI, NCP and Samajwadi Party. Another Cabinet Minister leads a formation that includes the Congress and CPI(M). The Congress fought the last Assembly election in that State in alliance with both the rival Ministers who, however, fought against each other. Too timid to ask either to make a choice, the Congress allows both the quarrelling Ministers to remain in office at the Centre while they gun for each other in Bihar. We always knew the Congress culture to be one of corruption and sycophancy. Now promiscuity has been added to the definition!
In the last assembly election in Bihar, a Union Cabinet Minister openly paraded an Osama bin Laden look-alike ostensibly to win Muslim votes. Is it not an open confession that this Union Government does not mean what it says? On the one hand, it swears by action against terrorism and asks the international community to denounce terror while on the other hand its own Cabinet Minister goes about announcing to the people that the chief priest of the Al Qaeda is a respectable hero!
Is it any wonder then that instead of a sense of direction, instead of purposeful decision-making in the national interest, we have a Government that is permanently in drift? It is held to ransom on a daily basis by its so-called allies from the Left who have never had it so good. They have forced the Government to abandon its disinvestment policy, starting with BHEL. After bringing the Government to its knees the Left continues to browbeat the Government by extracting more concessions before returning to the Congress’s breakfast table for UPA meetings.
SINISTER DESIGNS OF THE LEFT
This underlines what we have been saying all along: There is open, visible disconnect between de jure and de facto power centres. Not even when the Chandra Shekhar government of six months was dependent on the Congress support did so weak a Prime Minister preside over such chaos. Whether this state of affairs is in the Congress’s interest is not for me to judge. But certainly it is not in the national interest.
The Left is making a preposterous claim to be the real repository of the people’s mandate. The fact, however, is that the Left is enjoying power without responsibility while the Prime Minister has virtually no power but is saddled with all the responsibility of trying to run a Government that is constantly pulled in rival directions. This is reminiscent of the 1970s when the CPI supported Indira Gandhi’s government with the sole aim of implementing what is known as the Mohan Kumaramangalam thesis. That thesis said the CPI should infiltrate the Congress and force it increasingly to implement the communists’ programme. That would result in excluding true Congressmen as the political infidels and eventually the Reds would take over the grand old national party.
If it was CPI that was implementing it in the 70s it is the CPM’s turn to do it now with the support of the entire Left. Their job is made easier by the fact that we have a Prime Minister who has little authority even within his own party. So the Left arm-twists him, sometimes directly and sometimes through his party’s supreme being. It is this danger to the national interest posed by this scenario that made me refer to Mr Manmohan Singh as the weakest Prime Minister in the country’s history. I am certainly not happy that I have been vindicated because we in the BJP consider the nation above everything including our own party interest.
FOREIGN POLICY IN DRIFT
Such is the mortal fear of the Left, that the Government does not have the courage to even send a message complimenting the Israeli Prime Minister for pulling out troops from Gaza. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister meets his Israeli counterpart to initiate a new era in relations between the two countries. The Government of India allows the painstaking work of the NDA regime to structure a strategic relationship with Israel to be questioned.
As the situation worsens in Nepal, the Government is accused of playing footsie with both sides. There are reports that Nepali Maoists flit in and out of Delhi confabulating with Marxist leaders and may even be meeting Government functionaries. It is not clear to anybody what our policy is with respect to our close neighbour. Nepali Maoists have recently issued a joint statement with Indian Maoists about their intention to overthrow the Governments of both countries.
Despite the seriousness of the Maoist threat the Government continues to turn a blind eye, just as it seems unable or unwilling to deal firmly with the rise of fundamentalist, jehadi forces in Bangladesh. These are just some examples of a Government that has tied itself up in knots, too weak to act and too scared even to think.
The Government’s foreign policy has become an object of ridicule. With much fanfare, it tried to secure a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council, which is legitimately India’s due and was pursued seriously by our Government. However, the UPA Government’s effort was bluntly rebuffed by the US and China and even Russia, which had earlier supported India’s claim, retreated.
