BJP and what it does with its core values
The voters in Assam will realise soon, as the voters in Jammu did, last year.
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It isn't about the BJP in Kashmir and its betrayal on the promise to undo the Article 370. To the BJP, it may not be relevant anymore to recall that none other than the Chairman of the Drafting Committee himself, Bhimrao Ambedkar, described the move to incorporate such a provision in the Constitution as "treachery" against the newly independent India. He flatly refused to assist in the move. Not content with just that, Ambedkar underscored his disapproval by abstaining from the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly when this "temporary and transient" article was being adopted at the insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Also, let's forget for now that it wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim that one of the key reasons the Jana Sangh, the BJP's precursor, was put together was to fight for the repeal of this wretched provision from the Constitution of India. It was on this issue that the then fledgling party mobilised public opinion across the nation and its founder president, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, laid down his life fighting for, as a prisoner in Kashmir.
Let's also ignore the fact that the Article 370 was not a transient issue for this party. The BJP, and its predecessor - the Jana Sangh - pledged to purge Article 370 in each and every election manifesto, since its inception, including the last one in 2014. No other issue, by the virtue of its sheer longevity in the party's political discourse, became such an opportunity as Article 370, to forge a distinct identity for itself and, virtually, make it the BJP's calling card.
To be fair to the BJP, the party had once earlier too fiddled with the Article 370. That was when the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was put together to form a government at the Centre under the premiership of Atal Behari Vajpayee. The reason cited then was that the BJP did not have the numbers in Parliament to form a government on its own and the alliance partners were reluctant unless the "three contentious issues" (including the Ram temple at Ayodhya and the Uniform Civil Code) were "kept aside".Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being feliciated with a assamese japi during an election rally at Raha, Nagaon district in Assam.
It looked every bit an honest and credible reason because the party took pains to repeat it several times, to reassure, that it was not "giving up" on these issues. And, that the BJP would keep striving for a majority on its own to be able to fulfil these promises. Which is why, in 2004, when it went into the polls to renew its mandate, all the three issues figured prominently in the manifesto.
This time, however, it was different. India delivered a thumping majority to the BJP-led coalition and, indeed, to the BJP itself on May 16, 2014. On the very first day of the Modi-led government in office, when the Minister in the PMO, in response to a question from gathered journalists, merely reiterated the party's often stated position on the Article 370, he was, within hours, made to eat crow.
Never mind the fact that he was one of the three BJP MPs elected to the Lok Sabha from the state of Jammu and Kashmir (out of a total of six) - the highest ever tally for the party. Or, for that matter, at 33 per cent, the BJP not only had the highest vote-share in the state, it was more than the combined vote-share of both the Valley-based closet-separatist parties in the state. Inexplicably, it seemed as if the party was looking awkward and uncomfortable at its own success in the state and was keen to play it down.
Most of us, euphoric at this epic mandate, chose to explain away such an anomalous response from the party as an effort not to appear triumphant and avoid giving the impression of being in any unseemly haste. There was not an iota of inkling that party, actually, had other ideas.
Those who insist that the compromise on the issue of the Article 370 was dictated by the hung-verdict in the Vidhan Sabha polls of December 2014 are guilty of lying brazenly. The intent to betray was evident on the very first day of the Modi-government in office when Jitendra Singh was forced to backtrack on the issue of Article 370. As the party prepared for the Assembly polls in the state, its prevarication on the issue became even more pronounced. Finally, when the party chose to avoid issuing even an election manifesto, as that would have forced it to deal with the issue in black and white, there was very little doubt left about the looming perfidy.
The incorrigible optimists among BJP cadre and supporters, though, were willing to grant the party some 'tactical flexibility' for its audacious bid to capture a few seats in the Valley. Those who knew the voters and the politics of the Valley couldn't believe the degree of political naïveté behind such a 'tactic' if it could be called one. It must be told that for that unprecedented 'master stratagem' of fighting an election without a manifesto and the cynical trading with its core values, the BJP got barely 2 per cent of the votes polled in the Valley and lost its deposit on 33 of the 34 seats it contested.
Yet, there is always a bright side for some. In this case, it was that despite itself, the BJP managed to score the highest ever aggregate tally from its traditional strongholds in the Jammu region. Two reassuring learnings for the well wishers of the BJP were that:
1)The way BJP avoided issuing a manifesto, it seemed the party would always be reluctant to, formally, reverse its position on Article 370.
2)The votes polled by the party in the Valley would serve as a reality-check for any naive misadventures in the future.
Both these expectations proved highly presumptuous. As regards the first, who can forget the BJP's epic surrender to the PDP when it conceded, in writing no less, to not alter the special status guaranteed to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian Constitution. March 1, 2015 will go down in the history of the BJP as, arguably, the most ignominious day when the party betrayed its own founder, in the very state where he laid down his life and that too on the very issue he was killed for.
On the second one, their stated raison d'être for being in the coalition was to champion the cause of Jammu region's political empowerment. Since 1947, the region has suffered from a huge imbalance in the allocation of resources. The reneging on that stated objective too, in the lopsided composition of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government, proved that the party had not learned from its own experiences in the Valley. Various subsequent administrative decisions also have substantially angered and alienated its base in the Jammu region.
Some inferences are inevitable. The more charitable one is that the BJP behaves as though it has already milked Article 370 optimally and probably come to a conclusion that the issue has outlived its electoral utility. The less charitable view is that in a cynical pursuit of "statecraft", the BJP has decided to move on, in its quest for that ever elusive "secular" approval to, at last, become a "normal" party. This is not a new affliction. Normal parties try several things to succeed. The BJP, on the contrary, when it succeeds, begins to experiment with the exact opposite of what it has always stood for. And quite remorselessly at that.
They make it appear as some kind of historical course correction necessitated by a need to "think afresh". It isn't a minor irony when the party, sustained in the Assembly entirely by the Jammu region, says that the time has come for it to not look at the issues "through the Jammu prism". Never mind that in practice, despite an unprecedented mandate for change, the BJP has not just perpetuated the status quo but steered the entire state deeper into the Valley centric separatist stranglehold.
And, while talking of the entire state, one must not forget to recall the region of Ladakh, in area the largest in the state. The BJP, for the first time ever, represents it in the Lok Sabha. The party has fought successive elections there promising Union Territory status to the region. This is one promise where the party, unlike in the case of Article 370, never ever pretended any sincerity. Yet, all that and more, how much ever lamentable it may be, is old hat now.
So then, what is this long one about, you may ask. The answer is simple. Now that the BJP has won a handsome majority in Assam, it has an equally handsome majority in the Centre too. In both the elections, 2014 and 2016, reversing the tide of "illegal Bangladeshis" was a key component of the BJP's campaign. The same has been reiterated today, as the results came in, by the BJP's presumptive chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal. With a two-third majority in the Assembly and the BJP's own government in the Centre, one has to wait for just two things now:
1) How soon will the party's CM designate be made to eat crow on the issue of expelling the illegal Bangladeshis;
2) Even if he is spared the blushes, how inventive will the party get this time about the excuse to not do as promised.
One thing is sure. No matter how vociferous its campaign was and how committed to the cause it may pretend to be, the BJP will never expel the millions of illegal aliens from Assam. The voters in Assam will realise soon, as the voters in Jammu did, last year.