I am pleased to welcome you all to this historic meeting of the National Council of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
This date, this place and this occasion stir up such pleasurable memories in the minds of many old-timers like me that they recreate an experience for us that is as unbelievable as it is unforgettable. Twenty-five years ago, our Party was born on this very day and at nearly this very place. And here we are, to commemorate that proud founding moment that launched the BJP on its journey as an independent political party in the service of Mother India.
1980 - 2005: A Memorable Yatra
The BJP is called a party of yatras. We accept this epithet with pride. But the most memorable and the most rewarding of all our yatras is our Yatra of the past 25 years. What a journey it has been! How quickly the days and years have passed! And, without sounding immodest or conceited, let me add: how much have we truly accomplished!
It is not given to many political activists in India to relive such a moment as members of a party that has remained undivided, as sevaks of a mission that has not lost its moorings, and as travelers in a journey that has not only progressed uninterruptedly but also bodes well to do so in the future.
I stress this point because, in this crucial respect, the BJP is indeed a party with a difference. I do not wish to comment much upon all other political parties. Suffice it to draw two comparisons. The Indian National Congress experienced a major split in 1969, within 22 years after Independence. The cause of the split was not very complimentary to the party and its original ideals. Whatever came to be known as the real Congress got divided again in 1999. The cause of the split this time was even more unedifying. It remains one of the principal factors determining the course of Indian politics even today.
The Communist Party, which is our main ideological adversary, broke up within 19 years after Independence. It also suffered another split within a few years of the first break-up.
In contrast, we have remained a united family. It is obvious that our unity and our unique ideological identity have been our greatest sources of strength.
Tribute to Dr. Mookerjee and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya
It is my privilege to remember all those who have lent this exceptional strength to our Party. Although organizationally we are 25 years old, our political journey started over 50 years ago. It is therefore our sacred duty today to pay tribute to Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. They showed us the path. We walked on it, and have come this far.
To look back at the road we have traversed is to revisit all those milestones that mark out our successes and achievements, as well as our failures and setbacks. Disappointments there were many, but none deterred us. Successes too have been many, but none has filled us with vanity. At every high and low point in the journey, and at each point in between, we tried to draw the right lessons and continued to march along the kartavya path (the Path of Duty).
How did we manage this? The answer lies in the ideological inspiration and the organizational ethos that we have sought to preserve like the apple of our eye. As we celebrate our Party's Rajat Jayanti, our thoughts go out to all those who participated in founding the BJP, in building up its solid foundations and in erecting an edifice that not only makes us proud but also leaves our critics amazed.
First and foremost, I greet our Founder-President and my elder leader, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with whom I have had the honour of working together for over a half-century now. Right from the beginning, he has been the sheet anchor of our Party. His wisdom, his experience and his personal charisma have no doubt immensely helped the growth of the BJP. But in guiding the evolution of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the BJP since the early '50s, he has also enriched our national life like few other living leaders have. The six years of the NDA government at the Centre, under his able Prime Ministership, constitute a high watermark in our Party's history.
The title ‘ordinary karyakarta’ carries an extraordinary prestige in the BJP
Today I salute the haloed memory of all those who laid down their lives in service of the Party. I also pay homage to all those colleagues who were with us at the founding of the Party but are now no more.
It is our good fortune that many of them are still amidst us. Some are still active. And others, though not as active as before, are still a source of inspiration and guidance for their younger colleagues. During the course of the Rajat Jayanti year, all such colleagues in different parts of the country should be recognized and honoured.
BJP's Samaanya Karyakarta: the True Rajat Jayanti Hero
Today it is also our grateful task to recognize the services and sacrifices of all those tens of thousands of our karyakartas who nurtured and protected this tender plant called the BJP and raised it into the mighty tree that it has now become. The title Samaanya Karyakarta (ordinary activist) carries an Asamaanya Gaurav (extraordinary honour) in a cadre-based mass party like the BJP. That Samanya Karyakarta is the true hero of this Rajat Jayanti commemoration. His commitment, his dedication, his self-sacrificing nature and his struggles are of a value to us that cannot be matched by the most precious thing in this world.
