OUR PARTY’S SEVENTEENTH PRESIDENT

February 22, 2010

In 1950, the Constituent Assembly of Independent India adopted a constitution committing the country to Parliamentary Democracy as its system of government.

Till then, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji was a member of Pandit Nehru’s Cabinet, holding the important portfolio of Industrial Development. In the Constituent Assembly, along with Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr. Ambedkar and others like Dr. K.M. Munshi etc., Dr. Mookerji also played a critical role in shaping India’s constitution.

With the constitution framing task completed and the country poised at the threshold of its first General Election, Dr. Mookerji decided to part company with the Congress Government, launch a party of his own, and seek the support of the masses on issues like Kashmir, Tibet, China’s designs, plight of Hindus in Pakistan-both West and East, and the urgent need to make the people realize that our country’s economic progress could not be achieved by imitating western models. All these were issues on which he differed very sharply with Pandit Nehru’s way of thinking. On several of these matters even Sardar Patel did not agree with Pandit Nehru.

In 1951, thus, Dr. Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Those of us who are in the BJP today and were old enough at that time to aspire making some worthwhile contribution to free India’s nascent democracy were attracted towards Dr. Mookerji’s thinking. Our political yatra thus started in 1951 and except for a short period of three years, 1977 to 1980, is continuing still. During those three years, Bharatiya Jana Sangh became part of the Janata Party which under the leadership of Lokmanya Jaya Prakash Narayan had waged a grim and successful battle against the Emergency, and defeated the Congress Government in the 1977 elections. So, during those three years several of us led by Shri Vajpayee had our first experience of governance in New Delhi under the Prime Ministership of Shri Morarji Desai.

The Janata Party did not last long, nor did its government. We who earlier belonged to the Jana Sangh resumed our yatra as Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. The yatra is continuing till today. A major difference however has taken place in the meanwhile.

BJP is no longer a fringe party of the opposition. It is one of the two principal poles of national politics, and so the principal opposition in both Houses of Parliament. Besides it is the ruling party in nine states of the country – in six of these on its own, and in the remaining three in alliance with its other partners in the National Democratic Alliance.

If Dr. Mookerji was our first National President, recently elected Shri Nitin Gadkari is our seventeenth President. In between, we have had several distinguished Presidents including Pandit Premnath Dogra, Acharya Raghuvir, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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A three-day session of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Council cum National Executive has just ended at Indore.

The session, attended by nearly four thousand delegates witnessed the Party’s newly elected National President Shri Nitin Gadkari formally taking over the reins of office, delivering his first Presidential Address, and interacting with senior state BJP representatives, and BJP Chief Ministers at a single combined conclave for the first time.

For Gadkariji, this must have been no doubt a very fruitful and worthwhile experience.

But as a party activist who has attended every single National Council session of the party since the First National Conference held at Kanpur in 1953, I can say that the participants at this session had all arrived at the tented township put up at Indore with a question mark writ large and bold on their faces. The question bothering them all was :

Will the new All India President of the Party, 52-year old Nitin Gadkari, be able to inspire confidence in the Party cadres, seemingly disheartened and disappointed by two successive setbacks in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004 and 2009 ?

Again having attended all such gatherings in the past I am in a position to affirm that seldom before have I seen delegates so upbeat, and enthusiastic participants in every single programme at the session as I have seen this time.

In those three days I could see all the initial scepticism rapidly melting away, so that when the delegates left Indore on the third day all their doubts had been replaced by a mood of optimism and confidence, and a strong feeling that the attributes of transparent frankness and forthrightness that they had been able to discern in the new president were exactly what the party needed at this point of time.

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While I was gathering my thoughts for my concluding remarks to the session, it struck me that for me personally, it was in a way significant that Indore had been chosen as venue for this session. The first city I visited outside Sind, the region where I was born and where I spent the first twenty years of my life, was Indore. This was in 1943, when I was just 16 years old. My Indore visit was for an RSS training camp (my First Year OTC). In my speech on the last day I reminisced: “For me this 67-year long journey from Indore to Indore has been really breath-taking and exhilarating.”

In the last two decades of this period, particularly, we have seen the party rising like a phoenix from its ashes. The year 1984 saw the BJP slump to the lowest point in its political career – only two Lok Sabha seats in the entire country !

And yet we all witnessed a virtual revolution taking place five years later. 1989 proved revolutionary both on the global level as well as on the national level. The crumbling of the Berlin Wall that year led to the disintegration of the Marxist empire. In Indian politics, the 1989 Lok Sabha election saw BJP make a huge leap forward, from two seats to eight six seats ! Looking back it is the tremendous appeal of the Ayodhya movement which enabled us to smash Congress hegemony for all time in national politics and transform India into a bipolar polity !

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

February 22, 2010

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