BJP National Executive which was scheduled to hold its meeting in Jaipur had to change the venue to New Delhi (1-2 June 2008) because of the recent Gurjar protests. I just went through the text of Rajnath Singh’s speech on the occasion and it is a message to the party to start preparing for the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Fresh from its impressive victory in Karnataka, Rajnath Singh starts off by congratulation party cadres on the achievement and exudes confidence that the trend will be repeated in other South Indian states.
The blossoming of the Ã¢â‚¬ËœLotusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in Karnataka is a message of the blossoming of lotus in South India, the long term impact of which will be visible in the years to come. [Rajnath Singh, New Delhi, 1st June 2008]
I am not sure how to read this statement but in the latest by-elections in Telangana that came just after Karnataka polls, BJP was relegated to an also-ran behind TRS, Congress and TDP. There is no chance of BJP doing remotely well on its own in Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh in the near future. I understand that Rajnath’s message is for the party cadres but this is just false hope.
Our winning streak over the last two years in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Himachal and now in Karnataka will not halt. I am confident that in November 2008, with the support of the people, we will hoist the flag of victory in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh. Thereafter, in the elections that will take place in March-April 2009, the NDA will form the government at the centre and the people of the country will hand over the reins of the country to our beloved leader Shri Lal Krishna Advaniji by giving the responsibility of Prime Ministership to him. [Rajnath Singh, New Delhi, 1st June 2008]
The only trend that is hard to beat in India is anti-incumbency vote. Congress paid the cost in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Gujarat bucked the trend because of goodÃ‚Â governance (and a credible alternative) as did Sheila Dikshit in Delhi in the last assembly elections. Similarly BJP will find it difficult to defend Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. Sans Uma Bharti who led the party to victory in the last elections and was then unceremoniously removed has formed her own regional party now. While she doesn’t have the organization strength to win seats, she definitely can playÃ‚Â spoilt-sportÃ‚Â for BJP. Combined with anti-incumbency factor, it will be an uphill climb for BJP in Madhya Pradesh.Ã‚Â Vasundhara Raje, the chief-minister ofÃ‚Â Rajasthan, faces a messy Gurjar issue which is turning into a lose-lose situation for her. Chhattisgarh has seen some of the worst Naxal violence in recent years and the response of the state government has been to set up private militias called Selva Judum! CM Raman Singh is not exactly known for his government’s performance and winning the elections in November will not be easy.
Then their is the curious case of projecting LK Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate for NDA. I am not sure if the existing allies of BJP and those who have left NDA would be open to the idea of Advani leading the government. Then, let’s face it, it is his age. He will be 81 years in 2009 and with an increasingly younger electorate in India, he seems to be an odd choice. However, Rajnath’s pronouncement will at least lay to rest the constant bickering among the second generation BJP leaders for the PM candidature.
Other major issues that Rajnath covers in his speech are price rise, food crisis, farmer’s package, sixth pay commission, terrorism, Bangladeshi infiltrators, foreign policy, anti-national demands by Congress allies, Sri Ram Setu, judicial criticism of the Congress government and the use of word “dharmanirpeksh”.
It is interesting that he gives more consideration (492 words to 381) to Bangladeshi infiltrators than to foreign policy. Nuclear deal is mentioned in passing and (surprise) bemoans the state of relationship between India and Russia.Ã‚Â
One no longer sees the same warmth as earlier with Russia which has been one of our oldest and most intimate allies.Ã‚Â [Rajnath Singh, New Delhi, 1st June 2008]
There is no mention of continuing with the foreign policy initiatives of the Vajpayee government and undo the damage UPA government has done nor any insight on resolving the nuclear deal issue. BJP has come to realize that more people in India oppose nuclear deal than support it and the majority of Indians don’t care about it anyway. So instead of taking a non-partisan approach on the issue while looking at future, BJP is content to playing politics with it.
Talking about politics, he mentions as an afterthought the navigational uses of Ram Setu project only after underlying its religious importance. And there is no mention of Ram Mandir at all. Clearly, BJP has resigned itself to being a peripheral player in Uttar Pradesh politics for years to come. More importantly, this signature issue of BJP does not resonates with its base (and certainly not the electorate) as much as it used to do in the past. The word Hindutva is not mentioned in the speech once!