And when I say 'his', I also mean 'her', because the struggles of our women karyakartas often go unnoticed and unrecognized. Moreover, their contribution is not only direct and visible, but also indirect and invisible. But for the support and toil of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters at home, I wonder how much we would have been able to work for the Party.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Dear Colleagues, today as we stand at the vantage point of the 25th anniversary of the founding of our Party, it is time to look back and also to look ahead. It is time to take stock of what we have gained and what we have lost. It is time to evaluate our growth and our service to the nation against the backdrop of the needs of the situation and the opportunity it afforded. Above all, as befits a forward-looking party that never rests on its laurels, it is time to prepare ourselves for the mammoth challenges ahead.
Twenty-five years is a reasonably long time to conduct such an introspective exercise. Generally in the timeframe between two elections, it is not possible to discern major trends in national politics. Within such narrow reference points, it is also not easy to understand the main contours of change in the economy, society and other spheres of national life. A span of a quarter-century, on the other hand, gives us the needed distance as well as detachment to view the developments in their proper perspective.
Our Stand on 'Dual Membership' Vindicated
This wide-angle view of the past reveals several truths. The first is how correct our decision to stand firm on the so-called "dual membership" issue was, way back in 1979, when we refused to bow to the demands of our friends in the Janata Party to sever our links with the RSS. In the aftermath of the successful struggle by all the democracy-loving forces against the Emergency Rule imposed by the Congress government in 1975, we, who were then working as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, had voluntarily merged our identity in the newly formed Janata Party. Unfortunately, rather than working for the stability and success of the Janata Party experiment, in which the people of India had pinned so much hope, some friends sowed the seeds of dissonance and ultimate self-destruction by raising the non-issue of our continued association with the RSS. Wittingly or unwittingly, they played into the hands of the Congress party, which rode back to power in 1980.
It was a jolting experience for all of us in the Jana Sangh.
In a 25-year timeframe, the BJP's overall growth has been nothing short of spectacular
However, in hind sight, these friends in the erstwhile Janata Party did us a favour by removing us from the organization on the "dual membership" issue and leaving us with no alternative but to constitute ourselves into a new party -- the Bharatiya Janata Party. We had to dig our own separate furrow. The quantity of water that initially flowed in that channel was modest. Indeed, after the 1984 parliamentary elections, held in the wake of the tragic assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi, it momentarily appeared as if the channel had completely dried up. Some of our adversaries used to joke that by remaining inflexible on the 'dual membership' issue in 1979, we had condemned ourselves to becoming a "dual-member" party in the Lok Sabha in 1984.
How We Rose From the Ashes Like a Phoenix
The Congress and the Communists had gleefully written our political obituary. But how dramatically we grew thereafter - from a mere 2 seats in the Lok Sabha to 86 in 1989, to 120 in 1991, to 161 in 1996, to 182 in 1998 and to 182 in 1999. It is only in 2004 that we faced a reversal, when our tally came down to 138 seats in the Lok Sabha. However, nobody can deny that, in a 25-year timeframe, the BJP's overall growth has been nothing short of spectacular.
These figures tell only a part of our success story. How we were sought to be ostracized as "political untouchables" by our adversaries; how we stood our ground, increased our own strength through dedicated work; how we turned many of our earlier adversaries into our allies; how we also won new friends; how through all this we broke free of the political isolation that the Congress and the Communists had wished us to suffer forever; how all this resulted in the triumphant formation of the National Democratic Alliance in 1998; and how the NDA defeated the Congress party's destabilization game and succeeded in winning a renewed mandate in 1999 -- all this constitutes a glorious chapter in our Party's history of the past 25 years.
Ayodhya Movement and the Debate on Secularism
During the past 25 years, one of the principal factors that helped our Party catch the imagination of the people was the Ayodhya movement, which was indeed the biggest mass movement in India since Independence. The BJP is proud of having made its contribution to this movement, which was aimed as much at the reconstruction of the temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya as at countering a dangerous campaign to denigrate, distort and erase the basic Hindu identity of India's nationhood in the name of a perverted notion of 'secularism'. This is not the place to dwell on all the twists and turns - some of them unfortunate - that this movement has taken, since these developments are well known. However, on this important occasion, I must say two things.
One, our Party's commitment to reconstruction of the Ram Temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya remains total, unshakeable and irreversible. We continue to believe that a negotiated settlement through dialogue between representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities in an atmosphere of mutual trust, goodwill and accommodation is the most desirable route to solving this long-pending issue. I am happy to note that there is now consensus in the NDA around this approach, which is also endorsed by many representatives of the Muslim community. Hence, all those interested in an early and amicable solution to the Ayodhya issue should build on this consensus.
