Indian Express
New Delhi, 27 July 1995
‘One country, one people’
13. Secret of BJP’s success
K.R. Malkani

Only a year ago when the BJP did not get as many seats in UP, MP and Himachal Pradesh as expected, many people thought that the party had passed its peak. Not many of them paused to consider that even in its reduced state the party had polled one crore votes more - and won a hundred seats more - than the Congress. And so now the same people find that the party has not only peaked higher than ever before, it is poised to attain even bigger heights.

Today the BJP is not only in power in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, it is the main Opposition in Karnataka and Bihar where it has pushed the Congress to the third position. Its masterstroke in UP has not only toppled its sworn enemy in that biggest of States, its support for a Dalit woman as Chief Minister has at once endeared it to millions of Dalits and millions of women voters. The Hindi Press has said: “Rama has appointed Shabari as king.”

In this situation all other parties view the BJP as the first party in the country. Frantic efforts are being made to checkmate this meteoric rise of the BJP. As a Janata Dal MP put it humorously: “The party of Rama is the only party standing firmly on its two feet; all other parties are there on Ram Bharosey.” Even Mr. Nripen Chakravarty, former Marxist Chief Minister of Tripura, has said that the next election will be won by the BJP.

What is the reason for this steady rise of the BJP? Two of the more popular theories are that alliance with Mr. V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal in 1989 helped the party to jump from two seat to 89 - and that the Ayodhya issue helped the party in 1991 to further increase its strength from 89 to 119. These theories are at best half-truths.

It should not be forgotten that in 1977, the BJP had won almost a hundred seats. Although in 1984 it got a pathetic two seats - thanks to the sympathy wave in favour of Rajiv Gandhi - its popular vote of more than seven percentage points put it ahead of all other opposition parties. Under a system of proportional representation this would have got it something like 40 seats.

It is true enough that adjustment with the Janata Dal over the Bofors issue, etc. helped the BJP in 1989; but it is no less true that adjustment with the BJP helped JD to form the Government. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. As for the Ayodhya issue, the BJP took it up early in 1989 out of innate conviction and not on electoral calculation. The issue did help the party in 1991 - particularly in UP. But even this was due more to the excesses of the then UP Government which had shocked the masses than to the espousal of the Ayodhya issue as such.

However, Ayodhya was not much of an issue in the recent elections in Bihar and Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and yet the BJP performed there very well. Serious students of public affairs, therefore, will have to look deeper for the basic causes of the rise of the BJP than Bofors or Ayodhya. These reasons go deep into political philosophy.

Today the BJP is the only Indian party that has a philosophy, the philosophy of nationalism - the philosophy of commitment to “Our Country and Our People”. There was a time when the Congress had a philosophy; it was Gandhism before 1947 and Nehruism after 1947. Today the Congress is neither Gandhian nor Nehruite; it is IMF-World Bankite. And this is not going to cut any ice with the Indian people.

The communists also had a philosophy once. But with the collapse of communism all over the world, it has fallen flat on its face. Had the communists Indianised Marxist theory - as Mao Sinoized it in China and Ho Chi Minh nationalised it in Vietnam - they could have had some hope. But having failed to do that, they do not have any credible ideology to move the masses.

The Janata Dal in its many splinters also has a philosophy; but it is a philosophy of one set of castes against another. It is not a philosophy that can inspire or elevate; it can only divide, irritate and alienate. It is, therefore, not a ‘philosophy’ - which word, literally and etymologically, means, ‘love of wisdom’ - but something of an anti-philosophy.

It will be argued that if the JD pits castes against castes, does not BJP pit community against community? The answer would be - yes and no. There is no doubt that some people in the sangh parivar are allergic to Muslims. Apart from the baggage of history -which we all carry in varying degrees - the main reason for this was the Muslim demand for the partition of India. The RSS had been in existence since 1925, but not even one in a thousand Hindus had heard of it, until after the League passed the Partition Resolution in March 1940. It was a case of action and reaction being equal and opposite. As and when India-Pakistan problems are sorted out - and a BJP Government can certainly sort them out better and sooner than any other Government - the Hindu-Muslim problem also will no doubt sort itself out.

Also nobody need be allergic to Hindutva. Every society has to have a cement, a glue, an identity that will hold it together. China finds it in the ‘Han race’. Russia finds it in the ‘Slav race’. Britain finds it in the ‘Church of England’. The US finds it in the ‘market economy’. India is held together by our culture - call it Hindu, Indian, Bharatiya or whatever. It is this cultural commonality that keeps Assam and Gujarat and Punjab and Tamil Nadu together in one State.

To emphasise Hindutva is to emphasise this national commonality for national unity. To see it as ‘Hindu’ challenge to ‘Muslims’ is a recent and passing phenomenon. Sir Syed Ahmed of Aligarh education movement fame proudly called himself ‘Hindu’. And so did a Muslim leader like M.C. Chagla, a Christian leader like Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur and a Parsi leader like A.D. Gorwala. Even the Jamaat-i-Islami organ Radiance wrote on March 1, 1970: “Muslims can quite reasonably claim to be Hindus in the geographical sense.” And Iqbal himself hailed Rama as the Prophet of Hindustan when he wrote: “Hai Ram ke wujud pe Hindustan ko naaz / Ahl-e-watan samajhte hein usse, Imam-e-Hind.”

It must be clearly understood that whatever the differentiation, Hindus and Muslims are One People, One Nation. The solution to their problems lies in an elaboration and implementation of the ideology of nationalism - and not in communalism, casteism or classism. Once this allergy to Hindutva is over, what is dubbed today as ‘Hindu nationalism’ will be seen as nationalism pure and simple. All BJP programmes - whether it is support to Swadeshi and Swabhasha, missile defence and food security, full employment and small-scale industry, or opposition to exploitation masquerading as ‘liberalisation’, and neo-colonialism masquerading as ‘globalisation’ - are meant to protect and promote the interest of the whole country and of all our people. Herein lies the strength of the BJP’s appeal. It is this foundation of nationalism that has made BJP unstoppable.

As the French historian Ameury de Reincourt has noted in his The Soul of India: “Like every old civilisation still represented on this globe, India has been, and is, increasingly, in spite of appearances, returning to its original sources.” It is, he said, “from the depths of that old civilisation that India is most likely to draw the strength needed to adapt itself to the modern world.” And he added: “Indian masses will give their heartfelt allegiance to that party and ideology that appears to be a true emanation, more or less modernised no doubt, of some aspect or other of timeless Hinduism.” It was “Gandhism yesterday” and, he said, it can only be the “redoubtable RSS” tomorrow.

That is the reality of the Indian situation today - and the secret of the BJP’s strength.

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