He also laments the lack of adequate tools for governmental agencies to fight terrorism. No one disputes the fact that terrorism in India needs to be dealt with severely but with NDA coming up with laws that have been used as threats to Indian citizens (POTA meN band kar duuNgaa) than actually threatening terrorists, and with UPA scrapping them altogether instead of developing proper checks and balances, the terrorists continue killing Indians with impunity.
Rajnath in his speech also raises a new issue which is about the usage of word “dharmanirakpeksh” as a translation for secularism. He instead favors using “panthnirakpeksh” which is the actual Hindi translation in the Constitution. But before he makes this point he belabors the fact that the words secular and socialist were included in the Indian constitution in the 1970s which he says should not have been done. Now, you can either protest against the inclusion of the word secular in the Indian constitution or you can fight for its proper usage but you can’t do both.
Then he goes off into a rant on why the Indian state can never beÃ‚Â ”dharmanirakpeksh” (neutral to dharma) because dharma does not have any religious connotations and why we actually meant sects when we used the word secularism.
Friends, there is a big difference in being “Dharmanirpeksh” and “Panthnirpeksh”. Panth or sect symbolizes devotion towards any specific belief, specific way of prayer and specific form of God but Dharma symbolizes absolute and eternal values which can never change like laws of nature. For example one can say Dharma is like the earth or land while Panth is like different paths built over it. Our mind can chose any path, change from one path to another, we can hold different views about the various paths but how can we ever get separated from the earth?
“Dharmapran Nation” means a nation whose actual consciousness is imbibed in Dharma. India is a “Dharmapran” nation and this is evident from Amarnath in the extreme north to Sabarimala Temple in the extreme south, and in Haridwar, Nasik, Ujjain and Prayag where one can see Kumbh Melas in perpetual occurrence.Ã‚Â [Rajnath Singh, New Delhi, 1st June 2008]
One could have easily mistaken Rajnath as a philosopher in front of an appreciative crowd after reading the first paragraph. However, the politician in him gives away in the second paragraph. Amarnath, Sabarimala, Haridwar, Nasik, Ujjain and Kumbh mela symbolizes dharma to which the state can’t remain neutral! Where have I heard this before? Clergymen in Saudi Arabia or embattled politicians in Pakistan taking the easy route in difficult circumstances? Folks, if there was any pronouncement for a Hinduization of polity in India then this is it.
Then he credits (gasp) Indira Gandhi for being the only person who understood not only secularism but also its essence when the word was translated as “panthnirakpeksh”.
Probably by understanding these very sentiments, even in the Constitution the wordÃ‚Â PanthnirpekshÃ‚Â was written. The use of the termÃ‚Â DharmanirpekshÃ‚Â instead ofPanthnirpekshÃ‚Â is not only incorrect, unconstitutional, not only against all the national symbols of India but also against the very basis of the real and perpetual ethos of our great nation. The level of pervasion and confusion created in both politics and among the public by the inappropriate use of the word is unimaginable. This also hurts our identity and traditions. India has always been aÃ‚Â PanthnirpekshÃ‚Â or sect neutral country. Here from Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shakht to Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism many sects have flourished.Ã‚Â [Rajnath Singh, New Delhi, 1st June 2008]
Note how he uses Shaivism and Vaishnavism and then appends Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism as other panths (sects). Conspicuous by their absence in this grand scheme of things are Islam and Christianity. Damn those intruders!
In his concluding remarks Rajnath throws in Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 for good measure as passing remarks suggesting yet again that BJP intends to exploit these issues for political purposes without even trying to resolve them. With its penchant for two worded phrases, it was no surprise that he came up with another one, cultural nationalism. Whatever happened to integral humanism?
A lot of people had hopes that BJP will charter a new course in Indian politics and Vajpayee did offer an alternative while making significant achievements at home and abroad. BJP, stung after its defeat in 2004 elections, seems to be going back to its original divisive politics and discarding the moderation of Vajpayee era. In all fairness, Advani did try to ditch his baggage with his Jinnah remarks but the RSS was all over him. Now, he has resigned himself to the fact that the only way he can be PM candidate is by being in the good books of Sangh Parivar. Rajnath with no mass base of his own is happy doing the bidding of RSS. It is hard to imagine that he would have given so much importance to the “dharmanirpeksh” issue otherwise. Will theÃ‚Â umbilicalÃ‚Â cord be ever cut?
The full text of Rajnath’s speech can be read at BJP website.