A much larger constituency of patriotic Indians, outside the formal reach of the RSS Parivar, also supports the BJP
Secondly, the Ayodhya movement also triggered a nationwide debate on the true meaning of secularism and the roots of our nationhood. Of course, the Congress party continues to malign us by calling us "communal", for its own narrow vote-bank politics. We need not reiterate here all that we have said on this important issue on numerous occasions earlier. I only wish to draw the attention of our friends in the Congress party to a resolution of the CWC, passed on January 16, 1999, which stated that "Hinduism is the most effective guarantor of secularism". No doubt, the UPA government's so-called "desaffronisation" and "de-toxification" campaign under the malignant influence of the communists does not square with this CWC resolution. Nevertheless, if the Congress is still faithful to this resolution, then all those interested in promoting genuine secularism and protecting India's cultural and civilisational identity can build on this significant point of consensus between the two major political parties in our country.
Grasp the Truth about BJP's Association with our Ideological Fraternity
Dear Colleagues, the controversy over the 'dual membership' issue rings no bell today. Does this mean that our stand on the issue has no contemporary relevance, or no relevance for the future? No, not at all. To think so would be a grievous error. Our inflexible stand on our association with the RSS gave us a distinct ideological identity, about which we have never been apologetic, nor will we ever be. If anything, the BJP's identity as the political constituent of the wider nationalist movement remains an immensely helpful source of ideological cohesion, organizational unity and political steadfastness.
I would like all our Party functionaries and workers to fully grasp this truth. We have a very large constituency of like-minded nationalist organizations that support us and work for our success for no other reason than the fact that all of us share the same goal to make this holy motherland of ours great once again in every respect. No other family of organizations has suffered so much sustained vilification from ideological adversaries as this. Yet, none has forged ahead so self-confidently, so tirelessly and with so much inner conviction as we and our fellow nationalist organizations have.
We must bear in mind that a much larger constituency of patriotic Indians, outside the formal reach of the so-called RSS Parivar, also supports the BJP. We need to incessantly and persistently strengthen our bonds with organizations and individuals in this larger fraternity through mutual dialogue. We should strive to understand what their expectations from us are. Similarly, we should convey to them the realities in the political domain. Such regular interaction in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill will undoubtedly solve many problems that otherwise can undermine our collective strength.
Chief Lesson from Elections 2004: We Must Nurse our Ideological and Organizational Constituency
I mentioned that our consistently upward growth curve since the parliamentary elections in 1989 suffered a reversal for the first time in 2004. This was an entirely unexpected setback, so much so that not even our opponents expected us to lose. Why did this happen? I have earlier on several occasions commented on the likely factors behind this downturn in our electoral fortunes.
No single reason was responsible for our electoral setback. However, if I have to mention one of the important reasons on this occasion, a reason that will remain valid for long years to come, it is this: We must continually nurse our own ideological and organizational constituency. Just as every MP or MLA has to nurse his constituency well in order to be able to get re-elected, every political party also has to nurse its core constituency of ideological supporters and organizational workers in order to be able to win a renewed mandate.
During the NDA government's six years in office, we focused so much on issues of development and governance that we somehow neglected to pay proper attention to this core constituency of ours. We did not remain adequately in contact with those who support us and work for us because of our ideology. Also, we somewhat ignored our own karyakartas. We failed to address their grievances. And we did not always respond to their feedback respectfully. In a sense, we took our core constituency for granted, a constituency that has always stood by us in the low tide and high tide of politics. This had a definite effect on the outcome of the elections.
I have no doubt that the BJP will return to the ascendant path whenever the Lok Sabha elections are held next
This is only one of the factors behind our electoral setback. There were several others. We must draw the right lessons from this experience. If we do so, I have no doubt that the BJP will return to the ascendant path whenever the Lok Sabha elections are held next.
I am happy to note that the corrective effort in the Party has already begun. This is evident from the positive results achieved in the recent Assembly elections in Jharkhand and Bihar.
Gear up to Face Future Challenges
Friends, the political landscape in the country has undergone major changes in the past 25 years. We ourselves have made a decisive contribution to bringing about these changes. For one, the Congress no longer dominates the Indian political scene in the same overwhelming manner that it used to in the decades preceding the birth of the BJP. Transforming the one-party rule of the Congress into a bi-polar polity, with the BJP emerging as the more cohesive, more purposive and more vision-driven of the two poles, has been our Party's greatest achievement so far.
