BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY
National Council Meeting
Vijay Sankalp Parisar (Ramlila Maidan)
New Delhi – January 28-29, 2008
Concluding Remarks by Shri L.K. Advani Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha)
President Shri Rajnath Singh ji, my esteemed colleagues and dear delegates,
It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst at this important session of the National Council of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This two-day session was preceded by a meeting of the party’s National Executive on 27th January. Both meetings have taken place in an atmosphere of unity, fervor and self-confidence, which have always been the hallmark of the BJP.
Shri Rajnath Singhji has asked me to deliver the concluding remarks at this session. For years together ? indeed, since the very inception of the BJP in 1980 ? the samarop of every National Council session has been done by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, who is the beloved leader of all of us. As far as I can remember, this is the first meeting of the National Council where we are missing him. It is heartening to know that his health is improving. I join all of you in praying and hoping for his speedy recover, and that we continue to receive his wise counsel and experience-rich guidance in the crucial months ahead.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Party for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the BJP in the next Parliamentary elections. I also most sincerely wish to thank the constituent parties of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for taking a similar decision at its recent meeting. I shall strive to discharge this responsibility with honesty, dedication, commitment and a sense of service. I am confident of receiving your fullest and most enthusiastic cooperation in together accomplishing the goal we have set before ourselves. I seek strength and grace from the Almighty in this endeavour.
Significance of the BJP’s victory in
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh
This session of the National Council is taking place against the backdrop of the spectacular victory of the BJP in the recently held elections to the Vidhan Sabhas of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP has been in power in Himachal Pradesh in the past, as well. But, it is for the first time in the state’s history that our Party has won a majority on its own. Let us warmly congratulate chief minister Prof. Premkumar Dhumal and the entire Party unit in Himachal Pradesh for this great victory.
If the BJP’s victory in Himachal Pradesh was mainly due to an anti-incumbency vote, our spectacular win in Gujarat was on account of a pro-incumbency vote. The people of Gujarat reposed their faith yet again in the strong and dynamic leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, who had delivered what he had promised. The BJP’s victory has major nationwide significance because the Congress party and its pseudo-secular supporters had converted the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections virtually into some kind of a national referendum on “communalism vs. secularism”. For five long years, they had launched a vicious campaign of vilification against the BJP in general, and against Narendrabhai in particular. Indeed, during the course of my long political career, I cannot recall any other instance when a democratically elected chief minister was subjected to this kind of sustained demonisation both within India and, worse still, abroad.
Our ideological opponents, in fact, lobbied with the government of the United States for denying him a visa when he had an invitation to visit that country, and they celebrated when they succeeded in their abominable effort. This too was unprecedented in India’s political history. It demonstrated who, indeed, was behaving in a fascist manner. Moreover, the Congress Party enabled the interference of an outside state in the internal affairs of India. Again, a very troubling precedent.
Well, India’s democratic system has given them a befitting answer. The people of Gujarat have shown them their place and exposed their hypocrisy.
Friends, while rejoicing in the BJP’s victory in Gujarat, let us not think that our political and ideological adversaries will admit to their mistakes and reform their ways. They are dogmatic, well-entrenched and at least some of them are patronized by foreign forces that are hostile to India, want Indian society to remain divided and Indian state to remain soft. These anti-India forces do not want to see the BJP emerge strong and powerful because they know that whereas the spirit of nationalism has grown weak in the Congress party, it is robust and uncompromising in the BJP. They know that today’s Congress party can be manipulated to such an extent that it can even be made to agree to something as dangerous as communal census in India’s Armed Forces, religion-based reservations and fraudulent, and permitting mass-scale conversions by defaming Hinduism. They also know very well that the BJP will reject these proposals as poison, ever to be shunned and neutralized.
I am saying this because the manner in which they defamed Gujarat, the BJP and Narendrabhai ? and continue to do so even now ? should alert us to the fact that these anti-India forces, wearing the mask of defense of “secularism’, could become more active and vicious in the days to come.
