By Arun Srivastava
On April 6, in 1980, the two stalwarts of erstwhile Jana Sangh, Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani established Bharatiya Janata Party with the maxim “the party with a difference” but after 43 years of long journey, the destiny of the party is being shaped yet by two men, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah with the redefined thrust on politics of hatred and divisiveness.
While laying the foundation of the party if the duo stuck to inevitability of ideology, after 43 years it is the element of real politick that dictates the political course. During those years the personality and aura of the two leaders underlined the nature of the functioning of the party, under Modi and Shah the party system is used to create Modi’s image and aura. If Atal and Advani had some strained relations with the RSS, the Modi-Shah combination is committed to carry out its instructions. On its part the RSS fully endorses the policies and actions of Modi.
If Vajpayee and Advani nourished the indigenous talent and promoted the younger leaders, Modi-Shah tried to enrich the party by engineering split in Congress. In today’s BJP these turncoats call the shots and guide the destiny of the party.
During the time of Atal and Advani the party might not have succeeded in acquiring the pan Indian character, but it had managed to have its say in the politics. BJP winning 2 Lok Sabha seats in 1984 cannot be ignored as it has gained against the sympathy wave of assassination of Indira Gandhi. Though the BJP under Modi swept 2014 and 2019Lok Sabha elections, and emerged as the biggest national party, the political realities prevailing at the ground level favoured it. The Congress leadership was primarily responsible for creation of the hostile ambience against itself. No doubt the Rath Yatra of Advani moulded and reshaped it, in the beginning. In no way Modi could be credited with creating a situation which witnessed the waterloo of Congress.
During Modi’s rule the BJP achieved mighty growth. But the nature and content of the growth turns the trajectory suspect, whether this is the band of ideologically committed cadres or a posse of favour seekers, as usually happens in the political set up. An insight into the rise of the members would unravel that most of them flocked to after denied entry into the established political parties in states. Incidentally a big chunk of such members across the country belong to OBCs and EBCs. These people desperately needed a political forum which they could not get in their states. Since the BJP and RSS also badly needed the manpower, they joined the BJP.
Though its growth trajectory of BJP appears to be more effective, much better than the 137 year run of the Congress, the fact also cannot be denied that it has digressed from its political commitment. Even the senior leaders concede that the party faces serious ideological crisis. For new entrants Hindutva is the ideological contour.
During nine years after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, the party has emerged as the biggest political organisation in world, even bigger than the Chinese Communist Party. It has 2.2 crore more members than the CPC. The president of the BJP, J P Nadda recently claimed that it has more than 18 crore members on its live roll. The party has added 7 crore members during last four years. It unravels the compulsion and craze of the new members. The membership has increased by 64 per cent. What should, however, be the PM’s big concern, is that crores of BJP’s ‘new members’ don’t seem to be voting for the party in assembly elections. The party would not have lost Himachal and DMC elections if they had voted for the BJP.
The prime motive for RSS and BJP has been to enroll as much members as they can. It is not for the need to indoctrinate them. Instead to isolate them from the reach of the Congress. The RSS and BJP leaders are scared of the scenario when these people may shift their loyalty and stage a “ghar wapasi” go back to Congress and other parties. Once they become the members of the BJP, it would become somewhat difficult for the Congress to approach them. It is the compulsion to expand its support base that Modi has been systematically harping on “Congress Mukta Bharat”. Since the OBCs and EBCs never enjoyed an equal status in Congress, their anger gets a new orientation through this slogan. This enables them a new alternate identity.
When the BJP started its journey in 1980, it embraced the Gandhian economy, but it failed to give a concrete shape. Modi talks of Gandhi but he favours the crony capitalism rather than the Gandhian ideals of economy. Like RSS, he is completely devoted to monopoly capitalism and in his pursuit he has been furnishing all kind of help to his capitalist friends. The BJP leadership under him has coined a new identity of the party based on a mix of Hindutva and crony capitalism.
BJP’s political ascendance has a strong correlation with the Neoliberalism and globalisation. It is known fact that BJP is a party of neoliberalism.. Since the erstwhile Jana Sangh leaders decided to severe relations with the Janata Party on the issue of dual membership, it was obvious that they wanted to mix their Hindutva politics with the philosophy of neoliberalism. Since the basic tenet of the neoliberalism is against the India’s ethics, it was wrong to believe that the BJP would be a different structure.