But we cannot be content with this achievement.
The Rajat Jayanti of our Party is an occasion to examine, with an unsparingly searching attitude, what demands the future makes of us and how we might fulfill these demands. According to me, the long-term task that India's future requires us to fulfill is this: How do we become stronger with a durable all-India presence? If the Congress was the main shaper of India's destiny in the first 50 years of our Independence, how can we make the BJP play that role in a qualitatively superior manner in the decades ahead? This is not an inflated ambition for self-gratification. Nor is it a gambit in the usual power-play between two rival political parties. Rather, this aspiration is the need of the hour in view of the multiple challenges before India in the years ahead.
But We Cannot be Content with this Achievement
The gravest of these challenges is in the area of national security and national unity. I do not wish to dwell too much on cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and the growing menace of naxalism, since our views on these are well known. Instead, I shall speak at some length on a danger that, unfortunately, very few have begun to recognize as a danger.
As we all know, a long and determined mass movement, full of struggles and sacrifices, was required to make India free from foreign yoke in 1947. However, India earned freedom by paying a heavy price in the form of its partition. The price was extracted by the Muslim League, with willing help from the colonial rulers, on the specious theory of Hindus and Muslims constituting "Two Nations". Pakistan broke up in 1971 with the liberation of Bangladesh, but that was an inevitability caused by its own internal contradictions.
From India's point of view, four ominous developments have taken place after 1947. Firstly, both Pakistan and Bangladesh have declared themselves as Islamic nations. Secondly, both have reneged on the commitment, which was an inviolable covenant in the Freedom of India Act 1947, to give due protection and care to their minority Hindu populations. Thirdly, both Pakistan and Bangladesh have in their own ways harboured and instigated cross-border terrorism and extremism directed against India. And, lastly, in the case of Bangladesh, there has been a massive infiltration of illegal immigrants into India, which has assumed the proportions of a silent, but by no means invisible, "Demographic Invasion" of India, especially in the border districts of Assam, West Bengal and other parts of the North-East.
Our Party views with utmost concern the sudden and rapidly growing religious imbalance in the population of the border districts of Assam and West Bengal. This is not a natural phenomenon, but a direct outcome of the "Demographic Invasion". Only those who choose to be blind for nefariously selfish reasons cannot see the manifest threat which this development poses not only to the normal democratic process in the states concerned, but also to the security and integrity of India. How can we forget that at the time of Partition certain parts of Assam and Bengal, which ought to have remained in India, were included in East Pakistan solely on the considerations of religious demography? The BJP fully endorses the warning sounded by many non-political experts that the rapidly changing religious demography in certain parts of West Bengal, Assam and the rest of the North-East, if not immediately checked and reversed, could even lead to another partition of India.
I charge that, by enslaving themselves to the politics of minorityism, the Congress and the Communists are extending a tacit invitation to more infiltrators
Congress-Communists Aiding the Likely Re-Partition of India
When India is faced with such a patent threat, it is the duty of all patriotic political parties and organizations to find effective means of neutralizing it. Sadly, the Congress party in its present avatar, and its pseudo-secular allies like the Communists, have refused to acknowledge this threat even though many people in their ranks privately admit to it. Their refusal is purely on account of crass vote-bank politics. The most shocking manifestation of this came last year when the Census Commissioner made some worrisome disclosures about sharp imbalances in the religious demography of Assam. Instead of examining the reasons and repercussions of this phenomenon, the Congress-Communist combine forced the Census Commission to withdraw his statement.
I charge that, by enslaving themselves to the politics of minorityism, the Congress and the Communists are extending a tacit invitation to more infiltrators. I also charge that, in response to this dangerous demographic aggression in the North-East and West Bengal, they are deliberately disarming the legal and administrative organs of the Indian State.
If the Congress and the Communists wish to absolve themselves of this guilt, I urge them to accept two suggestions:
Lessons from the Centenary of the Partition of Bengal
Friends, the year 2005 provides an ideal historical context for arousing public opinion on the issue of demographic invasion. This is the centenary of the Partition of Bengal in 1905 by Lord Curzon. Though not explicitly stated, the British effected the partition to separate the predominantly Muslim East Bengal from the rest of Bengal and the country. This 'divide-and-rule' policy was to culminate in the partition of India forty years later. I urge our Congress and Communist friends to look back and see how patriotic Bengalis reacted to this evil design. How did patriotic Indians react to it? Why did 'Vande Mataram' become the battle-cry of the nationalist movement, if not initially as a chant of protest against the partition of Bengal?
