The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP sounds back-to-basics bugle

New Delhi, Sept. 9: The BJP has declared an 'ideological war' against the United Progressive Alliance government.

The agitation, from September 25 to February 11, will 'train the cadre through discussions and programmes so as to carry forward the party's ideological and principal commitments'. Its main objective, sources said, is to 'keep the traditional supporters with the party' and increase its 'support base effectively'.

A document prepared during the Goa chintan baithak (introspective session) in July will provide the 'intellectual' inputs for this long-drawn battle which will begin from the grassroots. The agitation, the sources added, is a response to the perception that for the six years it ruled at the Centre, the BJP leadership had cut itself off from the cadre and disowned the 'principles' that made it a 'party with a difference'.

Uma Bharti's Tiranga yatra and the mass satyagraha by MPs and MLAs at Port Blair under the leadership of Sushma Swaraj for restoration of Veer Savarkar's plaque at Cellular Jail, where the Hindu Mahasabha founder was imprisoned during the freedom movement, are expected to sound the bugle.

The sources said the momentum would be generated by the outcome of the Maharashtra elections: if the BJP-Shiv Sena combine wins, the 'war' would be fought to its 'logical' conclusion. In other words, the BJP will not sit easy until the UPA dispensation is unseated. If it loses, the party would plod along and hope for a miracle in the next round of elections in Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana.

But more than just engage the much-neglected cadre, the sources said the protests signalled the emergence of a new leadership, a 'generational' change that might see Atal Bihari Vajpayee and .K. Advani gradually fade into the sunset. Neither Vajpayee nor Advani will participate in the satyagraha. 'They have been exempted,' said spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

The sources, however, said the change may not be visible immediately as the organisational apparatus may not see a shake-up soon. 'But it is clear that the RSS feels it is time for the younger generation to take over,' said a source.

Uma and Sushma were chosen to lead two important movements as a 'credible' counter to Sonia Gandhi. 'If they criticise her freely, it will not sound as harsh and tasteless as when a male leader does it,' said a source.

After Vajpayee and Advani, Sushma and Uma are regarded as the most effective mass mobilisers. Sushma, the sources claimed, has an appeal among the middle classes, while Uma could reach out to every section.

The RSS wanted the agitation to remain focused on just Uma, who was recently released from detention on riot charges after a controversial flag-hoisting 10 years ago led to several deaths.

But the BJP managed to include Sushma's satyagraha and make the exercise a party affair instead of an individual endeavour.

As a trade-off for avoiding an over-projection of Uma, the BJP agreed to toe the 'back-to-basics' line, which the Sangh insisted on at the Goa session. The 'war' will not involve issues concerning the 'aam admi' (common man) ' like inflation ' but focus exclusively on Hindutva-centred ones such as:

Creating an awareness on the 'rise' in jihadi militancy in Jammu and Kashmir

Exposing the nexus between communal, corrupt and extremist forces and the 'danger they pose to national unity and security'

Explaining the 'wider' meaning of nationalism and how to check 'casteist and other divisive forces'

Emphasising that 'nationalism and development' mean the same

Campaign against the 'competitive pseudo-secularism' of the Congress, Left and other UPA constituents

Special attention to the Northeast.

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