People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 35

August 30, 2009

 

The Crisis in the BJP

 

Prakash Karat

 

 

THE crisis which has engulfed the BJP and the squabbles within the highest echelons of the party are causing consternation amongst its supporters and jubilation among its opponents. What exactly is the nature and the cause of the crisis afflicting the party? The commonly held view is that the party is witnessing an intense fight over leadership issues. Individual leaders and their supporters are jockeying for positions and their differences emanate from this rivalry for leadership. This may be so. After the Lok Sabha elections, there were barely concealed differences on who should become the leader of the party in the two houses of parliament. It is also common knowledge that there are contending forces at work as to who should become the next president of the party.

 

But this does not explain the cause of the crisis and only focuses on the symptoms of the problem. The BJP is a party shepherded by the RSS. It has always settled such leadership questions with the help of the RSS whose writ runs on such key matters. The question to be asked is why at this specific time the squabbles and differences have spilt over threatening the cohesion of the party and its organisation.

 

The crisis within the BJP has come in the background of the comprehensive defeat it suffered in the Lok Sabha elections. It is not just a question of having lost the elections and failing to form a government. The party has lost support all over the country. Out of the 28 states, the party's vote percentage has declined in 26 compared to the 2004 elections.

 

The BJP had asserted during the elections that it will adhere to the core Hindutva platform. It sought to assure the RSS that it will not dilute the Hindutva ideology. It even dispensed with a common programme for the National Democratic Alliance due to this.  It was the rejection of such a platform by the electorate that has precipitated the crisis which has been brewing for some time. If the BJP had been successful in the elections Advani would have become the prime minister, the fissures in the party healed and no questions would have been asked about the efficacy of the Hindutva recipe. But this was not be. 

 

The expulsion of Jaswant Singh from the party for writing a book on Jinnah and the partition exemplifies the confusion and disarray in the BJP. The Sangh combine has always held the Congress leadership guilty for the partition of India. In fact, this has been the staple of RSS propaganda since 1947. The "vivisection of the motherland" was blamed on the Congress leadership who were accused of betraying the country. The role of Hindu communalists in strengthening the demand for a separate State for the Muslims was conveniently ignored. The Communist Party in contrast had stated that partition was the result of a compromise struck between British imperialism and the leaders of the two major bourgeois parties -- the Congress and the Muslim League. As a result the country was partitioned and India and Pakistan came into being as independent states under the leadership of their respective bourgeois-landlord classes.

 

Casting the Congress leadership and Nehru in particular as villains of the piece fits into the Hindutva mythology. Any objective appraisal of Jinnah or for that matter of Sardar Patel in the events leading upto partition is something anathema to the Sangh combine.

 

The ban imposed on Jaswant Singh's book by the Gujarat government has only exposed the BJP to ridicule. It comes in the wake of the intolerance shown by the Hindutva forces to all works of history and creative arts which go against their narrow sectarian outlook.

 

To get back to the question as to the cause of the crisis afflicting the BJP, at the heart of the conflict now spreading within the party is the issue of what should be the character and role of the party. The established view is that the BJP is anchored on Hindutva and espouses "cultural nationalism". This is a reflection of the fact that it is the political instrument of the RSS. The RSS maintains the fiction that it is a cultural organisation that allows its cadres to work in the political party i.e. the BJP.

 

The BJP has been wrestling with the contradiction with which it has been faced in the last few years. The success of the BJP in the 1998 and 1999 elections, underlined the fact that by only broad-basing its appeal and getting on board parties who do not share its sectarian ideology, can it advance. The defeat in the 2004 elections confirmed that only by broadening its appeal and transcending the narrow Hindutva framework can it come to power.  The BJP had attempted to provide this broad façade by enlisting allies in the NDA while reiterating that it stood by its core Hindutva platform.

 

But the adherence to Hindutva and the pursuit of communal politics militates against broadening its platform and widening its alliance. Without Hindutva, the BJP has no identity since its economic and foreign policies are no different from that of the Congress.

 

The defeat in 2004 brought this contradiction sharply to the fore. The convulsions within the party that occured were a result of the efforts to tackle this contradiction. The resignation of Advani from the presidentship of the party after the Jinnah episode and the growing notes of dissent, expulsions or desertions whether it be of Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh et al were symptoms of the growing disarray.

 

Notwithstanding L K Advani's efforts to broaden the NDA and strike a posture which would appeal to wider sections of the people as the future prime ministerial candidate of the party, time and again he had to fall back on the explicit communal agenda of the RSS-BJP combine. This was seen from his initial reaction to the Malegaon blast case when he made the statement that if any persons of the Sangh outfits are involved, they should be brought to book, which was subsequently changed to stridently condemning the effort to implicate Hindu religious figures. The same vacillation was seen regarding the virulent speeches of Varun Gandhi.

 

The second successive defeat in the 2009 election has aggravated the situation. The BJP is at the crossroads. It cannot break from the RSS and become an ordinary rightwing party as Jaswant Singh wants it to be. It will find it easier to fall back into the comforting grip of the RSS as Arun Shourie wants it to. But it will have to pay the price in the long run of remaining an avowedly communal and sectarian party. Given the DNA of the BJP it will inevitably adopt the latter course.

 

Whatever election analysis the party may have made at its ‘Chintan Baithak’ amidst the ruins of its electoral ambitions, one thing would not have escaped its notice. Karnataka is the only state (apart from Himachal Pradesh) where its vote percentage increased. Earlier it had succeeded in forming its own state government there after the assembly elections. This was accomplished after more than two decades of continuous work by the RSS and its outfits in fomenting communal tensions, riots and creating communal polarisation. Without this groundwork, the BJP could not have succeeded in emerging as such a big force, its first success in a south Indian state. No amount of intellectual sophistry by the Hindutva ideologues and fellow travellers can mask this reality.

 

The current tussle in the BJP leadership is bound to result in a temporary setback. But a remoulded BJP made to order on RSS prescriptions does not augur well for the country. The task of combating the Hindutva communal ideology and politics continues to be relevant and necessary.