MANINI CHATTERJEE, January 21, 2006, Indian Express
Rajnath Singh seeks L K Advani’s blessings at the BJP meet in New DelhiNEW DELHI, JANUARY 20 In a two-hour speech marked by ringing confidence, elaborate articulation of the party’s philosophy and a hard-nosed realpolitik, BJP president Rajnath Singh sent a clear message that he was very much his own man—and under him the BJP would unapologetically return to its ‘‘core’’ ideology.
Singh, formally elected president by the 1500-odd delegates of the BJP national council this morning, made it a point to pay tributes to Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani and even Murli Manohar Joshi.
But at the end of his speech, it was clear that unlike his string of predecessors such as Kushabhau Thakre, Bangaru Laxman, Jana Krishnamurthy and even the voluble Venkaiah Naidu, Rajnath was set to step out of the Atal-Advani shadow and lead the party from the front.
He made no mention of the BJP’s ties with the RSS or how much the party owed to the head of the Sangh Parivar—a running theme in the orations of Advani. But given that he expounded at length on Hindutva, cultural nationalism and integral humanism, it was not necessary.
Not only did he repeatedly emphasise the ‘‘geo-cultural’’ underpinnings of the Indian nation, he revisited the BJP’s erstwhile agenda centred around the Ram temple, Uniform Civil Code and Article 370. And in a nod to RSS’s criticism, he laid stress on ‘‘discipline’’ and ‘‘self-restraint,’’ particularly the latter.
While his attacks on the UPA and litany of praise for the achievements of the NDA were par for the course, what took delegates by surprise—many of whom were hearing him for the first time—was his forceful advocacy of the Hindutva philosophy.
Sounding at times like a motivational speaker of new age spiritualism, the BJP chief elaborated on Deendayal Upadhyaya’s doctrine of ‘‘integral humanism’’ that offered food not just for the body and mind but also the ‘‘soul’’. He sought to give an Upanishadic spin to Hindutva, insisting it was a compassionate, inclusive and universalist philosophy. ‘‘No one who believes in Hindutva can be bigoted or communal,’’ he said, sharing the stage with Narendra Modi.
Elaborating on the Hindutva theme that Indian nationhood rested on its ‘‘culture’’ and not territory or citizenship, Rajnath gave the contrasting examples of erstwhile USSR and Israel. While the Soviet Union disintegrated within 72 years of its formation, ‘‘Israel that had been obliterated from the map of the world for more than one thousand years reinvented itself politically owing to its cultural vivacity,’’ he said.
And just as Jews across the world had kept their national aspirations alive by venerating the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a ‘‘grand temple’’ in Ayodhya was the symbol of India’s cultural unity. He went on to call upon Muslims to come forward to hand over the site in the interests of national unity. He said it was time that all political parties ‘‘evolve a consensus’’ on the Uniform Civil Code and debate the question of abrogating Article 370. He also echoed the Parivar’s new concerns against ‘‘conversions,’’, ‘‘infilitration’’ and terrorism. Sending a signal that he would be both an ideologue and an organisation man, Rajnath gave a pep talk to cadres on the need to adhere to ‘‘our ideological uniqueness and clean image.’’ Admitting that the party had not succeeded in meeting public expectations on that front, he said, ‘‘We need to be more attentive in future because a small slip in this regard can destroy our ideological forte and clean image and bring us to an existential crisis.’’Indirectly alluding to the indiscipline of Uma Bharati, he stressed the importance of ‘‘self-restraint’’, warning party members that ‘‘there is no place in our party for people with lust for power, pelf and position.’’ But even as he stressed the importance of strengthening the NDA and winning elections, he received the maximum applause whenever he mentioned the word Hindutva or talked of building the Ram temple.