Let us recall here the words of Sri Aurobindo, which he wrote as the fiery young editor of the journal 'Bande Mataram': "The (British) Government professedly wanted to create a Muslim province with Dacca as its capital, and the evident object of it was to sow discord between the Hindus and the Muslims in a province that had never known it in the whole history."
Now that the creation of Islamic Bangladesh has become a reality, India must learn the right lessons from this painful chapter in our history. For let us heed the warning: "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it."
In saying this, I want to make two things clear. Firstly, the BJP views the threat of 'Demographic Invasion' not as a Hindu-Muslim issue but as a national issue. Only those who do not have the interests of the Indian nation at heart will try to obfuscate this threat by calling our Party's stand on the matter "communal".
Secondly, the BJP wishes to see friendly and cooperative relations between India and Bangladesh as befit two countries whose shared past far outweighs certain differences created by recent history. We hope that the government of Bangladesh reciprocates India's wish for good-neighbourly relations by agreeing to stop infiltration of its nationals and winding up its policy of giving shelter to anti-India extremist and terrorist groups.
The question "Who after ….?" in the Congress Party is always answered beforehand, because the leadership of the party has been forever reserved for members of the 'Dynasty'
It is indeed the same sincere wish for peace and cooperation with all our neighbours that propelled the NDA government to initiate bold and sustained efforts to normalize India's relations with Pakistan. The culmination of this endeavour was the Joint Statement issued in Islamabad in January 2004 after Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's meeting with the Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. In this landmark agreement, Pakistan committed itself to disallowing anti-India terrorist groups to operate from Pakistani or Pakistan-controlled territory. I am happy to note the UPA government has continued to follow the policy initiated by Shri Atalji. We believe that the government of Pakistan must exert itself more to fully dismantling the infrastructure of cross-border terrorism.
Radical Decisions Needed to Control Population Growth
I made a reference to the Census Report 2001, and the light it throws on some disturbing aspects of religious demography. But there is another serious warning in the latest census figures. Not only have we crossed the one billion mark, but also each year we are adding the equivalent of the total population of Australia to our numbers. At this rate, India will become the world's most populous nation by 2050. This is not in our national interest.
Clearly, there is an urgent need to rethink our approach to population control and to evolve a new strategy to effectively tackle this problem. Experience has shown that mere educational and persuasive steps are not sufficient, although they too are required. The country needs radical decisions, including statutory sanctions for incentives and disincentives. Of course, a national consensus will have to be evolved for taking radical decisions. I urge all political parties and socio-religious organizations to realize that this problem deserves our urgent attention.
As Always, We Must be at the Forefront of the Defence of Democracy
Friends, based on our experience in the past 25 years, it is obvious that the future casts a heavy responsibility on the BJP in another area: defense of democracy. In 1975, it was the absence of a large and cohesive opposition party that goaded Smt. Indira Gandhi to throttle democracy.
The Congress in 2005 is a pale shadow of the Congress in 1975. Nevertheless, as the recent sordid developments in Goa and Jharkhand have shown, its anti-democracy instincts remain as powerful as ever. Therefore, without a strong BJP acting as a deterrent, the Congress would grab the first opportunity to run roughshod over the Constitution and all the institutions of democratic governance.
Dynastic Politics in the Congress is a Threat to Democracy
Based again on our experience in the past 25 years, there is another important area in which our Party will be called upon to serve the cause of Indian democracy. This is in the area of leadership. No nation can advance along the right path without wise and competent leadership. However, as developments in recent decades have shown, the two principal parties in India - namely, the BJP and the Congress - rely on two completely contrasting methods to evolve, accept and project leadership.
In the BJP, leadership is always decided on merit, dedication and loyalty to the Party. Never have we encountered existential questions such as "Who after Dr. Mookerjee?" or "Who after Deendayalji?" Even today, we have many promising leaders at all levels of the organization who have proved their worth in action and who can shoulder higher responsibilities whenever called upon to do so.
Our Party is called upon to emerge as the people's natural choice for good governance and development
n the Congress, too, there was a time when a question such as "Who after Nehru?" was heard. But after a brief interlude when Shastriji was the Prime Minister, the question has become irrelevant in the Congress party. The question "Who after ….?" is always answered beforehand, because the leadership of the party has been forever reserved for members of the 'Dynasty'. In this respect, the Congress has abjured all faith in democracy, which categorically rejects privileges by birth, and has blatantly fallen back to feudal and monarchic ways. How can a party that does not follow this basic democratic tenet within its own organization be expected to protect and promote democracy in the country?
