People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

October 31, 2004


Not Much Hope For BJP, But Threat Multiplies

Harkishan Singh Surjeet


VERY soon after the Maharashtra assembly poll results were out, and badly hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party by giving it a severe drubbing once more in a period of only five months, the party thought it fit to dump its national president Venkaiah Naidu (who was a non-entity in any case) and chose L K Advani in his place. By the time we go to press, Advani’s selection for (not election to) this post has been ‘confirmed’ by a hurriedly convened, extended national council meeting in New Delhi. This is the fifth time in about two decades that Advani has been asked to lead the party.


One will note that it is again at a critical juncture that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which remote controls the BJP and a host of other outfits, has put the party’s reins in Advani’s hands. Obviously, the RSS hope is that Advani would be able to take the BJP out of the limbo it currently finds itself in, just as he had done in 1985-90 after becoming the party president for the first time. That was a time when the BJP had reached its nadir and had won only two seats in Lok Sabha, the lowest ever in its history. Thus, to put it figuratively, the hope is that Advani would wave his magic wand once again and resurrect the bed-ridden party.


Incidentally, in his first press conference after becoming BJP president, Advani did admit obliquely that it was the pro-RSS elements who split the Janata Party in 1979. In its October 31 issue, a front-page write-up in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser also says the same thing: “Later, on the issue of dual membership, the BJP was formed, after parting ways with the Janata Party.” This is the first official admission of the RSS role in splitting the Janata Party.




THE frustration that has gripped the BJP is perfectly understandable. Not very long ago, in fact till the second week of May this year, the BJP was over-optimistic that it would come back to power once again. However, all its hopes were dashed to the ground and the party could not even emerge the largest single party so that it could get a chance to stake claim for government formation. But, more importantly, the party failed to come to terms with what the people of this country had done to it --- as was evident from its behaviour in the new Lok Sabha where it simply refused to act like a responsible opposition. Instead of gracefully accepting the role of a democratic opposition, the party went on refusing to acknowledge people’s mandate, though this was not surprising for a party dominated by the fascistic RSS.   


It was in such a situation that all the BJP’s hopes of a revival got pivoted on the Maharashtra assembly polls. The BJP was expectant that in that state, in alliance with the extreme right-wing Shiv Sena, it would be able to benefit from what has often been called the anti-incumbency factor. However, this was precisely what did not happen. To be matter of fact, the anti-incumbency factor did cause some harm to the ruling Congress-NCP alliance, but not to the extent the BJP-Shiv Sena combine had expected it would do. In the end, what happened was that all the BJP moves to influence the outcome came a cropper. The party failed to give the Savarkar debate an emotional turn so as to capitalise on it. Nor could a figure like Ms Uma Bharti sway the people by her communal appeals even though she had just ended her so-called Tiranga Yatra with the aim of inciting base passions in the name of the nation’s glory. Only weeks before the state went to assembly polls, the saffron brigade tried to rouse the communal passions once again by attacking the Afzal Khan grave, but that too failed to cut any ice with the people.


The Maharashtra results did show that the drubbing the BJP and allies received in the Lok Sabha polls 2004 was no aberration of any kind.




BUT this also meant that the BJP has no chance of winning the current round of matches at least. The BJP has absolutely no chance in the states that are to go to assembly polls in only four months time, i e in Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. If anything, it is all set to get a thorough beating in Jharkhand where its excessively corrupt and anti-people state government has mismanaged things like never before. While the BJP has very poor following in Bihar after the state’s bifurcation, in Haryana it will be pitted not only against the Congress but also against the INLD, its former ally, which is itself all set to lose. As for West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and some other states that are scheduled to go to polls subsequently, the less said for the BJP, the better. It was not for nothing that the BJP had pinned so much hope on the Maharashtra assembly polls. But that also means that the party’s defeat in that state has ended its prospects for revival --- at least in the near future.     


This is the reason that the desperation that had gripped the BJP in the last five months has now assumed the proportions of hopeless frustration. Today, the party is neither dressed up nor has any place at all to go. It is in such a hopeless situation that the RSS has resurrected Advani as the BJP president, with the Organiser dubbing him as the “BJP’s lucky bet.” The fact, however, remains that it is not a question of this or that person being the BJP’s lucky bet. The real thing is that the whole of the Sangh Parivar sees no chance for themselves unless they run an out and out communal campaign and polarise the masses of this country on communal lines. To them, and also to the world at large, Advani symbolises such a communal plank better than anybody else.


The presence of Advani at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on the Vijayadashmi day and his confabulations with RSS chief K S Sudarshan indicate that Advani’s appointment as BJP president had the full backing from the RSS. 



THIS development within the BJP has two aspects that are, to an extent, interrelated. One of the aspects is whether Advani, a self-declared Iron Man, would at all be able to infuse a new life into the BJP. But, more important than that, the main thing to consider is as to what grievous losses the BJP under Advani, in conjunction with other Sangh Parivar outfits, can cause to the nation’s secular and democratic body politic and to our whole collective life. 


