BJP History : Its Birth and Early Growth
Bharatiya Janata Party is today the most prominent member of the family of organisations known as the “Sangh Parivar”.
And RSS has always been dubbed “communal”, “reactionary” and what not by its detractors. Sanghs of swayamsevaks Founder Ideologue Time-Line have of course always shaken off that criticism like so much water off a duck’s back. They have never had any doubt that the organisation is wedded to national unity, national integrity, national identity and national strength through individual character and national character. And today this organisation is poised for a great leap forward. Even its long- time detractors think and say that now BJP is “unstoppable”. What is the story of this national epic?
History is the philosophy of nations. And the Sangh Parivar has a very clear and candid conception of Indian history. Here was a great civilization whose glory spread from Sri Lanka to Java and Japan and from Tibet and Mangolia to China and Siberia. While it weathered the storms of Huns and Shakas and Greeks it wilted before the Islamic storms of the Turks. However, a 1000-year resistance saw this country bloodied but unbowed. Its civilization survived through the heroic efforts of the Vijayanagar Empire and of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh and countless heroes and martyrs.
In more recent times this torch was picked up by Swami Dayanand and Swami Vivekanada. And in the present century the good work has been carried on by Sri Aurobindo, Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and others. The RSS, founded by Dr Hedgewar in 1925 and consolidated by Shri Guruji after 1940, is the heir to this heroic, historic heritage. It has nothing against Muslim Indians – as distinguished from Muslim invaders. Its position on this issue has all along been: “Justice for all and appeasement of none”. But it has no doubt that we were and are a Hindu nation; that change of faith cannot mean change of nationality.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
The RSS entirely agrees with Gandhiji’s formulations that “There is in Hinduism room enough for Jesus, as there is for Mohammed, Zoroster and Moses” and that “majority of the Muslims of India are converts to that faith from Hinduism through force of circumstances. They are still Hindu in many essential ways and, in a free, prosperous, progressive India, they would find it the most natural thing in the world to revert to their ancient faith and ways of life.”
Due to the British policy of “Divide and Rule” and the politicians’ proclivity to compromise and temporise the country suffered the trauma of the partition. But the Sangh Parivar has no doubt that before very long the unities, the varieties and the strengths of our ancient civilization will prevail. RSS has been continuing the task of nation building since its inception. It did it through the tumultuous period of 1930s and 40s. But it was rudely shaken by Gandhiji’s killing and the Government’s political exploitation of that national tragedy.
The RSS, along with millions of people, did not approve of Gandhiji’s Muslim appeasement policy – starting with support of the Khilafat movement – but it had the greatest respect for the Mahatma. Indeed, Gandhiji had visited the RSS winter camp in Wardha in December 1934 – and addressed the Delhi RSS workers in Bhangi colony, in Spetember 1947. He had deeply appreciated the “noble sentiments” and “astonishing discipline” of the RSS. He had never spoken even one word of criticism of the RSS. But after his killing, 17000 RSS workers – including Shri Guruji – were accused of “conspiracy of murder” the Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS workers offered Satyagraha. But during all this time not one MLA or MP raised the issue in any legislature. For the RSS, it was the moment of truth. And this truth, as enunciated by Gokhale, was that “What cuts deep in politics cuts deep all round” and that unless the RSS grew political teeth and wings, it would always be at the mercy of unscrupulous politicians. This was the context in which Shri Guruji blessed the birth of Bhartiya Jana Sangh under the leadership of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951. And in the very first General Elections the BJS emerged as one of the four nationally recognised parties. The Party has never looked back since then.
The First Decade
The first decade was a period of steady growth organisationally and policy evolution and elaboration ideologically. It took up the issues of territorial integrity like Kashmir, Kutch and Berubari – and in the process suffered the martyrdom of its founder-President Dr Mookerjee in a Kashmir jail. It demanded cow protection as per Article 48 of the Constitution and Gandhiji’s declaration that “Cow protection is more important than even Swarajya”. It came out against Zamindari and Jagirdari. It criticised permit- licence-quota Raj. And it came out for the nuclear option to reinforce national defence. The 1962 China war and 1965 Pakistan war put Sangh Parivar on the center-stage as the conscience of the country. When the RSS Parivar was entrusted with police duties in 1965, and it performed the same to the satisfaction of all-even Muslims began to join Jana Sangh. Shri Guruji was specially invited to the National Integration Council. General Kulwant Singh said at the time: “Punjab is the sword arm of India and RSS is the sword arm of Punjab.”