The undemocratic influences of 'Dynastic rule' on the long-cherished institutions of governance in India are already all too apparent. Never in the history of independent India have we seen such deliberate devaluation of the office of the Prime Minister as in the present dispensation. Also, never in the past has a ploy like the National Advisory Council been created for its chairperson to exercise the power of a 'Super Prime Minister' without any accountability to Parliament. I would like all the democracy-loving and Constitution-abiding people in our country to deliberate on the long-term consequences of such self-serving distortions in our system of governance at the very apex level.
Good Governance: Key to Making India a Developed Nation
Friends, the greatest learning experience for our Party since our inception has been our six-year rule at the Centre. Notwithstanding the outcome of the last parliamentary elections, all unbiased observers have affirmed that this was one of the best governments India has had, and Shri Vajpayeeji was one of the best prime ministers India has had. All our achievements can be summed up in one sentence: India now stands taller in the comity of nations and Indians look to the future with unprecedented hope and self-confidence.
At the same time, this experience has also made us realize the enormous gulf that still exists between India's potential to become a Developed Nation free of poverty, unemployment and every vestige of social and regional disparity, and her actual performance. This gulf can be bridged only through Good Governance coupled with people's active participation in every sphere of nation-building. Of course, no single party can bridge this gap in a multi-party democracy like India, where governments change frequently and where performance in government does not necessarily lead to electoral success.
It is in this complex situation that our Party is called upon to emerge as the people's natural choice for good governance and development. At present, this challenge falls on BJP-run governments in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa (where we are a partner in the coalition government). Those in the party and government in these states must set for themselves ambitious targets to fulfill the aspirations of the people. We have to convince the people that the BJP will succeed where the Congress and others have failed. In this context, it is indeed a matter of pride for the BJP that one of our chief ministers, Dr. Raman Singh, was recently adjudged by a reputed newsmagazine as the "Best Chief Minister in India".
Main Task Before the Party: Consolidation + Expansion
Dear Colleagues, by mentioning national security, national unity, defence of democracy, development and good governance, I have tried to delineate some of the principal challenges that the BJP will be called upon to deal with in the coming years and decades. That the Congress is incapable of handling these challenges is obvious. This makes the responsibility on us even greater.
If our Party has to shoulder this historic responsibility, we must augment our strength in every respect -- ideological, organizational, political, and in the idealism and competence of our leading cadres. What this entails in specific terms is described in the "Tasks Ahead" document. I urge every unit of the Party to discuss this document and to implement its directions.
Let us make concerted efforts to expand our base among the SCs, STs, OBCs and MOBCs, and all sections of the poor and the neglected.
The central task before the Party can be encapsulated in two words: "Consolidation plus Expansion".
We must consolidate our base in states where the BJP has remained traditionally strong. In those states where we have posted impressive growth in recent years, we must ensure that our gains become durable. In states where we were strong until recently but have since slipped, we must strive to recover lost ground. In this category, the biggest challenge before us is how to achieve speedy revival in Uttar Pradesh. I urge our colleagues in UP to self-critically examine all the factors behind the slide-down we have suffered in this politically important state and apply correctives.
An equally big challenge is how to expand our support base in those large states where our presence still remains only marginal. Since the aggregate number of parliamentary seats from these states is fairly large, the BJP can ill afford to continue to have a meagre share from this category of states. Our colleagues in each of these states should analyse the socio-political-organisational reasons that have stifled the BJP's growth and implement an expansion strategy with determination. All of us would especially like to see the BJP grow rapidly in the land of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, West Bengal, where the people are yearning for deliverance from 30 years of communist misrule and terror.
I congratulate our colleagues in the North-East for expanding, with their tireless efforts, the
BJP's base in a region whose importance to India far outweighs its size or population. Over the years, we have succeeded in having elected representatives not only in Assam, but also in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland. The performance of the NDA government -- as seen in the successful conclusion of the Bodo accord, initiation of peace talks with Naga groups and several other initiatives -- has dispelled many misconceptions about the BJP in this region. In the years to come, our Party is resolved to further expand its work in the North-East, by highlighting the needs of its development and embracing every ethnic, linguistic and religious community in this fascinating region of India.