Our diplomatic blunders were such that we failed to reach common ground even with the African Union to push a resolution in the UN General Assembly. Now the Government has admitted failure, but in its ham-handed approach to the issue, India has given up its earlier insistence on permanent membership of the Security Council with veto power.
Even as the US Administration snubbed us on the Security Council, we were told the Prime Minister made a “historic” visit to the US. What was so historic about it? All we got were post-dated cheques in exchange for opening our nuclear facilities to foreign inspection. Nuclear cooperation must not become crippling nuclear dependence.
As a result of the Government’s pussy-footed policies people believe that all decisions, legitimate or otherwise, are nowadays taken under American pressure. Not only its adversaries but even the Congress party’s allies that are saying this. They have been critical of the 10-year perspective plan on defence cooperation. UPA members themselves say American pressure is behind a series of decisions taken by the Government.
We had initiated talks with Hurriyat leaders from the Kashmir Valley. But nobody suggested that the NDA Government acted under American dictates. Now, it is being openly said that the Prime Minister was compelled to talk to Hurriyat representatives earlier this month because he has to face US leaders in New York during the UN General Assembly’s current session. In fact, at this very moment, the Prime Minister is in the US and is probably giving explanations to the Americans on this subject.
CONGRESS’S DIVIDE AND RULE POLICY
To divert attention from its failures on the economic and diplomatic fronts, the Congress has returned to its divisive agenda in politics. Recently, the Supreme Court rubbished the despicable Identification of Migrants (Determination by Tribunal), IMDT Act for short, and charged the Government of India with failing to protect Assam from what it described as nothing short of “external aggression”. What has been the Government’s response? Shame-facedly, it has constituted a committee to examine the judgement and suggest ways of circumventing the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act.
The motive is clear. The Congress does not want to take any action against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who have dangerously altered the demographic and denominational balance in Assam and pose a serious threat to national security also in West Bengal and parts of Bihar. In fact, it does not want to take any steps even to prevent further “external aggression”.
Illegal immigration is not an issue that concerns Hindus alone. Immigrants are grabbing lands and taking over jobs of Indian nationals, Hindu and Muslim alike as we can see even in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. But the Congress wants to portray it as a communal issue in order to reinforce the insecurities of minority communities so that its vote bank stays intact.
Not satisfied with the witch-hunt against all those who do not subscribe to the Left or Congress ideas and packing educational bodies with sub-standard pamphleteers, the HRD Ministry has colluded with the Aligarh Muslim University to make it virtually impossible for non-Muslims to seek admission. In defiance of the national consensus and court pronouncements, reservations in AMU are poised to touch a staggering 80 per cent.
Instead of undertaking the urgently needed task of modernizing madarsa education and empowering Muslim children to compete on equal terms with the others, the Government has consciously decided to pander to a section of the communalized elite of that community while condemning the vast majority of poor Muslims to educational deprivation.
What an irony that in contrast to the Indian Government’s policy of appeasement of fundamentalists, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has ordered a crackdown on madarsas in his country and ordered all foreign students to be expelled. He has also brought madarsa education under the Government’s control so that a modern, job-oriented curriculum can be introduced. He has recognized the threat posed by the mushroom growth of certain types of madarsas, which are breeding grounds of religious intolerance, fundamentalist obscurantism and political terrorism.
In India, however, such madarsas continue to multiply unchecked, particularly in the border areas. Instead of facilitating young Muslims to make Azim Premji and Sania Mirza their role models, the Government is paving the way for more of them to be indoctrinated to serve causes detrimental to national harmony.
It is the same mindset that has propelled the Congress Government of Andhra Pradesh to defy the Constitution and prescribe a community quota in college admissions and Government jobs. By a sleight of hand, the State Government obtained an opinion from a handpicked commission that the entire Muslim community in the State was “backward”. It is clear that the Congress is planning to extend this experiment to other states in a bid to consolidate its vote bank. Such attempts must be resisted with all the power at our command. We have said this before and reiterate that the BJP will never allow moves that can lead to a second partition of India.
