Bharatiya Janata Party
Meeting of the National Executive
New Delhi – June 20-21, 2009
Concluding Remarks by Shri L.K. Advani
President Shri Rajnath Singh ji, office-bearers of the Party, and dear members of the National Executive,
We are meeting for the first time since the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. At the outset, I would like to congratulate all the 116 newly elected Members of the Lok Sabha, exactly 58 of whom are first time members. I also congratulate the newly elected office bearers in the BJP Parliamentary Party – Smt. Sushma Swaraj, deputy leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha; Shri Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha; Shri S.S.Ahluwalia, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha; and Chief Whips in the two Houses.
I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all those who worked tirelessly for the Party’s election campaign, at the central, state and constituency levels. Loyal soldiers of the BJP, they once again displayed remarkable commitment, dedication and devotion ― qualities for which our karyakartas are known and admired.
All of us are naturally disappointed at the outcome of the parliamentary elections, which was not as per our expectations. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) got a renewed, and enlarged, mandate. Our tally has come down from what it was in 2004 ― from 138 to 116.
Broadbased review of poll results necessary
There has been much discussion in the National Executive on why we failed to win the people’s mandate. Many colleagues have made their observations and given their analyses. The purpose of this review is not to apportion blame but to get an objective understanding of what went wrong and, more importantly, how to emerge stronger by correcting those mistakes. I am extremely happy that the discussion yesterday was very frank and forthright.
As a Party proud to be having the highest level of internal democracy, it should be our endeavour to make this exercise as broadbased as possible. It should enable karyakartas and supporters at all levels to freely express their views and sentiments. They should feel that their voice is heard and taken seriously. This is important for maintaining the motivation of our cadres and supporters, and for further strengthening their bonds with the Party.
Therefore, our colleagues and workers should feel that there is an internal mechanism within the Party where one’s views, including critical views, are taken seriously by those in responsible positions and are then used for implementing corrective steps. The only constraint on the participants in this exercise, which is an important part of the BJP’s culture of discipline, is that they should not air their critical views in public.
Three areas that require serious attention
Broadly speaking, corrective action is needed in the following three areas:
1. It is a matter of concern that our Party seems to be plateauing in some states, which are our strongholds, and have actually suffered big reversals in some others. Additionally, there are several big states where our political base continues to be small, and our electoral presence is narrower still. These weaknesses have to be overcome.
2. The state of the Party organization at all levels, including at the Centre, needs to be improved. We have to strengthen unity in thought, unity in planning and unity in execution in leadership tiers at the Centre and in states.
3. The Party has to urgently evolve a system of encouraging younger leaders at all levels. We have a lot of young talent within the Party. But I have heard many young activists tell me that they are not given opportunity to serve the Party more effectively. It is sad that a certain “train compartment” mentality has got developed within the Party, which makes those in leadership positions to ignore promising, talented and committed cadres who are standing “outside” and waiting for the door to open. This has to change. We must identify, train, groom and empower third, fourth and fifth generation of leaders in the BJP. Our leadership planning should take into account the Party’s needs for the next twenty years.
Poll outcome is a setback, but certainly not ‘a rout’
Friends, while it is natural for all of us to be disappointed by the outcome of the elections, it is necessary that we neither let this feeling of disappointment turn into despair nor lose a sense of proportion and balance in assessing the voters’ support for the BJP.
A section of the media has described the people’s verdict as a “rout” for the BJP. It is nothing of the kind. We have won 116 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha, which is much more than what the Congress had won in 1999. In as many as 113 other constituencies, our candidates came second. In 45 of these constituencies, the margin of defeat was less than 10% of the votes cast. In 25 of these the margin was less than 5%.
Without belittling the setback we have received, I must also point out that it is nothing in comparison to what we have suffered in the past. If the word “rout” could be validly used, it was in 1980 and 1984. In the 1980 parliamentary elections, which were held after the collapse of the Janata Party government, the Janata Party’s tally came crashing down from 295 (the Jana Sangh segment was 97 or so) in 1977 to 31, of which the Jana Sangh component was just 18. In the 1984 polls, which were held after the assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi, the BJP could win only 2 seats in the whole country.
