He was born ordinary, lived like a commoner and died mysteriously, during a train journey at night from Lucknow to Patna. His body was found on February 11, 1968, by a railway man on the track near Mughalsarai station and initially nobody recognised the dead. The police would have buried it as unidentified but for a Jana Sangh worker in the crowd that collected around the corpse yelling it's "Deendayalji". Within minutes, the entire nation was mourning the tragedy that swamped the then second largest party in the country.
The murder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh president, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya still remains unresolved. Forty-eight years have passed, the party he nurtured has evolved into BJP, growing to be the largest in the world, and is preparing to mark the half century of the ideology he envisaged, integral humanism. And 2016 also happens to be the birth centenary of Upadhyaya. He was not a fabulous man but he influenced two generations of workers because of the intensity of his passion to transform lives of ordinary Indians. The Narendra Modi government is slated to unleash elaborate plans to mark the occasion.
Upadhyaya is unarguably the most iconic personality produced by the Sangh school of thought and his basic effort was to establish the role of ideology in electoral polity. For he lived at a time when the distinctiveness of ideological sharpness was getting blurred in the market of political pragmatism.
The historic and political significance of the massive mandate the BJP won in 2014 is yet to be fully analysed. And the role Upadhyaya's strategic formulations and theoretical compass that laid the foundation for this will be aspects of focus in this centenary celebrations. This will be an occasion to recast, to reinvent the canvas on which the BJP ideological format was designed.
Already dozens of welfare projects named after him are running in states ruled by the BJP. NDA at the centre has launched some schemes and more are on the anvil as part of the celebrations. Upadhyaya conceived a classless, casteless and conflict-free social order. He stressed on the ancient Indian wisdom of oneness of the human kind. For him the brotherhood of a shared, common heritage was central to political activism. He emphasised on co-existence and harmony with nature. Not sustainable development, but sustainable consumption was his advise to planners. His ideas came as a fresh breeze of soothing creativity and he inspired a generation of party leaders to create a new political system which was free from the dialectics of competition and envy. He conceptualised a third way from the inertia of capitalism and communism.
Ideology has something that is immutable about it. After globalisation, the fall of communism and the end of Congress party dominance in Indian polity, the BJP has become the sole ideological pole, which is essentially Indian in its approach. As an RSS pracharak he was eager to continue in the same field. But on the formation of the Jana Sangh he was given the charge of organising the new party and after the martyrdom of Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee, the entire responsibility of building it fell on him.
He shaped the party very different. His was a cadre-based mass organisation. Politics for him was a means to an end. Not an end in itself. For most BJP leaders trained under him this was the case.
Upadhyaya was a pioneer of many political experiments. He was the architect of the first coalition phase in Indian politics. The Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) experiments of the post-1967 election when Congress was routed in every state from Punjab to West Bengal Upadhyayaalong with Dr Ram Manohar Lohia worked to unite all anti-Congress parties and form alternatives in state after state. During that period, communists also joined his campaign and shared power in Bihar with the Jana Sangh. Upadhyaya was an innovative politician and he created a paradigm for future politicians to follow.
The 2014 victory of BJP was a clear vindication and reaffirmation of ideology in politics. All the opposition during the poll campaign and after the formation of the new government is essentially a reiteration of the tectonic shift that has reshaped and reconstructed Indian polity. Upadhyaya's idea of Antyodaya is at the centre of this policy shift that is taking place in governance. He was an advocate of less government and more governance. He believed in self sustaining autonomous units, more power to states and decentralised and competitive federalism, solidly cemented on the cultural mosaic of our tradition, heritage and experience of the past.
No other contemporary of Upadhyaya has left such a lasting trail on the politics as he did. This mainly was because he attracted the attention of thousands of youngsters who worked tirelessly to carry on the legacy. Perhaps, it was rooted in Indian ethos or because it was further moulded, chiselled and shaped; reinterpreted, reviewed and researched by a number of eminent social and political leaders and thinkers in the country.
MS Golwalkar, Dattopant Thengadi, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhairon Singh Sekhawat, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, P Parameswaran, Narendra Modi, Dr Mahesh Chandra Sharma and many others have further researched, practised and propagated Upadhyaya's theory in their writings, speeches and policies, making it the relevant contemporary political philosophy in India. More research and literature is being created during the centenary year.
His basic tenet held that the cadre should never become comfort loving and the leadership status conscious.