Shri Nitin Gadkari, the newly elected President of the BJP, other senior leaders, and esteemed members of the National Council,
This has truly been a landmark session in the history of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In the last quarter of the year 2009, in my discussions with my colleagues both in the party and the parivar I had assured them that I would see to it that by early 2010, a smooth generational transition takes place in both the Parliamentary wing as well as the organizational wing of the BJP.
The Parliamentary change over was completed in December 2009 itself. I feel satisfied that with this session, even at the organizational level, the new Party President also has taken over.
In electing Shri Nitin Gadkari as our new President, we have demonstrated our commitment to many cardinal principles that set us apart from other political parties. What are these principles?
Firstly, that the BJP has a lot of what can be called Leadership Depth. Shri Nitinji belongs to what is generally regarded as the Third Generation of leadership within the Party. His team, I am sure, will feature several persons from the fourth generation of leadership. Simultaneously, the Party is spotting and grooming the most promising activists and leaders who are younger still.
This tradition of creating Leadership Depth has been an integral part of the BJP and even the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Even when Shri Atalji and I were leading the Party, we took conscious steps to encourage younger and promising leaders to come up. Indeed, many of them have proved themselves to be outstanding leaders with nationwide reputation.
Atalji, I and people of my generation were similarly encouraged by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, who was an organizer par excellence. And I recall what Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had said about Deendayalji at the party’s first national conference in Kanpur in January 1953. I was attending this session as a 26-year-old delegate from Rajasthan. It was in Kanpur that Dr Mookerjee made Deendayalji, who was only 37 years old, the party’s all-India General Secretary. Indeed, he was so impressed with his trusted lieutenant that he remarked, “If I could get two or three more Deendayals, I will change the entire political map of India.”
Thus, the BJP is the only party in the country that is building itself with a long term vision that transcends, and is independent of, personalities.
The second distinguishing principle is that, although all of us belong to the BJP Parivar, we have no parivarvaad, no dynasty, when it comes to choosing our President and our leadership. It is unfortunate most political parties in India have become victims of dynastic rule, with the Congress leading the way. We are truly proud of being different, because in being so, we serve a very important tenet of democracy ― namely, that all are born equal. The Congress believes in the Orwellian theory that “All are born equal, but some are more equal than the others.”
The third distinguishing feature, which is related to the second, is that the leadership principle in the BJP rests on a person’s Karma, and not his or her Janma. Long before Shri Nitinji was chosen to lead the Party, he had made a name for himself as one of the ablest ministers in the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government in Maharashtra in the late 1990s. In five short years, he performed so outstandingly as the state’s PWD minister, with futuristic projects in highway and expressway construction, that his work, especially the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, began to be talked about all over the country.
I recall that when the NDA government at the Centre decided to embark on the ambitious National Highway Development Project, Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee called Shri Nitin ji to tell him and other senior ministers how he built the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in a timebound and cost-effective way. Shri Nitinji, therefore, has been a pioneer. Whenever he would come to meet me, he would discuss less about politics and more about development ― how sugar factories can generate power; how fly ash, a waste byproduct in coal mines, can be used in road construction; how CPWD can build better government buildings, and so on. In fact, because of his successful stint as a PWD Minister in Maharashtra, Shri Nitin Gadkari was once asked to head a committee at the Centre to suggest how CPWD could be reformed.
In short, in electing Shri Nitin ji as our new president, the BJP has proved its commitment to development-focused politics and governance.
When some people ask me, “How can you say that the BJP is a party with a difference?” I’ll say, “THIS is why ours is a party with a difference.”
I give my best wishes to Shri Nitin ji and express full confidence that he will succeed in the new task that Party has entrusted to him.
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This is the first National Council meeting after the parliamentary elections in 2009. We were naturally disappointed that our party failed to win the people’s mandate. But we have taken the defeat in our stride, as behoves a mature party. We have drawn the right lessons from this setback, and we will apply these lessons and forge ahead. The first lesson, of course, is that there is no need for despair or despondency. Winning and losing is a part of democracy. Throughout the history of the BJP and, earlier the Jana Sangh, we have always believed that the right response to electoral setback is not to get disheartened; rather, it is to analyse the causes for the defeat and take corrective action earnestly. This is what the BJP has done post the Lok Sabha elections.
In my view, no factor hurt us more in the last parliamentary elections than the public image that the BJP was not a united house. Not only the people at large, but even our own supporters were disillusioned. There was a time when unity and discipline were among the greatest strengths of our party. We have to regain this traditional strength.
I am happy to note that a new and positive phase in party’s life has begun under the youthful leadership of Shri Nitin Gadkari. He was absolutely right in saying that individual ambitions must always be subservient to the party’s goals and party’s decisions.
In addition to rebuilding unity and cohesion within the party, we have to attend to three crucial tasks in order to emerge as a serious contender in the next parliamentary elections. Firstly, our geographical and social base has to expand. Stagnation in some states, partial erosion in certain traditional strongholds, and virtual absence in some big states has served as a severe constraint on our political strategy. This constraint has to be overcome. Secondly, we must further develop our alliance-building and alliance-management capabilities. Thirdly, the people must know that we are superior to the Congress in providing good governance, promoting clean politics, and accelerating pro-poor development.
