Advani moves to douse dissent, rally public

Advani moves to douse dissent, rally public
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First Published: Mon, Jun 22 2009. 12 07 AM IST

New concepts: Opposition leader L.K. Advani committed to reviving a nationwide people contact programme in the coming months. Atul Yadav / PTI
New concepts: Opposition leader L.K. Advani committed to reviving a nationwide people contact programme in the coming months. Atul Yadav / PTI
Updated: Mon, Jun 22 2009. 12 07 AM IST
New Delhi: In a clear signal to hardline elements within the party and attempting to renew its connection with voters, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday clarified that its ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu way, was “inclusive” with “respect to all irrespective of faith or religion”.
At the same time, BJP senior leader L.K. Advani, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, moved to defuse the crisis of dissidence within the party and take charge of the political message by committing to revive a nationwide people contact programme in the next few months. The BJP has 116 elected members in the Lok Sabha.
New concepts: Opposition leader L.K. Advani committed to reviving a nationwide people contact programme in the coming months. Atul Yadav / PTI
“In order to let party cadre know both the opportunities and the tasks before us, I have decided to tour the entire country in the months to come,” Advani said at the concluding session of the BJP national executive meeting here.
The two-day meeting, the party’s first after the Lok Sabha election debacle, tried to dispel “the wrong perception” of its ideology by stating that Hindutva was “a concept of coexistence of all”. Analysts say that the BJP’s strategy is to maintain its relevance in national politics by projecting itself as a right-wing party with a strong grounding in secular values.
“Theocracy or any form of bigotry is alien to our ethos. Hinduism is not (to) be understood or construed (as) narrowly confined only to religious practices or expressed in extreme forms... It (Hindutva) is therefore inclusive, representing the finest imprints of our cultural and civilizational ethos,” the political resolution of the party, adopted on the last day of the meeting, said.
Without appearing to distance itself from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its parent body, the party which was “disappointed” by the results of the polls said Hindutva was related to the culture and ethos of the country.
“It is a sanitized version of Hindutva. Their (BJP’s) only chance to come out of the defeat is (to) occupy the vacant space of a secular right-wing party in the country,” said Kamal M. Chenoy, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The BJP’s dilution of its position on Hindutva came on a day when the Uttar Pradesh police showed a report from the Hyderabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory, which confirmed that the alleged hate speeches of the party’s candidate from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh, Varun Gandhi, were “not doctored”.
Gandhi’s speech was held responsible for the “rout” of the party in some parts the country and in some pockets of Uttar Pradesh by the BJP’s Muslim leaders such as Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain—the party’s resolution only reaffirmed the latter’s arguments.
Reacting to the Uttar Pradesh police report, Maneka Gandhi, Varun’s mother and BJP member of Parliament from the state, said the forensic report was a “one-sided version” and that it would be challenged in court.
Gandhi intervened on Saturday to claim that Muslims were not BJP’s vote-bank while Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Gopinath Munde and Sushil Modi refuted it on Sunday, said a BJP leader who attended the deliberations but did not want to be identified.
Significantly, Varun Gandhi stayed away on Sunday.
In his concluding remarks, Advani said the election results were not reflective of a “defeat” for the party but a “new opportunity” to strive with renewed vigour to face future challenges. He called upon the party to allow young leaders to enter, who are waiting for the “door to open”. Advani’s comments, according to party functionaries present at the meeting, came in the background of discussions on the role of Rahul Gandhi in the Congress party’s victory.
“But introspection is different from finger-pointing. Let us treat the outcome of the elections as behoves a mature and highly resilient political party,” Advani said in his concluding address, trying to restrain his colleagues from engaging in further mudslinging.
The BJP also announced its organizational poll schedule, beginning with a membership drive that begins in the first week of July, and culminating with the election of the party president in January 2010.
“Separate teams would visit states to analyse the outcome of the polls and a brainstorming session of the party would be held after budget session,” Venkaiah Naidu, former BJP president, said.
santosh.j@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jun 22 2009. 12 07 AM IST