After playing the religion card in politics for over a decade, radical Hinduist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be feeling the necessity of getting itself from the dirt of being branded as an extremist pro-Hindutva force. Although it is well perceived by everyone – BJP is a brainchild of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the platform of ultra-nationalist and radical Hindus. In the past, the RSS had hands behind numerous religious riots in India, while the RSS-BJP nexus has been greatly responsible for tarnishing the secularist image of the largest democracy in the world.
Eyeing on the 2019-Lok Sabha (General Assembly) elections, ruling BJP has started cleaning its decade-old image of a radical Hinduist party. As part of this program, the regional government in India’s north-eastern state of Tripura has recently decided to remove contents from the school and college textbooks, where the ruling party is narrated as ‘radical Hindu’ party. However, some of the analysts say, such terminology was on purpose inserted into the textbooks by the previous Communist government, with the ulterior agenda of defaming BJP’s image.
A closer look into BJP:
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is one of the two major political parties in India, along with the Indian National Congress. English meaning of BJP is Indian People’s Party.
As of 2018, it is the country’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament and state assemblies, and it is the world’s largest party in terms of primary membership. BJP is a right-wing party, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu-nationalist positions. It has close ideological and organisational links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Some of the analysts also see the RSS as the spiritual guiding force of BJP and in many ways, actions of Bharatiya Janata Party is greatly decided and dictated by the RSS.
BJP’s origin lies in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (Indian People’s Force), formed in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mukherjee. After the State of Emergency in 1977, Jana Sangh merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party; it defeated the incumbent Indian National Congress party in the 1977 general election. After three years in power, the Janata Party dissolved in 1980 with the members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh reconvening to form the BJP.
Although initially unsuccessful, after winning only two seats in the 1984 general election, it grew in strength on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Following victories in several state elections and better performances in national elections, the BJP became the largest party in the parliament in 1996; however, it lacked a majority in the lower house of Parliament, and its government lasted only for 13 days.
After the 1998 general election, the BJP-led coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed a government that lasted for a year. Following fresh elections, the NDA government, again headed by Vajpayee, lasted for a full term in office; this was the first non-Congress government to do so. In the 2004 general election, the NDA suffered an unexpected defeat, and for the next 10 years, the BJP was the principal opposition party. After a long time, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi led it to a landslide victory in the 2014 general election. Since that election, Modi has led the NDA government as Prime Minister.
The official ideology of the BJP is “integral humanism”, first formulated by Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1965. The party expresses a commitment to Hindutva (radical Hinduism), and its policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. It advocates social conservatism and foreign policy centered on nationalist principles. Its key issues have included the abrogation of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, building of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya and implementation of uniform civil code. However, the 1998–2004 NDA government did not pursue any of these controversial issues. It instead focused on a largely liberal economic policy prioritizing globalisation and economic growth over social welfare.
From this brief background, what we can understand is that Bharatiya Janata Party from being a minor political force in 1984 succeeded in emerging into a major force just within the span of 12 years by playing the religion card or more precisely – radical Hinduism. Let us not forget, BJP today has become the largest political party in the world in terms of representation in the national parliament and state assemblies in India, simply by getting sympathy and support from the Hindus. India is a country with almost 90 per cent of Hindus in its population of over 1.34 billion. Quite naturally, in India, Hindu vote is the major factor and knowing this, BJP and even its arch rival Indian National Congress (INC) already have adopted the policy of ignoring minority vote bank.
(The author of the article is the Editor of Blitz.)
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