The BJP’s victory in Gujarat has conveyed another message of far-reaching importance. All of us are proud of the fact that, since our country’s Independence in 1947, India has emerged as a vibrant and energetic democracy. However, as an observer of and a participant in the evolution of India’s democracy over the last 60 years, I have seen that a major shortcoming has crept in. Most political parties have come to believe that the politics of vote-banks is the most reliable way to winning elections and attaining power. Similarly, the political class has generally developed skepticism that good governance, democracy, security and probity in public life are not attributes that can win votes. Two striking examples of this are the Marxists, whose 30-year-old rule in West Bengal is an advertisement for the state’s stagnation, and the RJD, whose 15-year-long jungle raj in Bihar pushed the state into social and economic backwardness.
Seen against this backdrop, the most significant aspect of Shri Narendra Modi’s victory in Gujarat in 2007 is that it signaled the triumph of good governance, development and security over the politics of vote-banks. And this is a welcome development for India.
Challenges of forthcoming assembly elections
The immediate challenges before the Party are to gear up for the assembly elections in Karnataka and the three states ? Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarsh ? where we have our governments. The case of Karnataka is different from the other three states. In normal circumstances there was no need to elect a new assembly in that state. Although the people had given a fractured mandate in May 2004, two aspects of that mandate were crystal-clear. The Congress had been voted out of power and the BJP had emerged as the single-largest party. Nevertheless, the most bizarrely opportunistic and manipulative tactics were adopted by our political adversaries to prevent the BJP from heading a government in Karnataka. And this too was done in the name of “defense of secularism”.
In the coming months, the people of Karnataka will have the opportunity to elect a new assembly. The Congress-led UPA government is conspiring to postpone these polls. But whenever they are held, our party must prepare itself to win a clear majority on its own. And this is eminently possible! The people have seen the true colours of both the Congress and JD(S). Therefore, they would like to give the BJP a chance. It is now up to our colleagues in Karnataka to rise to the people’s expectations with unity in organization, unity in action and unity in the resolve to provide a clean and honest government.
In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarsh, the party faces a different kind of challenge. The Congress is hoping to return to power in these states on the basis of the “anti-incumbency” factor. However, Gujarat has shown that the “anti-incumbency” factor can be overcome. During the time available before the assembly polls, I would like those in government and in the party organization, as well as the MLAs, in these states to attend to four cardinal tasks:
1) Speed up and further improve the functioning of the governments, especially in areas of development and people’s welfare.
2) Go among the people and explain to them the governments’ achievements. I am saying this because some of our people have a tendency to run down our own governments. There can be no scope for such negativity within the organization. For this, it is necessary to improve the coordination between the government and party organization, with the chief minister clearly representing the unity of command.
3) Go among the people also to find out what they have to say about the performance of our MLAs, ministers and government in general, and take corrective measures wherever necessary. Often, people’s displeasure over a local MLA or MP hurts the party, as we saw at the time of the 2004 parliamentary elections.
4) Lastly, expeditious steps should be taken to address internal dissensions, factionalism, etc., for which there can be simply no place in the BJP.
Let us resolve to win a renewed mandate of the people in each of these three states and work to transform that resolve into reality, remembering that these states are among the strongholds of the BJP and occupy an important place in the BJP’s national strategy.
UPA government must go, and it will go
My esteemed colleagues, this session of the National Council is taking place at a time when our countrymen have mentally prepared themselves for a change of government at the Centre. About the performance of the UPA government, everything that needs to be said has been captured by two accurate terms in our Party’s political resolution: “failed and worthless”.
Here is a government that sought votes by promising to work for the welfare of the aam aadmi. In reality, it has worked only for the benefit of the khaas aadmi. That the aam aadmi and aam aurat have been reeling under the impact of sky-rocketing prices is one aspect of the UPA government’s betrayal. The other is that, never before was the divide between the rich and the poor so shockingly wide as it is today. Indeed, the UPA government has actively facilitated this gap to become so wide. Just a few days ago, Shri Bimal Jalan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, stated that the richest 20 families in India own more wealth than what 30 crore Indians earn. This divide is intolerable, unacceptable and it must be bridged. And we shall bridge it with innovative measures.
Never before have so many distressed and debt-ridden kisans committed suicide. This too us intolerable, unacceptable and must be prevented. We shall strive to alleviate the plight of kisans with effective measures to rejuvenate Indian agriculture and our rural economy.