In all countries, parties associated with the freedom movement enjoy long years of power. So did the Congress – for 20 years. But the 1967 elections ended the Congress monopoly of power. From Punjab to Bengal there were non-Congress coalitions everywhere. As a political wit put it: “You could travel from Amritsar to Calcutta without setting foot in Congress territory.”
In most of the States Jana Sangh and the Communists worked together. They seemed to be guided by the dictum: “We are all children of Bharat mata and we are all products of the 20th century.”
However, this was more than the monopolistic Congress could stand. It used its vast money power and its capacity for intrigue to topple government after state government.
But even so Jana Sangh did not lose heart. Under the leadership of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya it held a tremendous session in Calicut. Here it clarified its language policy of “All encouragement to all Indian languages” to the delight of all linguistic groups. The Mathrubhumi, leading Malayali daily, described the BJS session “the Ganga flowing South.”
However, within days of this historic session Deendayalji was found murdered near Mugalsarai railway station. In good faith the BJS asked for a CBI enquiry. But the way CBI drew blank made it clear that Central Agency has been politicised and that it would never unravel political crime.
Although the murder of Deendayalji was a stunning shock the BJS was too big and too strong to be stopped in its tracks. Under the leadership of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, it enthussiastically joined the movement for the libera- tion of Bangladesh. Its agitation for a higher procurement price for cereals gave the country food sufficiency and food security. Its election manifesto for 1971 was titled “War on Poverty”. The Congress stole that slogan and hindi-ised it into “Garibi hatao” and swept the 1971 and 1972 polls. But once again Jana Sangh was too good and strong to be overwhelmed by the ebb and tide of politics.
In election after by-election Jana Sangh showed its class. It joined hands with Jaya Prakash Narayan on the issue of fighting corruption and autocracy. The BJS was in the vanguard of the people’s movement in Bihar and Gujarat. To the professional detractors of Jana Sangh JP’s categorical response was: “If Jana Sangh is communal then I am also communal.” As the opposition parties won election after by-election, the cry ran through the country: “Sinhasan khali karo, ki janata aati hai”. A scared Mrs. Gandhi declared Emergency, arrested thousands and baned the RSS. But the country survived this agni-pariksha, thanks again to the Sangh parivar, which contributed full 80% of Emergency-time prisoners, both detenus and Satyagrahis.
Mrs. Gandhi was astounded enough to admit in the Chandigarh Session of the Congress in 1975 that “even in places where the RSS was an unknown organisation it has established a firm foothold.” The Economist of London (Dec.4 1970) described the underground movement of the Sangh parivar as “the only non-left revolutionary force in the world.” And even Marxist parliamentary party leader Shri AK Gopalan was moved to say about the Sangh parivar: “There is some lofty idea which is capable of inspiring such deeds of bravery and stamina for sacrifices.”
As a result of this successful resistance Mrs Gandhi’s Congress Party was trounced in the 1977 elections and a Janata party government consisting of BJS, BLD, Cong(O), SOcialists and CFD took office. Here Shri Vajpayee as External Affairs Minister and Shri. L.K Advani as information and broadcasting minister made memorable name. But within thirty months this government went into pieces, thanks to the vaulting ambition of individual leaders. The Janata experiment miserably failed.
In the elections that followed the fall of Charan Singh government, countless crores of foreign money came into play. The Stateman pointed out on Feb.11, 1980 that the Rupee, which normally sold at a discount in the world’s black markets, now began to sell at a premium. As against this official rate of Rs 7.91 to a dollar on January 4 the unofficial rate of Rs 7.20. “Those who keep tabs on money markets attributed this sudden rise in the black market value of the Indian currency to big orders from unknown buyers, believed to include some foreign governments keen to funnel funds into the election coffer of the ideological allies and friends in India”. After the elections, in the very first week of February, 1980, the Indian currency fell even lower than before, to Rs 8 a dolalr to be precise.
While the splintered Janata Party was routed in January 1980, their suicidal “dual memebership” campaign continued. The BJS component found this situation impossible, went out and reorganised itself as BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY. A bright new day had dawned in the chequered history of India.
The very first session of BJP in December 1980 in Bombay, presided over by Shri Vajpayee, was a glorious success. Addressing this session the Grand Old Man of India, Shri M.C. Chagla, said: “I am not a member of the party and I am not addressing you as a delegate. Still I assure you that when I am talking to you I do not feel like an outsider. I honestly and sincerely feel that I am one of you. The BJP is a national party. I admire your discipline, your honesty, and your dedication. This huge gathering is Bombay’s answer to Indira. This is the only party that can replace Indira.”
It was during the Indira Gandhi’s second coming that the country experienced the trauma of Meenakshipuram and the massacre of Nellie.
