Special on 44th BJP Foundation day
– Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Mr. Chairman of the Reception Committee, Brothers and Sisters Delegates and Friends,
An Opportunity and a Challenge
We are meeting here today for the first National Convention of the Bharatiya Janata Party. I feel extremely grateful to you for the affection and confidence you have bestowed on me by electing me President of the Party. I am conscious of how onerous a burden this is. In fact, in this hour of crisis, it is no easy matter to undertake the leadership of any political party. So far as the Presidentship of the Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned, this is certainly not an ornamental decoration. It is really not a post; it is a responsibility. No doubt, it is an honour; but even more than that, it is a test. It is at once an opportunity and a challenge. May God give me strength and understanding to measure up to this trust.
Why a New Party
I do not propose to go into the details of the circumstances in which the Bharatiya Janata Party was launched. But I would like to assert that it was not with any happiness that we parted company with the Janata Party. From beginning to end, we kept exerting in order to preserve the unity of the Party. We were conscious of the pledge we had taken at Rajghat in the presence of Lok Nayak Jaiprakash to maintain the unity of the Party. But by converting the non-issue of dual membership into an issue, a situation was created in which it became impossible for us to continue in the party with any honour and self-respect.
There is no point in trying to unravel the intentions of those who created such a situation. But it is noteworthy that even among those who had nothing to do with the RSS, there were quite a few who regarded this dual membership issue as a bogey raised for ulterior ends. Many of these are among the founder members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Growing Popularity of the Party
The enthusiastic support received by the Bharatiya Janata Party throughout the country during the past 9 months is in itself ample justification for our decision to launch a separate party. Today, the Bharatiya Janata Party has a membership of over 25 lakh. A large section of these entrants were not connected with the former Jana Sangh. Nevertheless, some of our opponents, prominent among them being our Prime Minister, keep repeating that the Bharatiya Janata Party is only a new name for the former Jana Sangh. They feel disturbed over the growing popularity of the Party in all parts of the country and all sections of society, and think that by saying so they can curb the immense potential that the Party has for future growth.
Pursuing the Unfinished Task
The Janata Party, formed because of the inspiration of Lok Nayak Jaiprakash, has disintegrated. But his vision of a glorious India is still with us. We shall not allow it to be obliterated. His dreams, his labours, his struggles and his unflinching commitment to certain basic values are part of an invaluable legacy that we have inherited. The Bharatiya Janata Party is pledged to pursuing his unfinished task.
Today, our country is facing a multi-dimensional crisis. Mounting inflation, deteriorating law and order situation, scarcity of essential commodities, increase in the number and intensity of communal incidents, aggravation of social tensions and violence, oppression of Harijans, tribals, women and other weaker sections, the explosive situation in the north-east-these are some of the dimensions of this crisis.
A Moral Crisis
Those charged with the responsibility of finding a solution to these problems have no time for it. They are busy manipulating their pawns and planning their moves on the chessboard of politics. I believe that the country’s crisis is essentially a moral crisis. The biggest curse of our public life is that moral values have given way to self-seeking and power-lust, and politics has become a pure power game.
Degeneration of Public Life
In its last phase, this degeneration of public life can be traced to the year 1969 when the Prime Minister herself after filling the nomination papers of her party candidate, conspired to have him defeated by resorting to all kinds of unethical means. In the years that have followed, this disregard of ethics and norms has only grown more acute. The emergency declared in 1975 had no relation to any threat to national security, internal or external; it was an unvarnished attempt to cling on to power. The disturbances created in courts during the Janata regime, encouragement given to such serious crimes as hijacking, the constant recourse to intimidation and coercion, the plot to promote defections on a mass scale-all these are facets of the same process. The present ruling party’s naked collusion with anti-social elements during the 1980 election and its shameless incitement of communal, casteist and regional feelings in order to pander to vote banks also should be understood in the same light.
Yet another evidence of this process of degeneration is the double standards of morality maintained by Government. There is one standard for those who are their proteges or their relations and another standard for the rest. When, prior to the Janata regime, allegations were made against relatives of the Prime Minister, she dismissed them in utter disregard of the Santhanam Committee’s recommendations. In contrast, Prime Minister Shri Desai referred the allegations against his son to judicial scrutiny. It is only during the 28 months of the Janata rule that some efforts were made to stem this rot of moral decay. It is not only the rulers or the political parties who are corroded by this decay. It really affects the entire society, the bureaucracy, the industry and the trade. Even the common man is afflicted by it. Self-seeking becomes the order of the day. The nation thus suffers an erosion of moral strength and loses its capacity to face difficulties.
Restoration of Moral Values
If we want to overcome the present crisis, the first and foremost condition is that moral values must be restored to their place in public life. To identify these values we do not have to look outside the country. Irrespective of caste, creed, language and region, an average Indian cherishes deep respect for values like tolerance, contentment, simple living, hard work and brotherhood. Let us strengthen these values and build a new society on that basis. Of course, the modern context has to be kept in view. Pandit Nehru emphasised the use of science and technology for development. The nation has progressed on that account, but large sections of the population have not been the beneficiaries of the prosperity achieved. Inequalities have grown. The chasm between the rich and the poor has widened. These distortions have to be corrected. We can do this if we accept Indian cultural values as the basis for progress, and regard the individual, particularly the weakest individual, as the focal point of our developmental endeavours. Gandhiji, Jaiprakash and Upadhyay had all stressed this approach. It was acceptance of this approach which during the Janata regime gave birth to schemes like Antyodaya and Food for Work.
Building a society of this kind, free from exploitation and discrimination and based on certain values, is a challenging task. Merely invoking Gandhiji’s name or making pompous declarations is not going to help. An arduous struggle is called for. We have to consciously organise the poor peasantry, workers, the Harijans, the tribals and other exploited sections of the population to this end. It is the organised strength of these sections that can really bring about this new society. Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against the foreign government derived considerable strength from the success he achieved in mobilising these sections.
To be continued…
(Presidential address of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpeyee at BJP National Council, Bombay, 28-December, 1980)