|Narendra Modi (left) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the BJP national executive meeting. (PTI, AFP)
New Delhi, Dec. 23: Buoyed by its resounding victory in Gujarat, the BJP today declared it would repeat the “experience” — if not the “experiment” — across the country.
Party president M. Venkaiah Naidu told the national executive that “if anybody asks us whether we would repeat the Gujarat ‘experiment’ elsewhere, our answer should be: Yes, we shall replicate our Gujarat ‘experience’ everywhere, because in Gujarat we have again proved to ourselves that collective work is the key to success.”
Naidu’s shying away from the word “experiment” possibly stems from the description of Gujarat as a “Hindutva laboratory” of the Sangh parivar by the party’s critics. “Experiment”, in their view, is an exercise to see if society could be divided completely along communal lines.
The party chief, therefore, spoke of “experience” — an inoffensive expression that he held up to mean complete unity of purpose among the various Sangh outfits: the RSS, the BJP, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Such unity was evident in Gujarat and Naidu appeared to indicate that this is what he meant when he said the Gujarat “experience” would be replicated in the nine states that go to polls next year and the Lok Sabha election in 2004.
Narendra Modi, who also attended the executive, said the “overwhelming” success in the election was an “ideological victory for the party”. There was much harping on ideology. Party spokesman Arun Jaitley told reporters later that the election result “is an ideological victory” because “very rarely national polity is so clearly polarised in a state election” as was witnessed in Gujarat.
Polarisation of “national polity” — between the BJP and the Congress, if that is what Jaitley means — is simply the other side of the communal-divide coin.
Underpinning the unity of the parivar will be the “ideology” that the party says fuelled its victory run in Gujarat. According to the BJP, national security, fight against terrorism and development form the trident of this “ideology”, the first two of which Modi so successfully used to supplement his appeal to Gujarati asmita (pride).
Realising though that all of the Gujarat “experience” may not lend itself to replication in the rest of the country, Naidu appealed for restraint to no one in particular, but he might have had VHP leader Praveen Togadia in mind.
“Today, I would like to make an appeal to those who speak in the name of Hindutva but whose pronouncements sometimes sound as if they are only reacting to the extremism and intolerance that has taken roots across the border,” Naidu said.
Calls for moderation from the BJP — if not insistence on its strict practice — to its parivar brothers form part of the strategy the party is expected to follow as the election build-up gathers pace. First, an overtly communal line, which the Togadia camp preaches, will not be palatable to the allies with whom the BJP has to run a family at least until 2004. Second, it may not be palatable to the rest of the country.
In Mumbai today, Togadia said the process of forming a Hindu rashtra would get an ideological thrust at Pune, where the VHP leadership is meeting from Wednesday.
“The process has started in Gujarat and the VHP will replicate the (Gujarat) experiment everywhere in the country, but of course in a democratic manner,’’ Togadia said.
Naidu says ‘experience’, Togadia says ‘experiment’. The two can coexist, as they did in Gujarat.
The victor of Gujarat, however, today committed himself as chief minister to establishing harmony among all communities. Modi said he would now work towards building a model state where all communities would live in peace with each other so that Gujarat could march forward.