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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

BJP's vision document
No change of heart 
By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: Contrary to the orchestrated campaign suggesting that the BJP has abandoned or softened its stand on the contentious Hindutva agenda, the party's 'Vision Document 2004' which was released recently, explicitly mentions the contentious issues that are dear to the party. Except for the Article 370, which the party has omitted now, all the issues that hurt secular masses of the country including the construction of Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya found mention in the document. 

About cultural nationalism the document says that the BJP draws its inspiration from the history and civilisation of India. The party believes that Indian nationhood stems from a deep cultural bonding of the people which overrides differences of caste, region, religion and language. However it contends, "We believe that Cultural Nationalism for which Indianness, Bharatiyata and Hindutva are synonyms, is the basis of our national identity". 

The document suggests that Cultural Nationalism is the most potent antidote to communalism, divisiveness and separatism of every kind, and a guarantor of our national unity and national integration. 

About the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the BJP reaffirms its commitment to the construction of a magnificent Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. "As Maryada Purushottam, Ram is an inspiring cultural symbol of India. His birthplace in Ayodhya is also associated with the religious sentiments of crores of Hindus. The BJP remains committed to its stand that the judiciary's verdict in this matter should be accepted by all". However, it says the party believes that dialogue, and a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill, are the best ways of achieving this goal. The BJP appeals to the religious and social leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities to speed up the process of dialogue and bring it to an amicable and early fruition. “We hope that these efforts will succeed in heralding a new chapter of amity in Hindu-Muslim relations and fortify national integration,” the document says ignoring any mention of Muslim emotions attached to the Babri Masjid. 

With regard to the assurance of religious freedom to the minorities, the document says that Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government has not discriminated against minorities, nor curtailed their religious freedoms in any manner. It says that in statecraft, it will continue to be wedded to the founding ideal of "Justice for All, Appeasement of None". “We envision the day when the distinction between ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ disappears in the political field, even while people practise their respective faiths unhindered,” the document says. The BJP also gives a three-point assurance to minorities: Education, Economic upliftment, and Empowerment. The sentence ends without specifically mentioning as what the party will do for removal of educational and economic backwardness of the minorities. At the same time, the party appeals to minorities to change their old mindset vis-à-vis the BJP and strengthen the hands of Vajpayee in the coming elections. 

On the issue of Uniform Civil Code the document says that the BJP believes that all laws, including personal laws, must be in accordance with the guarantees available to all citizens under the Indian Constitution. The Constitution calls for the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code, it says adding that the Supreme Court has reiterated this need. "The BJP views Uniform Civil Code primarily as an instrument to promote gender justice. We believe that social and political consensus has to be evolved before its enactment". 

Other highlights of the vision document include ban on cow slaughter, ban on religious conversions, making India a Developed Nation and a Great Power by 2020, and strengthening national security both external and internal in order to overcome present and future challenges.

It also emphasises on intensifying dialogue with Pakistan to find a lasting solution to all bilateral issues; working for a multi-polar world, with India as one of the poles.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has termed the BJP's ‘Vision Document’ as nothing but the 'repackaging of RSS agenda'. It said that the attempt has been such that it cannot even be termed as "old wine in a new bottle". "The Indian people will see through the real intentions of the BJP in implementing the RSS agenda which seeks to convert the secular democratic republican character of India into a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’. This is the BJP's unstated vision of India's future," CPIM said.

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