Attention, in fact, must focus on liberalizing a plethora of personal laws of different communities that are heavily loaded against women. The case of Imrana in western Uttar Pradesh has again highlighted the inequities prevalent in customs based on mediaeval practices. The pernicious role of caste and community panchayats needs to be curbed by a systematic campaign to promote awareness and empower women to stand up for their rights.
The BJP has consistently stood for the formulation of a Uniform Civil Code as enjoined in the Directive Principles of the Constitution and repeatedly sought by the Supreme Court. We understand the political difficulties in doing so at this point of time in view of the absence of a national consensus. However, efforts at securing such consensus must be part of official policy.
Pending enactment of a UCC, reforms in personal laws must be undertaken in right earnest with appropriate help from the Government. Instead of making any effort in that direction, the Congress and other practitioners of vote bank politics have turned a blind eye to the plight of the Imranas in different parts of the country.
NATIONAL SECURITY IN JEOPARDY
These are not isolated instances. They are part of a pattern that reinforces our conviction that the Congress is ready to take every short-cut available even at the risk of endangering national security. These acts of omission and commission are reflective of a mindset that discriminates between people on grounds of faith and does not regard Hindu sentiment as worthy of consideration. The recent attack on the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya was, mercifully, foiled by the valiant jawans of our security forces, much the same way that they had rebuffed terrorists in Parliament House on December 13, 2001.
It is shocking that neither the Prime Minister, nor the UPA chairman and not even the Chief Minister of UP visited the Ram Mandir after the attack. Probably they feared that by visiting the spot they would be legitimizing the makeshift Ram Mandir that stands at the place of Bhagwan Shri Ram’s birth. They should bear in mind that Shri Ram does not require a certificate of legitimacy from leaders with such small and divisive minds.
Shri Ram lives in the heart of every Indian; he is a symbol of our cultural identity and embodiment of India’s national ethos. The BJP remains committed to the construction of an appropriate temple at his birthplace once the dispute over the site is resolved by mutual agreement between the two communities or a court judgement.
Meanwhile the Government continues to ignore the larger dimensions of the attack and refuses to acknowledge that the lax security environment that now prevails in the country facilitated the diabolical attempt. Arguably, determined, suicidal terrorists do manage to penetrate security cordons. But by weakening the legal framework to combat terror, by scrapping POTA and signalling that it no longer prioritises security issues, the Government has demoralized the security forces and emboldened the terrorists.
The same approach is evident in the Union Government’s flip-flops in devising a coordinated strategy to combat the growing challenge of Naxalism. Instead of initiating steps to synchronise counter-insurgency operations among Naxal-infested States, the Government has helplessly stood by as different States go about pursuing their own policies. As a result, 170 districts in India have come under the ambit of Naxalite influence.
This Government overturned the NDA’s assessment that the Naxalite challenge is not a mere law and order issue to be handled by individual State Governments. As Union Home Minister in the NDA Government, I was clear in my mind that the problem is multi dimensional and, therefore, requires structured coordination between the Centre and affected States. Accordingly, after a review meeting in Hyderabad, I set up a Coordination Committee headed by the Home Secretary, which met every quarter.
In a shocking instance of short-sightedness, one of the first acts of the UPA Government was to wind up this Committee. Presumably, this was done in collusion with the Congress Government that came to power in Andhra Pradesh at the same time. There are credible reports that the Congress in that State had struck a pre-poll deal with the Naxalites to facilitate its victory. So, not only was the ban on Naxalites lifted, they were also allowed to strut about with weapons! They used the Congress’s abject surrender to reorganize and regroup.
Their duplicitous character became clear very soon and now the Andhra Pradesh Government has been compelled to re-impose the ban. Meanwhile hundreds of innocent lives have been lost and security forces are under renewed pressure from the outlaws. If the Home Minister has any sense of responsibility he must publicly acknowledge the Congress party’s error of judgement and opportunism that has led to the Naxalite problem intensifying in a big way during the last one year.