Let me make one more important point here. Our Party has been voicing its concern for gaon, krishi and kisan, and we shall continue to do so. However, it must be recognized that India is now changing. Nearly 40 per cent of our population now lives in towns and cities. The growth in urban population is also due to the neglect of the rural economy, lack of gainful employment and absence of basic amenities in villages. What has the UPA government done to arrest the deteriorating living conditions for the poor and middle classes in urban areas? Isn’t it a fact that the UPA government has burdened the urban population with high taxation, high interest rates, high-cost housing, high-cost education and high-cost medical care? Isn’t it also a fact that something as basic as water and electricity have become scarcer and costlier?
Which is why, our Party has said that the “failed and worthless” UPA government must go. And it will go.
The question is: What will, and what should, replace the UPA government whenever the next parliamentary elections are held? It is in answering this question that I have some things to say to, and some thoughts to share with, both my partymen and also my countrymen.
I am heartened to see the high level of enthusiasm and optimism among all the delegates at this rather short National Council session. It should be our resolve to create the same kind of enthusiasm and hope among the people at large. This is indeed possible. The people have a strong and growing desire to get rid of the UPA government. And they would like the BJP-led NDA government to come back to office in New Delhi ? for they remember the good work done by the NDA government headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It should now be our endeavour to convert their preference into a strong nationwide urge for a decisive change.
At the same time, let us also realize that the task ahead is difficult, and calls for hard work. It is good to be optimistic and confident, but overconfidence leads to complacency. We have suffered once on account of this. We must not commit that mistake again. Rajnath Singhji has called it a “golden opportunity” for the BJP. He is right in a sense. But let us realize that there is no pot of gold waiting for us to pick up. The task of mining, processing, purifying and minting gold is an elaborate exercise. Even to get a few grammes of gold, one has to collect tonnes of ore. It requires painstaking effort, team work, good management, and proper organization of scientific, technological, financial and skilled human resources.
Therefore, the party organization should not be found wanting in any task relating to the election campaign or election management, either at the centre or in state units.
NDA can win a clear and decisive majority
A question that is being widely discussed these days is: Can the NDA win a clear majority? My answer is: “Yes, we can.”
I was looking at the results of all the six Lok Sabha elections since 1989, when the BJP rose like a phoenix from its lowest figure of 2 MPs in 1984. I see that so far our Party has won at least once from as many 297 Lok Sabha constituencies on its own since 1989. Many of them have been won by the BJP several times over. And if we include the additional 64 constituencies from which our stable allies in the NDA ? Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, Janata Dal and Biju Janata Dal ? have won at least once since 1989, the total number of such constituencies represented by the NDA comes to 361. This means that we are already a formidable alliance and, if we work unitedly and with a credible agenda of change that appeals to the people, the NDA can indeed win a decisive majority.
As far the BJP is concerned, it should be our firm resolve this time to scale higher than our highest point of achievement so far. After 1984 our graph had been steadily going up from one election after another. It is only in 2004 that we suffered a setback. Now, whether elections are held in 2008 or 2009, the BJP’s strength should surpass what it was in 1999.
In planning our election strategy aimed at winning a decisive mandate, we should, of course, recognize an important feature about the current political map of India. In several states, which together account for a sizeable number of seats in Parliament, neither the BJP nor our current allies in the NDA has a strong presence. Therefore, even if the people in these states, like their counterparts elsewhere, want to see a strong government with a decisive mandate at the Centre, they feel constrained by state-specific conditions. We saw in 2004 how the final outcome of the parliamentary election became somewhat of an aggregate of separate state-specific outcomes.
We will have to overcome this dichotomy. For this purpose, I would like to persuasively tell our friends in those regional political parties that are strong in these states: “If you really wish to see a positive change at the Centre, let us together strengthen our common battle against the UPA government. The NDA has amply shown its commitment to Coalition Dharma. The NDA has also recently passed a resolution to contest the next elections on the basis of a common agenda of governance. We respect your views and are willing to work with you. And let us together work for people’s welfare and India’s all-round progress.”
In this context, I have a special appeal to make to anti-Communist parties in West Bengal and Kerala. Please do not be under the illusion that either the Communists will completely and irreversibly sever their links with the Congress or that the Congress will abandon the Communists. The Communists are supporting the Congress at the Centre today, and they will do so again in the future if the need arises. This is evident from the fact that the CPI(M), which heads the Left Front, still considers the BJP its “Number One Enemy”. Indeed, some senior functionaries of the CPI(M) have stated recently that “all secular forces have to remain united to stop the BJP juggernaut”.
