BJP's JP moment

In the life journey of individuals and organisations, the past never imprisons the present and predetermines the future. We have the freedom to will a different future. And if circumstances shackle us from moving ahead in the desired direction, our actions, provided they are strongly willed and intelligently executed, can change the circumstances.

But what about a political party that is unwilling to challenge the circumstances for the fear that the shackles may be broken?

The Bharatiya Janata Party is at present facing its 'JP moment'—JP here connoting, not by coincidence, both the Janata Party and its venerable creator Jayaprakash Narayan. The BJP is under two contradictory pressures. One looks to a future where it could well emerge as the unifier of many non-Congress parties for the creation of a stable, strong and superior alternative to the Congress. The other looks to an imagined past when the BJP was essentially a go-it-alone party. Votaries of this latter line believe that other parties would automatically accept the BJP's leadership when it becomes sufficiently big in electoral terms by following its own restrictive (largely Hindus-only) ideology.

I have deliberately refrained here from identifying the BJP's past with its predecessor, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-77). This is because the BJS, under the guidance of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya—a widely respected philosopher-politician—had even then showed a strong preference for transforming itself ideologically as an inclusive party and also for building alliances with other non-Congress parties, including the Communists. After Upadhyaya's mysterious assassination in 1968, history placed a stark choice before the Jana Sangh in 1974: whether or not to accept JP's invitation to join his broadbased anti-Congress movement. Jana Sangh, then led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and its president L K Advani, decided to follow JP. What Advani said at a crucial party conclave in Hyderabad, which approved this decision, is enormously relevant to the BJP in 2013-14. "We in the Jana Sangh have reached a point where further growth can be achieved and the dominance of the Congress ended only by joining hands with others who share this objective."

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