Recent instances of infiltration across the Line of Control give lie to the Government’s claim of rapid normalization of conditions in Jammu and Kashmir. They also reveal the Government’s inability to pressure Pakistan into abandoning its misadventure in Kashmir, particularly the sponsorship of terrorism by the ISI. Normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan does not mean freedom to terrorists to infiltrate and carry out depredations against innocent citizens of India. Recent reports of Hindus and other pro-India elements being compelled to migrate from Rajauri and Kishtwar are extremely worrisome.
APPROACH TO PAKISTAN
It was during the NDA Government that major initiatives began for the normalisation of relations with Pakistan. In fact, the present regime acknowledges that they are carrying forward many of our policies in that direction. During my own visit to Pakistan in May-June this year, I tried to do two things: One, to remove any impression that people and leaders of Pakistan might have that we in the BJP are permanently opposed to that country. It does not mean that we agreed with the Partition. The logic of history and the compulsions of geography commend us to work with Pakistan as a sovereign country and as a neighbour. As Atalji once pointed out, it may be possible to change history, but we cannot change geography.
That Pakistan is going through a crisis of confidence over its proactive support to jihadi terror mongers and forced Islamization of society is well-documented. It is also true that the ruling elite and particularly growing middle class there have begun to have doubts over this past. It is in our interest as much as in the interest of civil society the world over that we encourage those who have begun to question the Jihadism.
While in Pakistan, I also found that after following a policy for decades that resulted in the decline of the Hindu population there from 24 to two per cent, there is now a feeling, at least among a section of Pakistani politicians, that they must make amends for it. Nothing else explains their initiative to restore the fabled Katasraj Temples of Mahabharata antiquity. During my recent trip to Pakistan, I had the privilege of offering prayers at the Katasraj temple and formally inaugurating its restoration project. The Pakistan Government has sanctioned Rs. 2 crores for the first phase of the plan. This is a very important development since it’s a recognition by Pakistan of its pre-Islamic past, which is a common heritage between the two countries.
We need not be apologetic about promoting friendship with Pakistan or for welcoming the moderation that is coming up there, however faint the glow may be now. To the extent leaders in Pakistan understand this fact, we must welcome it.
It could well be that this enlightened view is a lone candle flickering in an area of darkness that is Pakistan, overshadowed by Islamic fundamentalism. But we must nurture this flame in the hope that its light will spread, rather than do things that will cause its extinction. If the leaders of Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world genuinely desire to exorcise the ghost of fundamentalism, we should help that process.
AAM AADMI SUFFERS, KHAAS AADMI PROFITS
Friends, I urge all of you to take the battle against the misrule of the UPA Government to every corner of India. Let the message from Chennai go out loud and clear: The directionless, rudderless, indecisive, non-performing Manmohan Singh Government has failed the people of India on every front. It is a Government that has no concern for the aam aadmi in whose name they asked for votes. If they did would petrol and diesel prices have been raised five times since the UPA came to power?
In fact, we are all suffering the impact of rising prices in every sphere. When diesel, petrol, kerosene and cooking gas prices rise, they affect everything else. The irony is that while the common people suffer, speculators and bargain hunters are making a killing in the stock markets. So, it is the khaas aadmi, the rich and powerful, the multi-national companies and foreign investors who are enjoying benefits of the UPA’s policies while the aam aadmi is groaning under the burden of increased taxes and rising prices.
When the NDA Government demitted office, the economy was robust and surging ahead, buoyed by the huge reserves of the public sector oil companies. As a result of the present regime’s indecisiveness, PSU oil firms are becoming loss-making units one after another. It is a matter of national shame that a Fortune 500 company like IndianOil is on the verge of going into the red, while some others are approaching bankruptcy.