As for Advani’s potential of rejuvenating the BJP, the prospects are not very bright. No matter what the Sangh Parivar organs and leaders claim, the fact is that the BJP has exhausted all its options one by one. In the last 24 years of its existence as BJP, the party adopted “Gandhian socialism,” “integral humanism,” “cultural nationalism” and some other slogans one by one, but all of them failed to click. Finally, the party saw no other option but to rope in some regional parties in order to grab power at the centre. It is another thing that this project could succeed only because the Rao government’s misdemeanours and policies had alienated large sections of the population from the Congress, because the United Front experiment failed to provide a viable alternative to the Congress, and also because the Congress failed to realise that the age of coalition politics had started and would stay on for some time. The BJP realised this truth earlier than the Congress and benefited from it, while for years the Congress kept harbouring the illusion that it was capable of coming back to power on its own. In fact the Congress could come back to power only after it gave up the said illusion. 


Yet, the hard fact remains that, compared to its 182 Lok Sabha seats in 1998, the BJP could not gain a single more seat in the 1999 polls, though the tallies of its allies did improve. Moreover, on both the occasions they could form a government only with the outside support from the TDP.


But, then, the six years long misrule by the BJP and allies only alienated the masses and they had had to beat an ignominious exit. This once again underlined the fact that holding on to a coalition is, in itself, no guarantee of a party’s survival in power; what matters in the end is as to what policies a ruling party or coalition pursues and in whose interest. This has a lesson for the present ruling combine also.




BE that as it may, the BJP’s stint as the leader of the NDA-in-power has itself been of a dubious character. As is known far and wide, the BJP had had to promise its allies that it would not raise the three contentious issues, i e temple construction, article 370 and common civil code, and these issues were not included in the so-called National Agenda for Governance issued by the NDA. But the fact is that the BJP never gave up these issues and several BJP leaders are on record saying that they had only postponed these issues till the time they got a majority of their own. Moreover, even if the BJP refrained from raising these issues, other outfits of the Parivar continued to raise them; for example, the VHP always tried to bring the Ayodhya cauldron to a boil and the RSS suggested formulas for a trifurcation and tetrafurcation of Jammu & Kashmir.


At the same time, the de facto BJP government at the centre presided over the killing of a large number of Christians in various parts of the country and of more than 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat. The conduct of the Modi government in Gujarat and of the Rajnath Singh government during a communal riot in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) demonstrated beyond doubt how the BJP’s state governments could go to any length in order to protect the Parivar’s killer gangs.  


Ironically, however, the Vajpayee government at the centre drew no less flak from some outfits of the Sangh Parivar itself, more notably and more notoriously from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. If the BJP kept talking of “compulsions of the realpolitik,” which in effect meant pursuing the communal agenda in a somewhat restrained manner, these outfits were not satisfied, as they wanted the Vajpayee government to stridently and nakedly pursue their agenda. VHP leaders like Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia and others kept baying for Vajpayee’s blood. On the other hand, quite recently, Balraj Madhok of the so-called Jansangh even asked that the RSS must dump the BJP and adopt his outfit as its political wing. 




IT was thus the Sangh Parivar’s internal struggle on this issue that culminated in the slogan of going “back to the basics,” that crystallised in the BJP’s post-defeat chintan baithak in Goa and then in the “Tasks Ahead” document of its national executive meeting in Mumbai. Advani’s anointment as the BJP president in fact symbolises this very process of going back to the basics; it is another thing that, as said earlier, the BJP had never deviated from its basics --- in the first place. 


Thus the fact is that, after having tried all other options, the BJP has nothing to fall back upon except its old, discredited communal plank.


As for the success of this strategy, even if the people of this country had had any illusions about the BJP being a party of principles, a party with a difference, all those illusions have been dispelled and the people, who have experienced the dance of death in various parts of the country because of the Sangh Parivar’s venomous communal campaign, are not likely to give the party one more chance to play with the country’s present and future. This is what many media commentators have noted in an unambiguous manner. For example, Nina Vyas writes in The Hindu (October 25) that “what the BJP has not yet come to terms with is the fact that the Hindutva it had espoused during the years leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 stands thoroughly exposed.” Then, only a few lines later, she is even more explicit, saying the BJP has failed to “understand that no matter what name it calls it by, Hindutva will not fetch it votes; it did not, except in the last Gujarat assembly elections which were held following a bloodbath.”


But precisely this indicates the threats that may arise in future. If the BJP can come to power only in the background of a bloodbath, so as to effect a polarisation of the people on communal lines, then the possibility is that it may not shirk from causing a bloodbath in whichever part of the country it can. And with the hundred days of bloodshed and mayhem in the wake of his rathyatra in 1990, Advani symbolises this very danger once again.


But this also underlines the need for the people to intensify their vigilance manifold so that whenever the fratricidal forces raise their heads, their game is foiled and they are given a ruthless rebuff. Further, this devolves a grave responsibility upon the union government and also upon the state governments led by secular parties and combinations, and all these governments have to ensure that untoward communal incidents do not take place in their respective areas, no outfit is able to incite base passions on whatever pretext, and the moves to incite fratricidal wars are nipped in the bud. Any carelessness in this respect can only compromise the secular credentials of these governments --- to the delight of the communal outfits.