However, her worst disservice to the country was the propping up of Bhindranwale – till then an obscure granthi – to harass and divide the Akali Dal. To this day the country has not recovered from that play with fire, the latest victim of the same being Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.
No less dangerous was her aiding, abeting, arming, and financing of LTTE which was out to partition a friendly neighbouring state like Sri Lanka.
And when her political son died in an unfortunate and mysterious air accident she promptly put up even her airline pilot son to succeed her and try to pilot the ship of State.
The BJP, while exposing all these sins of ommission and commission, continued to consolidate its organisation and fine-tune its policies. It won election after after corporation election in major cities. The general feeling was that Mrs. Gandhi would not be able to win the next election due early in 1985. And President Zail Singh was heard saying that in that case he would not call her to form the Government. It was at this stage that she was shot dead by enraged Sikhs for having violated the sanctity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. What followed was a titanic tragedy, costing the lives of thousands of Sikhs and their property worth some Rs 10,000 crores. The whole carnage was okayed by the state apparatus, with President Zail Singh himself ringing up the Delhi BJP leaders to please save the lives of their Sikh brethern. The whole gory drama was staged under Mr. Rajiv as PM and Mr. Rao as Home Minister. No wonder nobody was punished for this genocide of innocent Sikhs.
The Rajiv Regime
In the elections that followed the sympathy wave got Mr. Rajiv Gandhi more votes and more seats than even Pandit Nehru in all his three general elections. For a while he appeared as Prince Charming on a White Charger, the ‘Mr. Clean’, out to purge “power brokers”. However, it soon became clear that it is much easier to run an election than to run a country.
He signed an agreement with Shri Longowal of the Akali Dal, but never implemented it. He signed an Assam agreement that left millions of Bangla infiltrators this side of the border. he first welcomed the Supreme Court judgement in the Shah Bano Case and then proceeded to negate it. Having done this “favor” to Muslims he proceeded to organise the unlocking of the Ayodhya structure in a bid to please the Hindus.
He despatched the army to Sri Lanka only to get a bloody nose there.
However, the BJP lost no time in preparing for the next round. It appointed a high power Working Group to study the results of the 1984 elections and recommend remedial action. The Party streamlined its organisation. It re-pledged itself to “Integral Humanism”. It urged early and comprehensive electoral reform. And it highlighted the problem of massive infiltration from Bangladesh. Within two years of Rajiv Gandhi’s coming to office the BJP had slapped on him a 50-count chargesheet. And then came the Bofors scandal.
That a ruling party should make money on Government contracts was bad enough. But that it should make money on Defence deals, compromising national defence was wholly unacceptable to the country. The fat was in the fire.
In the 1989 elections the Janata Dal effected adjustments of seats with the BJP and proceeded to form the Government with outside support from the BJP and the Communists.
From day one Shri VP Singh did not play ball. The BJP had pledged him unconditional support, which was probably a mistake; there is no charity in politics; no free lunch. BJP should have probably made it clear that it should be consulted on all major issues. But Mr VP Singh on his part only added insult to injury. The BJP had made no demand on him whatsoever. But whenever any of his colleagues suggested some gesture to be made to BJP he was heard saying: “I do not have to give them anything; they have no choice.” Evidently the Raja Saheb thought that BJP was his “bonded labour.”
As BJP president Advani was heard remarking at the time: “Mr VP Singh is like an old-style princeling. He is all courtesy and all conspiracy”. He would tell Advani that he himself would join him in Kar-Seva and then issued a temple ordinance only to withdraw it within hurs and have Shri Advani arrested.
Shri VP Singh suddenly came up with the Mandal report, not because his heart was bleeding for the poor but because he thought that, on this issue, he could dissolve the House to go to the polls, collect some 350 seats and rule the country on his own without the bother of consulting anybody on anything. But it was a gamble that failed, because the BJP had already raised the Ayodhya issue. And it had done so early in 1989, not on the basis of any electoral calculation, but on ideological conviction. Historic wrongs had to be righted, however, symbolically, for a lasting solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem.
Sea Change In Political Scene
Shri Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya effected a sea change in the political scene. While Mandal had divided the people, Ayodhya united the people. What violence there was in 1990 came only because the government arrested Shri Advani and the UP Chief Minister fired on Kar-Sevaks. Had they allowed Advani to reach Ayodhya and do symbolic Kar-Seva there would have been no Bandh, no violence, anywhere.
