BJP may go `back to the basics'

NEW DELHI, JULY 24. The promised "chintan baithak" (brainstorming session) of the Bharatiya Janata Party, now scheduled to take place in Goa from July 29 to August 1, is expected to give an ideological thrust and direction to the main Opposition party.

The party spokesperson and deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, told The Hindu, that about 25 to 30 top leaders of the BJP and the joint general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in-charge of BJP affairs, Madan Das Devi, will attend the session. The party will pay special attention to what it calls the "pro-Muslim" stance of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.

The party's national executive committee, which met in Mumbai a month ago, indicated that the BJP would try to find its ideological roots once again and return to the Hindutva path. Although the party president, Venkaiah Naidu, had stated that the BJP never left its ideology and never would, the emphasis was clearly on going "back to the basics" and the ideological moorings that it shared with the RSS and other affiliates which are part of the Sangh Parivar.

Reservation for Muslims

Ms. Swaraj indicated that while the nitty-gritty of election strategy for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra a few months from now and in Bihar and Jharkhand early next year would not figure at the session, the general direction of the party and its stance on key issues would be discussed. She specifically mentioned the five per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs and education announced by the Andhra Pradesh Government — which has since been stayed by court — and the "stance" of the ruling parties vis-�-vis the killing of Ishrat Jehan and others by the Gujarat police as "issues" that would be discussed in depth at the four-day conclave.

Other issues such as the Congress-led Government's declared intention to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the increasing terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir would also form the core of subjects which would be discussed in the light of the BJP's charge that these were "proof" that the Government was "pro-Muslim."

`Bid to blame Hindus'

Party leaders had said recently that the second inquiry into the Godhra carnage ordered by the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, was an attempt to "blame the Hindus."

Yet another issue that the party has picked up is the "influx" of Bangladeshis into the country.

Vijay Kumar Malhotra, BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, today warned that this would lead to a "third Islamic country being created here" (after Pakistan and Bangladesh).

The five per cent reservation for Muslims has been compared to Jinnah's demand for separate electorate.

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