Sarva-Sparshi Party for a Samarasata-Yukt Samaj
The message of "Consolidation plus Expansion" also holds true for our support base in different sections of society. I have spoken about the need to make the BJP Sarva-vyapi -- a formidable presence in all states of the country. The other side of this aspiration is to make the BJP Sarva-sparshi -- having influence in, and drawing support from, all sections of our diverse society.
The past 25 years are a testimony to our ability to steadily widen our appeal among different castes and communities. In state after state, we have disproved our adversaries' prophesies that the BJP can never win support in this or that section of Indian society. We must continue to do so. The political benefit of these efforts is obvious. But of far greater importance is the benefit to the nation, since our success in this endeavour will greatly strengthen the cause of social harmony and equitable development.
This is because our approach to this issue is very different from that of many other parties. There are many divisive forces in our country that seek, or claim to seek, the welfare of this or that part of society without caring for the society as a whole. Similarly, some people champion the identity of this or that part without bothering about our larger national identity. Our society and polity have suffered enormously due to such sectarian politics. For example, we have seen how a party in Bihar profaned the noble ideal of 'social justice' to inflict on the state a regime of corruption, criminalization, caste conflict and communal appeasement for 15 long years. In contrast to these flawed and dangerous approaches, our Party holds that the strength of the parts of our diverse society is guaranteed by the strength of the whole, just as the strength of the whole is derived from the strength of its parts. Which is why, we have always been on the side of Samajik Nyay (social justice) with Samajik Samarasata (social harmony).
Our Party should acquire a youthful image by espousing issues that catch the imagination of this population and by promoting young leaders at all levels
In light of the needs of our own political growth for the larger good of Indian society, I would like our Party to make concerted and sustained efforts to expand its base among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward and Most Backward Classes, and all sections of the poor and the neglected, including those among Muslims and Christians.
Re-Orient Reforms Agenda to Focus on Gaon, Gareeb, Kisan, Mazdoor
We should especially widen our work in rural areas and among kisans. It bothers me that our Party's capacity to give voice to the woes of our kisans and other sections of India's rural population, such as artisans, has not kept pace with the speed at which they are mounting. For instance, what can be more worrisome and shameful than to hear that hundreds of our farmers in different parts of the country have been forced to commit suicide to escape their plight?
It has also become necessary for the Party to expand its work among unionized workers and employees, those engaged in the rapidly expanding services sector, and, above all, among crores of people eking out a living in the unorganized informal sector. In this context, we have to recognize that although policy of economic reforms has made India more prosperous and strong -- and our commitment to reforms is irreversible -- its benefits are slow in reaching the poor, both rural and urban. It has also not adequately and satisfactorily addressed the imperative need to provide gainful employment to every youth.
I therefore call upon all patriotic economists, development experts and policy makers and implementers to evolve a progressive re-orientation to the reforms process. It should no doubt be able to utilize every boon of science and technology and seize every opportunity that today's globalised economy offers. But its principal aim should be to unleash the limitless productive potential of one billion Indians, and also guarantee a better standard living for all of them. For this, it should be based on a creative re-formulation of the concepts of Swadeshi and Swavalamban -- which means nothing more and nothing less than what is required for transforming India into a self-reliant, prosperous, strong and integrally Developed Nation with the collective efforts of Indians themselves.
Make BJP the Voice and Choice of Young India
My Dear Party Colleagues, I shall make two last observations on what we must do to expand the Party's support base and to earn the goodwill of the people on a durable basis.
Firstly, looking at the challenges and opportunities ahead, we must take multiple steps to strengthen the BJP's appeal to the youth and make our Party the voice and choice of Young India. The urgency of this task is self-evident when one considers that 65% of India's population today is less than 35 years of age. Our Party should acquire a youthful image by espousing issues that catch the imagination of this population and by promoting promising young leaders at all levels.
Needless to say, ours is a Party that values both experience and fresh blood, both wisdom that comes with age and dynamism that is the hallmark of the youth. In this sense, the BJP is like a robust ever-growing tree -- spreading its roots deep and wide and yet sporting luxuriant new branches with each new season.
Make Samrachana an Integral Part of BJP Politics
All of us know that when we founded the BJP in 1980, our Founder-President Shri Vajpayeeji had given this Party three mantras - Sangathan (Organisation), Sangharsh (Struggle) and Samrachana (Constructive Activity). We have a lot to show for our performance on the first two counts in the past 25 years. Many individual members and functionaries of our Party have on their own established exemplary models in constructive activity. However, a time has come when the Party should put the entire weight of its organization behind such work.