HYPOCRISY OF THE LEFT
Instead of exposing the hypocrisy of the Left in the matter of foreign investment, the Government has allowed its own strangulation on economic reforms. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee goes to Indonesia to strike a deal to hand over prime suburban land to foreign developers, he proposes a second, Greenfield airport for Kolkata with 100 per cent private capital, but Left parties block plans to upgrade Delhi and Mumbai airports and vehemently oppose increased FDI in different sectors. What is good for Kolkata is obviously not good for the rest of India. What is the CPI(M)’s design? Why cannot the Prime Minister understand it?
Our farmers, particularly in North India, are reeling under yet another drought. But the Government has not woken up to their plight. Instead, it has for all practical purposes scrapped the river-linking project initiated by the NDA, which is the only long-term solution to recurrent monsoon failures.
According to the Planning Commission’s Mid-term Appraisal of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, "the most worrying feature of the recent growth experience has been the performance of agriculture. The Tenth Plan had targeted an overall annual growth rate of 4 per cent for agriculture during the five year period. The Planning Commission’s document admits: “This is nowhere near being achieved. The average agricultural growth in the first two years of the Plan has only been 1.35 per cent against the targeted 3.6 per cent, and it is unlikely to be very much above 1 per cent in 2004-05.” This being the Government’s own admission, 70 per cent of Indians who live in the countryside can well imagine their plight in the years to come.
CLEAR MIND, CLEAR GOALS
The BJP is today 25 years old. But our political yatra actually commenced way back in 1951 when Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The Jana Sangh was founded not to add to the already existing list of political parties but to fill a void, a void of vibrant nationalism in the nation’s polity and give a cultural orientation to it.
There is a history to the birth of the Jana Sangh. Everyone knows that before launching the party in 1951, Dr Mookerjee met the then RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri Guruji, and sought his support and cooperation for the new party he was about to found. In 1980, when we were in the Janata Party, that party decided that none of its members would have anything to do with the RSS. It is this decision that led to the formation of the BJP.
Thus, there has always been a symbiotic relationship between the Jana Sangh and the RSS, and later between the BJP and RSS. Both the organizations have benefited immensely from this relationship and together they have succeeded in bringing our ideology of cultural nationalism to the centrestage in India’s public life.
Before I conclude I believe it is my responsibility to dispel certain controversies that have figured in the media and caused some confusion among sections of party workers and sympathizers. Debate and discussion are signs of vibrancy of any democratic organization. There can be divergent views on issues and it is only proper that these be debated in the appropriate forums. Tolerance of dissent – the essence of inner-party democracy–however, cannot be allowed to degenerate into a free-for-all.
From the days of the Jana Sangh, internal democracy has been the party’s hallmark. That must continue. But our party has long been synonymous also with discipline. Recent cases of indiscipline have caused deep distress to all of us, and to our entire support base. All party units must ensure that Internal Democracy and Discipline go hand in hand.
Friends, we must summon all our energies now to strike at the anti-people Manmohan Singh Government. Our first big opportunity is knocking at the door. The immoral rule of Governor Buta Singh in Bihar in which honest officers are transferred and punished, the corrupt are rewarded and even the Chief Secretary goes on leave in protest against the actions of the Governor, has turned Bihar into a vast wasteland. People are too terrorized to come out of their homes, officers dare not raise their voice against illegal orders while mafia dons flaunt their political connections and escape the clutches of the law.
Let us unitedly resolve to put in all our energies to thwart RJD’s hopes of ever returning to power in Bihar directly or by proxy. In alliance with the Janata Dal (United) we must vow to ensure that the electoral blow against Laloo Prasad is so severe that it knocks down the foundations of his ally, the Congress Party, in Delhi too. The people of Bihar are looking to us to deliver them from the Laloo-Rabri-Buta misrule. We must measure up to their expectations.
We must remember that the BJP is not merely a political party. Our mission is larger. We are committed to preserve and protect the soul of India, its culture, civilisational values and ethos. We shall remain the foremost soldiers of this motherland, determined to install it in its rightful place in the comity of nations.
Bharat Mata ki Jai!