Victory of Narendra Modi in the 2014 general elections, was described by some people as the victory of India’s Thatcher moment. Modi had made the Thatcherite rhetoric of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. But soon contradictions and poor understanding of the market blurred the entire economic spectrum and the BJP had to come on back foot.
It is absolutely clear that Modi is focused only on the management of perception rather than actually developing and implementing economic policies that would benefit the people. There is no denying that BJP is caught in the whirlpool of RSS’s flawed ideas and politics. The BJP leadership is least bothered to look at the corrosion of ideology that has infected the party.
The Congress did not lose due to rise of BJP. It’s otherwise. The BJP rose on the ruins of Congress. This correlation has to be analysed in proper perspective. The only BJP leader who could visualise the changing political scenario was L K Advani. But his masonry was quite faulty. He inflicted severe damage to the body politick as well to the cultural and social ethics of the country by pitting Hindus against Muslims and promoting the politics of divisiveness. Modi took the unfinished task of Advani to the ultimate goal of RSS.
The party claiming to be different practiced the worst form of unethical politics. In the 2019 Lok Sabha the people might have given a comfortable mandate, but not better than what Rajiv Gandhi had in 1984 Lok Sabha polls or Indira Gandhi had in 1971 and 1980. It did not succeed in building a strong mass base in states. In most of the states, the BJP leadership managed to install the BJP government either by purchasing the legislators or engineering splits in the Congress. It is significant to watch that in most of the states where BJP rules, the legislators are former Congressmen.
The BJP is different from other parties in the matter of electoral politics. The political parties are not the conglomeration of liberated saints, those who have no lust for power and material gains. But this is also a fact that the parties are not only concerned with the electoral politics and adopt electoral oriented policies. But in the case of BJP, its entire focus has been on electoral gains. Their leaders publically claim of electoral democracy. By this they mean winning election is the manifestation of their being democrat and their commitment to democracy and democratic values.
The BJP-RSS combine has stepped up its overseas activities to energise the Indian diaspora as part of its overall preparations for facing the 2024 parliamentary elections. The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) is playing a pivotal role, as the organisation has registered itself in various countries.
It is quite surprising that the OFBJP has taken the responsibility to educate the people, especially the younger generation about the historical background of Partition and issues related to Hindutva. Nevertheless the primary mission of Modi has been present his image of a world leader. The OFBJP has been assigned the task to implement his directive at the lower level. The task has acquired urgency in view of recent hostility of the foreign countries towards the policies of Modi. His government has been rated quite low at the human rights and hunger indices.
BJP and RSS has been also using the technique to use the diaspora people to convince the native Indians to support Modi. Since they carry weight, the local people won’t refuse their advice. The OFBJP has been carrying out this exercise notwithstanding the fact 77 per cent of the Indian people do not subscribe to the rightist policies and disapprove of rightist politics. It is a dichotomy that a large number of them are supporters of right-wing politics in India.
The diaspora extending support to Modi has also the regional angle. Most of the people settled abroad are Gujarati, and they enjoy considerable clout in the social circle, they work as the pivots for Modi. They prefer to align with the right-wing nationalist ideology back home owing to their “professional and business backgrounds”.
In sharp contrast the Congress never tried to win over this segment and identify with them. Congress governments since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru has been following the policy of having “active disassociation” with the Indian diaspora. The governments in those days were concerned of the brain drain. But Modi treated this section as potential vote bank and used the issues of citizenship and nationalism to penetrate this section.
The stake of RSS is quite high. The three-day annual All-India Representatives Meet of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) decided to open 1 lakh shakhas (branches) by 2025, which will mark 100 years of its foundation. The RSS which has at present has nearly 70,000 sakhas plans to increase its number of shakhas to one lakh and appoint 2,500 new pracharaks in the country. Between 2017 and 2022, 7.25 lakh youths have applied to join the RSS. A majority of them are in the age group of 20 to 35 years and belong to OBC and EBC categories. It has opened sakhas in 40 countries including Middle East. Abrpopad it operates under the name of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS). . The BJP journey is on. The electoral success has made Modi-Shah duo unchallenged in the BJP. But the future scenario will undergo substantial change if the BJP gets defeated in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The 2024 results will indicate the next direction of the world’s largest political party. (IPA Service)