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Salient points in the address by
Shri LK Advani
at the meeting of the BJP’s National Executive
New Delhi – June 26, 2007

Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji, Shri Rajnath Singh ji, Shri Jaswant Singh ji, and esteemed colleagues,

Our meeting is taking place at a time when independent India is passing through an extraordinary phase – I would even say, an ominous phase -- in her political history. The ominous nature of the current phase can perhaps be understood by the historic significance of the two days on which our National Executive has met in the national capital.

Today is June 26. Yesterday was June 25. Exactly 32 years ago, on this very day, Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Chandrashekhar, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and many other stalwarts were arrested. I, too, was one among thousands of opposition party activists who were put behind bars on that day. The previous night, the then Prime Minister, late Smt. Indira Gandhi, had declared a state of internal Emergency, which would last for 19 long months.

In these 19 months, the Congress government mutilated the Constitution of India. It cancelled the Lok Sabha elections, due in 1976, by extending the tenure of Parliament. The press was shackled. Repression was let loose. Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned.

What a pliant President in Rashtrapati Bhavan can do

And all this happened principally because there was a pliant President in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, who signed on the dotted line. The decision to impose the Emergency was not even discussed and approved by the Cabinet. And the then President of India, Dr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, did not ask the Prime Minister, “Did you have a Cabinet meeting? Where is the Cabinet decision on this count?” The Cabinet itself endorsed the decision, post-facto, at a brief 15-minute meeting that was convened at short notice at six in the morning, by which time the Emergency was already in place and most of the prominent leaders had already been arrested. There was not a single voice of protest in the Cabinet meeting.

And all this happened, as I said, because the then Rashtrapati was a man who was loyal not to the Constitution but to an individual. I remember a devastatingly critical cartoon by late Abu Abraham during the Emergency that showed President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed signing papers sent by the Government while relaxing in his bathtub.

That was the darkest period in the history of India’s democracy.

I am reminding you of this because, once again, I can see dark clouds hovering in the sky that could, if the nation is not vigilant, dim the light of democracy once again.

Prospect of a tainted Rashtrapati

This meeting of the National Executive is taking place when the process to elect the next President of India is already underway. Two candidates have filed their nomination. Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has entered the fray as an independent candidate, whom the BJP and most of its allies in the NDA have supported.

But look at the candidate of the UPA. On what criterion has the Congress leadership chosen its candidate? As our spokesman, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, has rightly put it a couple of days ago, the person has been chosen not only on account of her loyalty to the “Ruling Family”, but also because of her vulnerability.

Never in the past nearly six decades has a candidate for the election to the highest Constitutional office faced such grave allegations. One of the allegations pertains to protection of criminalization of politics. This allegation has been implicitly endorsed by the High Court.

All of you remember that, we in the BJP and the NDA went to Rashtrapati Bhavan on several occasions seeking action against “tainted ministers” in the UPA Government.

But what if Rashtrapati Bhavan itself gets a tainted occupant? This is a question which the entire nation must seriously ponder over.

The Congress president has devalued the high office of the Prime Minister of India by hand-picking a person who exercises no authority of his own. And now the highest office of the Nation, the office of the Custodian of the Constitution, is sought to be similarly devalued.

The UPA’s reaction till date to all the disturbing revelations made about their Presidential candidate is that it is “a smear campaign by the NDA.”

They must understand that whatever adverse has been said about her till now, whether by the widow of the murdered Congress leader, or by the High Court, or by the Reserve Bank of India, or by TV channels like Aaj Tak ante-dates her choice as Presidential nominee. None of these fora had any interest in maligning her.

I, therefore, urge all constituents of the UPA to reconsider their decision.

We need to launch a mass awareness campaign on what is at stake in the Presidential election. The President is elected only by an electoral college comprising members of Parliament and State Legislatures. But, unlike in most previous Presidential elections, the people of India are today keenly watching this contest. Therefore, it is our duty to make them aware of the major issues involved in this election, and the portents of its outcome for the country’s future.

It is therefore my suggestion to the National Executive that the BJP and its allies organise a fortnight-long mass awareness campaign soon.

Relevance of ‘Conscience Vote’


One of the objectives of proposed mass awareness campaign should be to mount public pressure on the MPs and MLAs of the constituent parties of the UPA to cast a ‘Conscience Vote’ in favour of Shri Shekhawat.

In 1969, Smt. Indira Gandhi had given a call for a ‘Conscience vote’ to split the Congress party. In 2007, let us appeal for a ‘Conscience vote’ to unite all the pro-democracy forces.

The call for a ‘Conscience Vote’ in 1969 was meant to strengthen the hands of one individual within the then ruling party, and we know what that hand did in 1975.

In contrast, the call for a ‘Conscience Vote’ in 2007 is meant to safeguard the certain basic ideals of our national life; it is meant to protect Rashtrapati Bhavan from being devalued in the manner in which the Prime Minister’s Office has been devalued in the past three years.

* * *

Lessons to be learnt from setback in UP

Friends, this meeting of the National Executive is taking place in the backdrop of a serious setback the BJP has suffered in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

UP is the most populous state in the country. The size of its Legislative Assembly (403 seats) is the largest in India. The state also sends as many as 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Therefore, our poor performance in the UP assembly elections is a matter of serious concern.

