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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

The BJP's 25 years and communalisation of Indian polity 

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The Milli Gazette Online

The BJP is celebrating silver jubilee of its existence. It claims it was born in 1980. The fact is that it changed only its name in that year and not its direction or ideology. For it the old adage 'what is there in name' applies in its entirety. Though it changed its name but continued with its Jan Sangh ideology. However, it made the world believe that it has discarded its Jan Sangh ideology and adopted 'secularism' and 'Gandhian socialism'. In fact when the Jan Sangh merged with the Janata Party in 1977 immediately after emergency it had taken oath at Gandhiji's samadhi for secularism and Gandhian socialism for qualifying for merger into the Janata Party which was formed under the leadership of Shri Jai Prakash Narain.

Jan Sangh was indeed a communal party and its pledge to adopt secularism and Gandhian socialism was only a strategy, not a change of heart. The subsequent events proved it abundantly. Jan Sangh's sole aim at the time was to gain more acceptability and to defeat the Congress at the hustings. The Janata Party which included Jan Sangh swept the polls in 1977 inflicting crushing defeat on the Congress and the Janata Government assumed power with Morarji Desai as Prime Minster and Mr. Vajpayee as Foreign Minister. 

The Janta Party however soon plunged into a crisis on the question of duel membership raised by socialists like Raj Narain, Fernandes (today of course he is ardent supporter of BJP) and Madhu Limaye. Though the Jan Sangh leaders like Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and others took oath for secularism and Gandhian socialism, they never broke their ties with the RSS. RSS was their very ideological raison d'etre. This itself was sufficient evidence to show that there was no change of heart and their adoption of secularism and Gandhian socialism was merely a matter of political strategy. In other words it was a political deceit.

Since the Jan Sangh members refused to break their ties with the RSS the Janta Party broke and Morarji Desai had to resign. The RSS made it clear to the Jan Sangh leaders that they cannot survive without it and to register this with them (Jan Sangh leaders) it organised riots in several places like Aligarh, Varanasi and Jamshedpur in which hundreds of innocent people were killed. Minorities, angry with the Congress policies during emergency had reposed their trust in the Janata party but were grossly disappointed with the behaviour of Jan Sangh and the riots that broke out taking toll of large number of Muslims.

They voted Indira Gandhi back to power. The Jan Sangh now re-christened itself as Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980 and again reiterated its commitment to 'secularism' and 'Gandhian socialism' and elected A.B. Vajpayee as its president as Vajpayee is supposedly Sangh Parivar's 'liberal face'. However, as usual its integral relationship with the RSS continued and its new avtar did not convince anyone, much less the voters and it lost 1984 parliamentary elections very badly. It could win only two seats in Parliament.

With this new avtar it could neither win secular votes and also lost its traditional supporters too. Thus soon it went back to the basics and now with vengeance to recover the lost ground. It not only removed its secular mask (mukhota) but began to attack it with all ferocity it could command. It dubbed it as a western ideology not suited to India and Indian culture. It also attacked the Congress secularism as 'pseudo-secularism' and accused it of 'appeasing' the minorities. 

This was the new strategy adopted by the BJP leaders to win over the Hindu middle classes who were disillusioned with the Congress performance and were looking for viable political alternative. The decade of eighties was a decade of complex challenges for Indian democracy. Ethnic movements had assumed serious proportions throughout North East and Punjab. The Assam Students Union (ASU) movement was at its height and militancy in the Punjab was claiming several lives every day. Communal violence too was recurring now and then. The Bihar Sharif riots of 1981, the Meerut and Baroda riots of 1982, Neli (Assam) riots of 1983 had claimed several thousand lives and then anti-Sikh riots broke out after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi in November 1984.

Then came the Shah Bano movement, which heightened the communal feelings among Hindu middle classes. The BJP had not only caste away its secular mask but was trying to exacerbate communal feelings to regain the Hindu votes. In these circumstances disillusionment with the Congress role grew and then V.P. Singh also launched Bofors movement against Rajiv Gandhi which further discredited the Congress. In these circumstances the BJP grew stronger and stronger and then came the Ramjanambhoomi movement which it encashed unashamedly for its politics.