We did not lose heart in 1980 and 1984. Therefore, where is the question of the BJP becoming despondent today, when we have 116 MPs in the Lok Sabha, Unlike in the 14th Lok Sabha, when the Left was on the one hand a proactive partner in Government, but not being accountable or answerable for failures of Government, most of the time they could play the role of the opposition also.
I first came to Parliament in 1970, as a Member of the Rajya Sabha. That was a time when Marxist members used to exude immense confidence. Some of them, even used to echo the boast of British imperialists, that a day would certainly come when the sun shall not set on the Marxist ‘empire’. All developing countries of the world, including India, are particularly vulnerable to the appeal of Marxism; the Jana Sangh has no future, they would affirm.
And see what has happened to Marxist parties the world over. Wiped off the surface of the globe – with remnants left behind only in Cuba, Kerala, and Calcutta ! And in India while in an election which we ourselves concede is a surprising set back for us, we get 116 seats, they score just 16 !
Our prejudiced critics will deliberately exaggerate the BJP’s weaknesses. But we should know our strengths. With 116 MPs in the Lok Sabha, 47 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, and eight states in which our Party is in government, the BJP is by no means an inconsiderable force in Indian politics. If anything, by decimating the Third and Fourth Fronts, the recent elections have concretized the BJP as the only alternative to the Congress.
I am pointing this out just to underscore an important aspect of the people’s verdict in May 2009. Theirs is a vote for stability insofar as the Congress party’s strength has been considerably enhanced so that it does not any longer need the crutches of the Left Front. But theirs is also a vote for bipolarity insofar as the voters have strongly endorsed the BJP as the sole anti-Congress opposition pole at the Centre.
Big new opportunity for the BJP
When anyone asks me as to what is the most significant contribution of the BJP to Indian politics, my reply is: for the first four decades of India’s independence, the country’s politics was dominated by one single party – the Congress; in the last two decades, the BJP has succeeded in transforming this single-dominant-party polity into a bipolar polity.
To achieve this, since the days of our party’s launching by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji as Jana Sangh, the party’s leadership has been exerting to end the Congress Party’s hegemony in Indian politics. Our initiatives in alliance politics and coalition governments started in the early fifties in Punjab when we had a SAD-JS Government in the State under the leadership of Justice Gurnam Singh. Later, we made a major contribution towards shaking up the Congress Party’s hold in the Hindi States when we helped the formation of SVD Governments in Bihar, U.P. and Madhya Pradesh in 1967. Under Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan’s leadership, the Jana Sangh’s major role in the anti-corruption and anti-emergency crusade of the early seventies was yet another milestone in this effort.
For the Congress the watershed election was 1989. Then on, the BJP just did not look back until it first became the largest party in the Lok Sabha in 1996, and then in 1998 formed the first NDA Government which lasted six years.
Apart from Dr. Mookerji and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, other national leaders who have played a key role in ending the Congress Party’s monopoly of power have been Dr. Lohia, Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan, Shri A.B. Vajpayee, Shri George Fernandes and Shri Madhu Limaye.
This success of the BJP in smashing the monopoly of the Congress party has been responsible for arousing the ambitions of so many bit players – several caste-based parties and several regional parties.
It is my view that while as in 2004, this time L.S. election was an aggregate of the variegated verdicts in the States, a common mood that dominated the voters’ psyche throughout the country in this last election was that the Union Government should not come into the hands of any such bit player. No wonder, it is only two parties, the Congress and the BJP, who have won in the 15th Lok Sabha a tally of seats running into three digits. All other parties are way behind. Bipolarity in national politics has thus been endorsed by the electorate itself in the 2009 mandate.
In the aftermath of the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, two other issues have been raised in public discourse, as also within our party. These are : BJP’s relations with the RSS, and the correct meaning of Hindutva.
Both these issues were debated publicly way back in 1979-1980 while we were still in the Janata Party. Vajpayeeji, Nanaji Deshmukh, Sunder Singh Bhandari, myself and many others like us belonging to the RSS were asked to sever our ties with the RSS if we wanted to continue in the Janata Party. When we declined to do so the Janata Party threw us out of its fold. It was then that on April 6, 1980 the BJP was formed.