The occasion demands honest introspection and self-critical analysis on questions such as:

• Why did the BJP fail to project itself as the most credible and winnable alternative to the incumbent government of the Samajwadi Party?

• Why did a section of our core supporters shift to the Bahujan Samaj Party?

• Why were we unable to win support from other sections of society?

• What were the weaknesses in our party organization?

• What mistakes were committed in the management of our campaign?

This introspective analysis should lead to suitable corrective action soon. Needless to add, many of the lessons that we need to learn from the setback in UP have relevance for the party in most other states. The inner-party situation in many states needs urgent attention and corrective action. In some places, strict disciplinary action is also needed.

There should be no tolerance for anything that weakens unity and cohesion in the party at any level.

I would like to suggest the President to draw up, in consultation with his senior colleagues, a Task Sheet detailing corrective actions that need to be taken on an urgent basis – both at the Centre and in States.

People are looking for an alternative

Friends,
the setback in UP should not make us despondent. The political situation in the country is changing fast. People’s disillusionment with the UPA government is growing by the day. That the people will look for an alternative in the next Parliamentary elections, whenever they are held, is a writing on the wall.

We should read this writing on the wall and start to prepare ourselves, right from today, to present the BJP-led alliance as the real alternative.

One of the costly mistakes we have frequently made in recent times is that we do not prepare our election plan well in advance. We must correct this mistake in respect of the next Parliamentary elections.

For this purpose, it would be useful for us to hold a central-level conclave (Chintan Baithak) soon, followed by state-level conclaves.

One of the principal issues we should discuss is how to simultaneously succeed on two parallel tracks: (1) consolidate our traditional support base by strengthening the BJP’s relationship with its core constituency; (2) to expand our appeal, both geographically and socially, to make the BJP more aggregative and inclusive.

I am convinced that we can succeed on both the tracks, because the BJP’s ideology of nationalism includes every section of Indian society on an equal basis, and excludes none.

Let us prepare Policy Alternatives

Friends, as a part of our effort to prepare for the next Parliamentary elections, I have another concrete suggestion.

Today, at the national level, the BJP is in the opposition. It is our duty to highlight the failures of the UPA Government. But, we must also evolve concrete policy alternatives on critical issues before the nation. We have the rich experience of governance during the six years of NDA rule under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We also have the useful experience of governance in many states. The universal plaudits earned by our Gujarat government should make all of us proud.

Drawing on the strength of this robust experience, and tapping into the reservoir of ideas and expertise both within the party and outside, we should now prepare policy approaches on six important subjects: (1) Economic Development Policy; (2) Social Development Policy; (3) Education and Youth Policy; (4) Governance Reform Policy; (5) Internal Security Policy; (6) Foreign Policy.

I suggest that we set up six panels, each headed by a senior Party leader, and comprising suitable members drawn from within and outside the ranks of the Party. Let these panels evolve a mechanism to seek the views and suggestions of Party workers and supporters from across the country. The views and suggestions of sister organizations in our large ideological fraternity should also be proactively sought.

Once the policy approaches have been finalized and approved by the Party, we should present them before the people with the assurance that “These are our priorities, these are our tasks, and this is how we propose to solve the problems before the nation.”

* * *

With respect to Economic Policy, I wish to make a very specific observation. For a decade and a half, Indian economic policy has been tied to a single word : growth. This was a commendable objective, given the depressing economic circumstances in which it became national policy in the first Narasimha Rao budget. Its merits were confirmed by the fact that successive Prime and Finance Ministers, whether their tenure was brief or not, did not change course.

Time has proved that a policy born in good intentions cannot be sustained by good intentions alone.

Growth has to be much more than a statistic that hides more than it reveals. Governments take satisfaction in a rising digit : the Finance Minister proudly advertises a statistic today that growth is in the region of 9%.

It is technically true that growth is 9% but not materially correct, since this growth is not even across geographical and demographic segments. The whole of India is not growing at 9%. A small section of India may be growing at 20% or even more; most of India is still stuck at low digits if it is growing at all. Yesterday, our Executive discussed at length about the plight of the farmer.

The answer to this serious dilemma is “trickle down”. This is an iniquitous response, and unsustainable in a democracy, since the “have-nots” who are waiting for the trickle are seeing, plainly, that there is a waterfall among the “haves”. This is generating serious levels of conflict, which we are witnessing across the country.

But we need to take another look at economic policy. If Nandigram does not wake us up, nothing will. The answer has to be more nuanced than simply being pro or against SEZ; it is also clear, that initiatives like SEZs cannot work smoothly unless they are part of a much larger framework in which the concerns of the dispossessed are addressed.

All economic growth leaves someone dispossessed. But the State cannot afford to ignore those who are being dispossessed by growth. That is the recipe for inequity and violence.

An Economic Policy Committee should meet both the actors and the audience of economic development, interact with people across the line, whether think tank intellectuals or industrialists or trade unions or traders and formulate a policy, after debate and discussion, that can be offered as an alternative to the people.

* * *

I would like to end my remarks by going back to the reference to the Emergency anniversary. Friends, June 25-26 was when the eclipse on India’s democracy began. But we succeeded in removing this eclipse through a determined and collective struggle that brought democracy-loving people from various parties together.

We need to summon the same kind of determination and unity again in today’s circumstances. Let the BJP take the lead in this struggle for the greater good of the nation.

Thank you.
Vande Mataram!