This being the case, the surest, and only, way to defeat the Communists in West Bengal and Kerala is by strengthening the NDA.
Our pledge to the people of India
The best way of creating a nationwide urge for a BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is to effectively communicate to the people how we are going to be different from the Congress and the UPA. We must ? and we shall be ? be different from them on every count on which we have been criticizing them on.
• First and foremost, the days of weak leadership at the top will be over.
• Secondly, there shall be no compromise in the fight against terrorism and Maoism. We shall deal with this twin menace with a heavy hand.
• Thirdly, corruption at the top will not be tolerated.
• Fourthly, we shall make a sincere and determined effort to ensure that more and more common people, in villages as well as in towns and cities, are able to live better lives. For this, India’s economic growth will have to be further speeded up, made more broad-based geographically and socially, and, most importantly, reoriented for greater employment generation.
What we stand for has been captured in the three commitments that have begun to gain currency especially after the BJP’s victory in Gujarat. These are: Good Governance, Development and Security.
As far as the BJP is concerned, these ideals have not been newly discovered or accepted. If you study the history of our political journey since 1951, you will find these commitments articulated in some form or the other both by the Jana Sangh and, later, by the BJP. Of course, circumstances have changed and certain issues and challenges, such as the fight against the menace of terrorism, are new. But since our ideology is rooted in Nationalism, and also since we have now grown big enough to become a credible alternative to the Congress, it is only natural that we are now in a position to articulate nation-first ideology by projecting these three commitments: Good Governance, Development and Security.
Many of you will recall that when I undertook the Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra in 1997 to commemorate the golden jubilee of India’s Independence, my message was about converting Swaraj (self-governance) into Su-raj (good governance). I had also stated that our commitment to Su-raj translated itself into Samruddhi (prosperity), Suraksha (security) and Swadeshi (insistence on Indianness).
Just because ‘Swadeshi’ does not explicitly figure today along with Good Governance, Development and Security, let nobody get the impression that we now consider it to be unimportant. We are proud of being the votaries and upholders of Swadeshi, by which we mean allegiance to Indianness and to an Indian way of integral development based essentially on our own resources, to fulfill the needs of our own people, and guided by our own glorious cultural-civilisational-spiritual heritage.
If some parties in India wish to be guided by foreign-born ideologies and foreign-born leadership, they will certainly realize the limitations of doing so.
A shocking indication of how little respect these parties have for India’s cultural-civilisational heritage is the stand they have taken on the Ram Sethu issue. The UPA government went to the extent of filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court denying the very existence of Lord Ram and the historicity of the Ramayana.
We’ll fulfill unfinished tasks…and more
Friends, as I have mentioned, our party and the NDA have already demonstrated our commitment to Good Governance, Development and Security during the six years that Shri Vajpayeeji was at the helm of government between 1998-2004. Several ambitious and pathbreaking initiatives were started by our government, the results of which can be seen today, be it the National Highway Development Project, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the impetus to telecom and IT revolution. Our government had also launched an unrelenting campaign to smash underground terrorist modules. Making India a nuclear weapons power will, of course, go down in history as one of the greatest ever achievements by any government.
At the same time, there were many unfinished tasks. The non-performance of the UPA government has further added to this list of tasks. We assure the people that we shall successfully attend to all these tasks, with greater ambition and application than ever seen in Independent India’s history, as befits the dreams of young Indians, many of whom are scripting amazing success stories in diverse fields of national life. But what is being achieved by some Indians today, will be enhanced a thousand fold when we enable and encourage millions of young Indians who are today deprived of opportunities to realize their potential.
The leaders of the BJP and NDA have begun internal consultations on our future agenda of governance. However, in the weeks to follow, I would also like to invite the views and suggestions of all party workers, supporters and, most importantly, members of the public. I would like people to become our partners in making the agenda of governance and also in implementing it.
This is our vision. This is our mission. In the weeks and months to come, dear countrymen, you shall hear more about this from us and we shall hear more from you about how we can together make India stronger, more prosperous, more peaceful, more harmonious and united for the wellbeing and progress of every Indian.