It is interesting to note that the BJP accused the Congress of 'vote-bank politics i.e. 'appeasing' Muslims to reduce it to its vote-bank but itself played similar politics and tried to create its own vote-bank among upper caste Hindus by placating them through issues like the Ramjanambhoomi and also by arousing their anti-Muslim sentiments. It exploited the Ramjanambhoomi issue to the hilt to arouse communal sentiments and blatantly distorting Indian history.
Unfortunately Mr. V.P. Singh entered into alliance with BJP in 1989 elections and gave new respectability to it forgetting the lessons of 1977 Janta Party experiment. This adjustment enabled the BJP to increase its Parliamentary share from 2 to 89 seats in 1989 parliamentary seats. The BJP then never saw back until the Parliamentary elections of 2004 in which it lost power. The BJP again repeated its performance in Janta Party Government by withdrawing support to the V.P. Singh Government on the question of Ramjanambhoomi and toppling it. 

Also, the BJP had projected itself as the 'party with a difference' and quite a disciplined and non-corrupt party. As long as it was in opposition this myth could wash but once it came to power it proved to be as corrupt as the Congress whom it never tired of accusing of corruption and as indisciplined as any other party in power. Groupism emerged and now we see how it is faction-ridden in the states where it is in power like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. However, in late eighties and nineties the upper caste Hindu middle classes swallowed the BJP propaganda uncritically and a section of them still continues to accept it without questioning.

The BJP while claiming it is most principled party, never displayed respect for any principle throughout its existence of 25 years (or 55 years if we add its Jan Sangh days?) of existence. It displayed grossest opportunism whenever it suited its politics. Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, its most respected leader, had given solemn assurance in the National Integration Council in 1992 that kar seva on 6th December 1992 will not mean harming Babri Masjid but it will be confined to bhajan-kirtan (singing devotional songs) but it is now history that what happened in Ayodhya on 6th December 1992 plunging whole nation into dance of destruction and communal mayhem. Now the CBI has also exposed that Mr. Vajpayee himself was involved in this conspiracy. He had delivered a speech in Lucknow on 5th December 1992, which clearly indicates his involvement in the conspiracy.

The BJP which had talked of being secular in its new avtar ended up adopting the Hindutva agenda again to win more and more seats by playing up communal sentiments. It adopted rapidly anti-minority postures time and again to increase its vote-share. However, when it formed alliance with other 'secular' parties to form the ruling alliance (National Democratic Alliance) it again pretended to push its Hindutva agenda to the background. Again it was nothing more than a political stratagem.

It was once again exposed in Gujarat when it fully backed up Narendra Modi in his massacre of Muslim minority. It is said that Mr. Vajpayee wanted to remove Narendra Modi but gave in to younger militant leadership led by persons like Arun Jaitly and backed him up instead by condemning Muslim role in Godhra in the Party session in Goa. Again Mr. Vajpayee patted Narendra Modi on the back when he won two-third majority in the Gujarat elections of December 2002 by organising massacre of Muslims and said, "I am your advocate".

The BJP not only described Gujarat as the 'Hindutva laboratory' but also its younger leadership boasted that they would repeat the Gujarat model in other states. It is different story that it badly lost the Himachal Pradesh elections soon after and Narendra Modi had to be withdrawn from election campaign there. It is great tribute to Indian democracy and diversity. In fact the Gujarat massacre instead of increasing the BJP popularity as it expected it was beginning of its decline. Mr. Vajpayee himself admitted that we lost 2004 Parliamentary elections because of Gujarat. The people of India rejected BJP's politics of anti-minorityism and reposed its faith in religious pluralism.

Thus it will be seen from above account that the BJP's history of last 25 years has been quite chequered and there is hardly anything to celebrate silver jubilee of its coming into existence. It is historically not correct to say that a new party came into existence in 1980 but an old party changed its colour temporarily to suit its convenience. The fact is that the Jan Sangh (BJP from 1980) did not show consistency even in following its communal ideology and lost confidence of its traditional constituency too.

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