BJP hijacks 'nationalist' platform

NEW DELHI DEC. 25. The Bharatiya Janata Party's just-concluded national executive committee meeting was significant for its attempt to hijack the "nationalist'' platform.

During the course of its two-day deliberations, it was also equally clear that the party would use the current international and national focus on terrorism unleashed by the Saudi fugitive, Osama bin Laden, and like-minded forces here to connect, through repeated suggestion, the Muslim minorities with these terrorists. More important, parties such as the Congress which attract the vote of the minorities will be described by the BJP as being ``soft on terror,'' "anti-Hindu'' and even "anti-national.''

This, it seems, is the core of the BJP's electoral experience in Gujarat which will be replicated everywhere. This is the core strategy that the party's national executive has finalised for the Assembly elections next year. After all, terrorist acts have taken place in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and, of course, Jammu and Kashmir. And the BJP hopes to build an image of a party committed to fighting terrorism while projecting the Opposition as "soft on terror.''

Clues to the strategy are available in the party's political resolution adopted on Tuesday and the presidential address of the BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, delivered the day before.

Take this quote from the political resolution: "The (Gujarat) election was considered a trial for the cultural nationalism (Hindutva) of the BJP and our commitment to eliminate terrorism, a menace which threatens our national sovereignty. Our opponents (the Congress) considered terrorism as a virtual non-issue.'' Clearly, Hindutva is connected to elimination of terrorism and to national sovereignty while the Congress is described as not interested in fighting terrorism which was a "non-issue'' for it.

Then again: "We are committed against terror; we condemn what happened in Godhra and thereafter. We shall not tolerate incidents (like) Akshardham.'' Although not stated, the suggestion is that the BJP's political opponents are not committed against terrorism, as if other parties and the people who support them are willing to tolerate incidents such as the Godhra or Akshardham.

The initiatives taken by the new PDP-Congress Government in Jammu and Kashmir have again been used to hammer home the same point. "It is regrettable that the Congress has compromised on the PDP agenda which has started going soft on terror... the releases (of some of those arrested as terrorists/ militants) appear more to be an act of political reciprocity rather than a means of achieving peace,'' the resolution states. Here, there is a clear suggestion that the Congress is compromising with terrorists in an act of "political reciprocity,'' that is, as a quid pro quo for favours received.

This approach is especially dangerous as the Prime Minister's own initiative of declaring a "unilateral ceasefire'' against all terrorists/ militants in the Kashmir Valley two years ago was welcomed by the party as a statesman-like gesture calculated to turn the situation around. The party's stance now suggests that if the BJP makes a political gesture it is all in the national interest, but a little more by any other party is suspect, and worse, even anti-national and pro-terrorist.

Mr. Naidu's address juxtaposed the "forces of nationalism'' against the "forces of pseudo-secularism,'' signalling that the BJP was the nationalist force, and its opponents, pseudo-secular. Then again, he described the Congress campaign in Gujarat as "anti-BJP, anti-Hindutva... and anti-Hindu.'' He went on to say "our political adversaries were rightly recognised as willing to compromise on national interests for short-term vote-bank considerations.''

The party presented a neat equation: The Congress equal to anti-national equal to Muslim vote-bank equal to anti-Hindu. And this will be the core of the BJP's electoral strategy.