The last point is important. It means that the performance of our state governments is of critical importance. On the whole, BJP-led state governments or governments in which the BJP is a coalition partner, have performed far better than others. Gujarat, of course, is an outstanding success story. But even other state governments deserve kudos. For example, I was very happy to know that the government of Madhya Pradesh has won the highest number of national awards for E-Governance. Bihar, where Vidhan Sabha elections are due later this year, is another example of the BJP, along with its coalition partner JD(U), having performed well against all odds. It is the responsibility of the entire party to publicise the good work being done by the individual state governments.
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The 2009 verdict in favour of the UPA government was by no means a positive mandate for its performance in the previous five years. Indeed, most people in the Congress and UPA were themselves surprised by the poll outcome. Looking back, it is clear that the people’s concern for political stability, coupled with their disillusionment with the goings on in the BJP, overshadowed their general disappointment with the UPA government’s performance. This is why the government could get a renewed mandate.
But did the UPA government deserve the renewed mandate? The answer is loud and clear in its dismal performance in the nine months of its second term. If elections were held today, price rise alone would ensure the rout of the Congress. Corruption in the government is one of the main reasons for the price rise. The other reason is total mismanagement of the production and distribution of the essential commodities. It seems that the government has lost the will and the capacity to control prices. All that we are seeing is constituents of the ruling coalition blaming one another for the fiasco.
The government’s handling of the threats to India’s internal security also is a matter of deep concern. There is total lack of clarity, made worse by a lack of unity in the Congress party and the government, on the policy to be adopted towards Pakistan. Talks for the sake of talks, or talks at any cost, cannot be policy. When the government of General Musharraf described terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir as “freedom struggle”, the Vajpayee government chose to break the dialogue at Agra. We resumed the dialogue only when Pakistan agreed, for the first time in a written statement, to stop terrorist groups acting against India from Pakistani or Pak-controlled territory. This was a big diplomatic victory for India.
In contrast, the UPA government has agreed to resume dialogue with Pakistan even though the latter has fulfilled none of its obligations. It has not even been cooperating in the investigations into the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, carried out by Pak-based terrorist organizations. And now comes the deadly terrorist strike in Pune, which has all the fingerprints of similar Pak-based terrorist groups. The Prime Minister owes an explanation to Parliament on (a) how his government plans to deal with Pakistan; and (b) what it is planning to do in Jammu & Kashmir
No BJP worker can forget that in 1953, the constitutional position in J & K, was:
1. The National Tricolour was not permitted in the State.
2. India’s Rashtrapati had no authority over the State; its constitutional Head was Sadar-e-Riyasat.
3. The Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over the State; all legal issues relating to its citizens were finally disposed off by the J & K High Court.
4. Neither the Election Commission nor the Comptroller and Auditor General had any jurisdiction over the affairs of the State.
5. No Indian citizen could enter the State without a formal permit.
Our Party’s first National Movement was launched by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji at our All India Session at Kanpur in 1953. Dr. Mookerji personally led this movement by defying the Permit System. Tens of thousands of party activists from all parts of the country followed suit. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji was not only arrested and put under detention without trial; he died in June 1953 in mysterious circumstances. Mookerji’s supreme sacrifice brought about a radical change in the J & K scene. Except for the fact that Art. 370 is still formally part of the Indian Constitution, all the above mentioned distortions in the J & K State have been removed. The country has been eagerly looking forward to seeing that Art. 370 also is formally scrapped and J & K State is fully integrated with India as are the other States.
As has been explained in detail in the party’s resolution yesterday on “National Security and Jammu and Kashmir” we are shocked to gather that the Congress Government today is seriously toying with the idea of reversing the clock back, and restoring the pre-1953 position.
At this concluding session of our Indore conclave I wish to warn New Delhi that if there is any move in that direction, the Government of India would be inviting the biggest political confrontation free India has seen, and the BJP will spare no sacrifice to thwart New Delhi’s unholy intentions.
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Striking a personal note, let me mention that for me, it is very significant that the venue of this important National Council session of the BJP is Indore.
Not many may be aware that the first place in my life that I visited outside Sind, the area of my birth, was Indore. That was in 1943 just a year after I joined the RSS and
when I was just sixteen years old. My visit to Indore was for a RSS Training Camp ( described as an O.T.C.) For me this 67- year long journey from Indore to Indore has been really breath taking and exhilarating.
It is during this period we have witnessed a virtual revolution taking place in 1989 both on the global level as well on the national level.
The crumbling of the Berlin Wall led to the disintegration of the Marxist empire and in India Ayodhya movement smashed the Congress’s hegemony in national politics and transformed India into a bipolar polity.
I recall that on the day I quit my office as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and handed over this responsibility to my very able colleague Smt. Sushma Swaraj, a New Delhi daily headlined that morning’s news; Rathyatri to step down from his Rath today.
My reaction was : Literally, my Rath Yatra may have commenced at Somnath only in 1990 and that ended at Samastipur about a month later. But my real yatra, a patriotic yatra began in 1942- 43 with the RSS, is still continuing, and will continue.