Shri VP Singh thought that BJP had secured 89 seats in 1989 because of seat adjustment with JD, and that was true enough. But he forgot that his JD had also got 143 seats only because of seat adjustment with the BJP. He now thought that in the absence of seat adjustment the BJP would lose scores of seats. Actually the BJP would lose scores of seats. Actually the BJO added 30 seats to its old score and it was the JD that declined to 59 seats. And but for the sudden killing of Mr Rajiv, which won the Congress scores of seats, both the BJP and the Congress would have been around 175 seats. This was particularly remarkable, because on this occasion the BJP had fought all alone. It had emerged as the only major solid pole in a fluid Indian political situation.
In assessing the BJP other parties make a serious mistake. They forget that as a result of our first-past-the-post electoral system, the first party has an undue advantage over No.2 Party. But the BJP, being a solid party and a solid pole, can always survive adverse winds and live to thrive another day. In 1984 the BJP had won only 2 seats, but in terms of vote it was second only to the Congress. Under a system of proportional representation its 7.4% vote would have won it 30-40 seats even in 1984. Therefore its win of 89 seats in 1989 was not all that much of a surprise. Parties like JD, being loose outfits, are in no position to survive serious reverses.
This trend has been confirmed in State Assembly elections. In the 1993 elections the BJP vote and seats declined in HP and MP thanks to strict administrative measures for which public opinion had not been prepared in advance. In UP the party lost its majority due to a gang-up of all other parties against it, but its popular vote went up by almost 30% to 34%. In Rajasthan both our vote and our seats went up. And in Delhi we got a whopping 61.59% and a three-fourths majority. In these five major states put together BJP won a hundred assembly seats and once crore votes more than the Congress.
The results of the 1995 elections in Andhra, Karnataka, Bihar, Orissa, Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra were, if anything, even more remarkable. In Andhra the main fight being between TDP and the Congress the BJP got squeezed to just 3 seats. But in Karnataka BJP won 40 seats, pushing the Congress to the third position. In Goa, for the first time the BJP won 4 seats in a house of 60. In Orissa BJP trebled its modest strength from 3 to 10. In Bihar BJP pushed Congress to the third position and emerged as the official opposition. In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena and the BJP have formed a fine coalition government. And in Gujarat the BJP has won a two-thirds majority. It is trends like these that have convinced even the detractors of BJP that the party is now “unstoppable”.
Conventional wisdom is that the BJP won 89 Lok Sabha seats in 1989 as a result of seat adjustments with JD and 119 seats in 1991 as a result of the Ayodhya issue. The fact is that these were only contributory factors. The BJP’s historic performance in the recent assembly elections, when there was no seat adjustment with other parties and when the Ayodhya issue stood frozen, is confirmation of the fact that basically the BJP is forging ahead because of its excellent organisation, superb leadership and patriotic people’s policies.
When, in 1991, the Congress formed the Government on its own, even though it did not have a majority of its own, the BJP acted very responsibly and helped it have a speaker of its choice, contnt with deputy speakership of the Lok Sabha. Having been all along opposed to a licence-permit-quota Raj it welcomed the policy of liberalization in principle. At long last New Delhi recognised Israel and South Africa, something the BJP had urged for long. BJP also took a far-sighted view of reservations – conceding the same to OBCs on the basis of an economic criterion, which translated itself in the Supreme Court judgement into the “creamy layer”.
BJP state governments enunciated a new education policy; they made copying in exams a congnisable offence; they decentralized the administration; their Antyodaya took care of the poorest of the land; they waived the loans of poor farmers; and they made war on criminal elements and put them in jail.
But before long the double-dealing of the Congress came to surface. They organised defections in JD, SS etc. to give themselves a majority that the country had withheld from them. They kept playing games with Ayodhya resulting in the December 6, 1992 demolition of the disputed structure. While those who welcomed that demolition congratulated the Sangh parivar, and those who didn’t like it condemned the Parivar, the fact is that the Parivar leadership does not know who did it. We all wanted it removed respectfully and through due process of law. What actually happened was no part of our plan. It is, therefore, a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. And now comes the revelation by Shri Arjun Singh in his letter of resignation from the Cabinet that on December 1, 1992, he had sent the PM a copy of a fax message sent by an active Congress worker from Ayodhya, which said: “There is indication that some agent provocateurs from Pakistan have been able to infiltrate into Ayodhya and would try to damage the Babri Masjid if the VHP Kar-sevaks fail in their mission to do the same.” The VHP had no such mission. But the point is, why was this fax message kept out of government’s White Paper on Ayodhya? Obviously the object of Pakistan and its friends and allies was to trigger Hindu-Muslim violence, culminating in the Bombay serial bombing, give India a bad name and slow down the Indian economy. There are reports that on December 6 evening there was a celebration in Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. But additionally the government used the incident as an excuse to dismiss four state governments, dissolve four state assemblies, and arrest top BJP leaders.