Our MPs and MLAs should get associated with the Mid-Day Meal programme and cumulatively aim to cover a million needy children
I say this for two obvious reasons. Firstly, we must also recognize that in recent decades, the importance of voluntary organizations or NGOs in different walks of our national life has grown immensely. Secondly, wherever our karyakartas have founded or patronized NGOs that are seen to be doing good work, they have unfailingly earned people's goodwill both for themselves and for the BJP. For example, one of our MPs in Karnataka has, along with his wife, founded an NGO that runs a mid-day meal scheme to feed as many as 54,000 needy schoolchildren in Bangalore everyday. Another MP in Rajasthan runs a similar mid-day meal programme that benefits 20,000 children in his constituency.
Similarly, some of our leaders in Maharashtra have founded cooperatives that have established factories, schools, colleges and hospitals. Similar examples are there in every state, and each has benefited both the society and our Party.
All this prompts me to make an appeal to you today. On the occasion of the Rajat Jayanti of our Party, let our entire Party rededicate itself to adopting 'Samrachana' as an integral part of our politics. Specifically, I call upon every active member of the Party to get associated with at least one seva (service) or vikas (development) project of his or her choice. We should also set some energizing targets for the entire Party to pursue, targets in four important areas that can catch the imagination of the nation.
For example, can't we decide that a large number of our MPs and MLAs will get associated with the Mid-Day Meal programme and cumulatively cover a million needy children over the next five years? Yes, we can. Can't we decide that every BJP karyakarta will plant, and protect, at least one Rajat Jayanti tree this year, a campaign that could make a tangible contribution to a greener India? Yes, we can. And shouldn't the BJP be seen to be committed to making India cleaner? Yes, we must.
One last suggestion: Shouldn't every local unit of our Party be involved in some project of water conservation, considering that clean water is likely to become a scare resource in the decades ahead? Yes, we must. I am directing our General Secretaries and other central office-bearers to evolve a proper plan and structure to guide this effort.
Destiny has Willed the BJP to Become Stronger to Make India Stronger
My dear colleagues, today we have reached an important milestone in our Party's onward journey. This Yatra will continue. New people will join, new karyakartas will emerge, new leaders will lead this Party in the years and decades to come, and new milestones will be reached. What matters is what each one of us gives to the Party, and not what the Party gives to us. What matters is what each one of us gives to the Nation, and not what the Nation gives to us. Because it is the desire to serve the Nation that has made us choose to serve this great Party. Let us ask ourselves: What mission brought us into politics? Nationalism. What inspiration has sustained us? Patriotism. How often haven't we said to ourselves in our private contemplative moments as well as on collective affirmative occasions -- Tera Vaibhav Amar Rahe Maa, Hum Din Char Rahe Na Rahe? Let us repeat those profound words yet again on this occasion.
In my political life, I have both experienced and observed that, whenever we let a lofty goal guide us, we were invariably able to rise above ourselves. We unfailingly overcame our individual and organizational weaknesses. We always could face the severest of challenges with confidence and hope. May we therefore never lose sight of the goal for which we have chosen to be in politics and chosen, further, to be in the BJP. That goal is to make India stronger -- in every sense of the term. And destiny has willed the BJP to become stronger for this goal to be attained. A weak instrument can never serve a big goal. If we cannot be a party with a difference, how can we claim to make a difference to society? This is why, I am often distressed, just as millions of our well-wishers are distressed, when I see a BJP person conduct himself in a manner that is not in keeping with our ideals and principles.
Therefore, I have said that the Rajat Jayanti year is as much an occasion for introspection as it is for celebration. Let us use this occasion to do some honest soul-searching and to apply necessary correctives wherever needed.
The National Executive, which met yesterday, has drawn up an extensive -- and if I may add, ambitious -- plan of activities as a part of our commemoration of the Rajat Jayanti year. It will be presented before the National Council shortly. I urge all of you to put up an exemplary show of parishram (hard work) and samuhik prayas (collective effort) to make these activities successful for the Party and fulfilling for each one of us. When we meet in Mumbai for the Maha Adhiveshan towards the end of December, we should be in a position to say to ourselves: "We did a good job!"
Just as, looking back to our Foundation Day on April 6, 1980, we can today say to ourselves: "We've done a good job!"