We feel really grateful to the Janata Party for taking action against us otherwise we would not have achieved in Indian politics the remarkable success that we have.
For many in the BJP like me, association with the RSS has been a life-changing event. I regard Dr. Hedgewar’s RSS as the noblest mass movement of modern India just as Swami Dayanand’s Arya Samaj and Swami Paramhans’ Ramakrishna Mission were similarly two great cultural movements launched in the nineteenth century.
At our office bearers meeting two days back two eminent Muslim colleagues of ours affirmed their faith in Hindutva but cautioned against any narrow bigoted anti-Muslim interpretation being put on it.
In 1979-80 when this issue of Hindutva was being debated in the Janata Party RSS Chief, Bala Saheb Deoras, addressing the annual Vijaya Dashmi rally at Nagpur observed :
It is said by some that the Sangh is changing and that it has to change further. All living beings do change in their natural course. It is a sign of their evolution. That which does not change is not living, it is dead. But this change does not take place by cutting itself off from the arteries of life-sap. The Sangh too has changed in keeping with the necessities of the times, and will keep changing in future also.
Changes such as emphasising the wider concept of Hindu and Hindu Rashtra and of admitting persons belonging to other faiths into its day-to-day activities are even now taking place. But such changes as these can come about if only the Swayamsevaks feel them to be necessary in the interests of the country.
In this speech, Deoras reiterated the R.S.S.’s rejection of the concept of a theocratic state and asked: “How can a people believing in the dictum Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti (Truth is one, sages call it variously) ever become champions of a State which would uphold the interests of one religion at the cost of others?”
Deoras regretted the tendency to decry use of the word Hindu as if it denoted something narrow and communal. He said that, “the word signifies not any religious sect or geographical confines but symbolises a cultural life-current which has been enriched over centuries due to continuous interactions.” He added : “It is our firm belief that words like Hindu and Bharatiya, Hindu Rashtra and Bharatiya Rashtra, are synonymous.”
Let every Indian citizen, irrespective of the faith to which he belongs, know that BJP’s understanding of Hindutva is fully in accord with the unanimous judgement given by the 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court on December 11, 1995.
Hidden in the demise of the Third Front and the Fourth Front is a big new opportunity for our Party. It is now obvious to every discerning observer of national politics that, in the years to come, genuine and effective opposition to the Congress can develop only around the pole of the BJP. Those whose hatred for the BJP has been stronger than their preference for an alternative to the Congress will either gravitate towards the Congress or become irrelevant in national politics.
The BJP has an opportunity to rally all others around its own pole to build a strong, stable and superior alternative to the Congress. The history of post-Independence politics in India clearly shows that the people want such an alternative.
Three states – Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand – will elect their new Vidhan Sabhas soon. The BJP, along with its allies, must get set to win the people’s mandate in at least two of these three states. I therefore urge my colleagues, both at the Centre and in these states, to begin preparations for the coming Assembly elections in right earnest.
In short, the road ahead places two tasks before us: (a) increase the BJP’s own independent strength, and (b) increase the Party’s coordination with our present allies in the NDA and other non-Congress forces. I have no doubt that our Party can bounce back by addressing both tasks diligently.
In order to let Party cadres know both the opportunities and tasks before us, I have decided to tour the entire country in the months to come. I shall be visiting all the states, and more than one place in some of the bigger states.
Let me conclude my remarks by conveying a summing-up message. True, Elections 2009 did not produce results that we expected. We should not be found wanting in honest introspection. But introspection is different from finger-pointing. Let us treat the outcome of the elections as behoves a mature and highly resilient political party. True, we have to recognize our weaknesses. But let us not lose sight of our enormous strengths ― our nationalist ideology, our army of committed cadres, our battalion of talented leaders and, above all, the support and goodwill of the people for the BJP.
It is not only we who are disappointed, our legion of supporters are equally disappointed that we could not defeat the Congress. The people have high hopes and heightened expectations from the BJP. Let us strive to rise to their expectations.