Meanwhile, in the name of liberalisation and globalisation foreign banks and unscrupulous speculators were allowed to cheat the country of thousands of crores through the securities scam and the government did not have the decency to accept even the unanimous report of the joint Parliamentary Committee on the subject. Many more thousands of crores have been lost on businessmen who have not returned their loans to nationalised banks. On the other hand even profit-making public sector undertakings are being sold. The result of all this is an unprecedented rise in prices. The BJP has responded with an yearly alternative budget, showing how the growth rate could be accelerated while augmenting employment and holding the price line.
However, potentially even more dangerous is the government’s knuckling under to foreign pressure on issue after issue, compromising our soveriegnty and endangering our very independence.
While the BJP is for liberalisation we find that we have liberalised too little internally and too much externally. Even now we need a licence to start a sugar mill or a shoe factory. And of course the corrupt “Inspector Raj” continues to harass the small-scale manufacturer who is the backbone of Indian Industry. But foreigners have been allowed to come in even with junk foods.
Clear BJP Position
The BJP position is very clear on this issue; Indian Science and technology have come of age, as examplified by our Defence and Research Development Organisation. Therefore, foreign capital is welcome only in capital intensive hightech and infrastructural areas, however, it must come on fair and competitive terms. And because Enron was an opaque, expensive and dubious deal it has been cancelled by the BJP-RSS government in Maharashtra. This has protected national interests and upheld national honor. The new watchword is “Swadeshi”. The world has been told in unmistakable terms that India cannot be taken for granted. The entire thrid world feels good about India standing up.
Vindication of the BJP position comes from no less person than Samual D. Huntington, the US Establishment ideologue. In his article “The Clash of Civilizations” (vide Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Summer 1993) he wrote: “Through the IMF and other international economic institutions, the West promotes its economic interests and imposes on other nations the economic policies it thinks appropriate. In any poll of non-Western peoples the IMF undoubtedly would win the support of finance ministers and a few others, but get an overwhelmingly unfavourable rating from just about everyone else.”
Today, strong foreign pressure, New Delhi’s pussillanimity and nationalist India’s strength are all simultaneously at play in the country. Under foreign presure our missile program has been capped. In its timidity the government has signed an unequal agreement with CNN and the country is being increasingly served cultural garbage. But the people of India represented in the Rajya Sabha have, under the leadership of the BJP, taken a stand on all these issues. They have also prevented an anti-national patent law amendment bill from being passed. And they have acclaimed the cancellation of the Enron deal. They caused the Star-TV’s anti-Gandhi and anti-national program to stop. And they have made the government agree to start and close Parliament session with “Vandematram”. The BJP’s Ekta Yatra under the leadership of Dr Joshi hoisted the national flag in Srinagar on Republic Day in 1992. And the BJP’s Karnatak unit saw to it that the National Flag is duly hoisted on the Hubli public ground, which is used for Namaz on Id-days.
While the Supreme Court faltered on the issue of Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss four BJP governments, it has come out categorically for implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution, directing the adoption of a uniform civil code for all citizens of India. It has denounced the embracing of Islam just to get rid of your wife and/or indulge in bigamy. And it has struck down the ban on the VHP. Today the BJP is poised to take a great leap forward.
Calculators think that the arithmatic does not quite add up to a majority for the BJP. They, however, forget one thing: elections are not arithmatic; they are chemistry. Once it becomes clear that the BJP is poised to forge ahead of all other parties millions of people who have probably never before voted for it will plump for it. Regional parties could make a beeline for it. The UP development where the BJP helped a dalit lady become Chief Minister ‘Ram ne Shabri ko raja banaya’, said a Hindi newspaper headline is a pointer in this direction.
Until now the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor worked in favor of the Congress. Now it works in favor of the BJP. Having tried state elections in 1967, support from inside in 1977, and support from outside in 1989, and found them all wanting, the BJP has, by a philosophical process of elemination – “neti” – come to the conclusion that it would be best to go it alone. The poet’s plea for going it alone (“Aikla Chalo Re”) has literally worked wonders for the BJP.
While the status-quoists may be shaken by this emerging brave new India, the people of India have every reason to cheer the emergence of this rejuvenated India with the promise of Ram Rajya and with Rabindranath Tagore’s prayer for “Eka Dharmarajya hable a Bharate” (Let there be one Dharma Rajya – a just and moral order – in India).