Open Letter to non-BJP constituents of the NDA
It is a year since the BJP-led NDA government has been in power. While the previous tenure was on the basis of a post-poll adjustment, the present dispensation is on the basis of a pre-poll alliance. A year is a long enough period to assess the policies and performance of any government. Even a cursory review, of its one-year in office, in the spheres of economy, foreign policy, maintaining national unity, will reveal the dangers that this country is exposed to, with the BJP being at the helm of affairs.
1. The economic policies of liberalisation and privatisation pursued by the BJP-led government has placed the country at the mercy of the multinational corporations and international finance capital. The policy is detrimental to the independent economic development of the country and its economic sovereignty. The public sector, which played a significant role in laying the foundations of India's post independent economy is being dismantled and privatised. Profit-making companies are being sold off to domestic and foreign buyers. The terms of the WTO regime have spelled doom for domestic producers, especially in the agricultural sector. Agricultural commodities are being dumped into the Indian market at subsidised rates and the poorer sections of the peasantry are bearing the brunt. The prices of petroleum products have been hiked several times in the recent past. The pursuance of such policies is leading to discontent with even certain non-BJP constituents of the NDA government expressing their displeasure.
2. Until, the BJP came to power at the Centre, the country had by and large been pursuing a non-aligned foreign policy with an anti-imperialist thrust, advocating peace and universal nuclear disarmament. There was a consensus in the country in the matter of the foreign policy content despite some divergences. As in the economic sphere, so in the matter of external affairs, the Vajpayee government began yielding more and more to US pressures. The policy of non-alignment and championing the rights and interests of the developing countries was given up. The government has surrendered on vital interests to the US. Patriotic citizens were ashamed at the servile mentality that was displayed during the visit of President Clinton. The return visit by Shri Vajpayee did not evoke the same response and interest. But the unofficial engagement at the Staten Island was what made headlines in the country.
3. At the Staten Island, the Prime Minister, with a couple of sadhus and leading lights of the VHP in tow, addressing a gathering of people of Indian origin, swore that he was a "swayamsevak" to the core. But what followed was even worse. He made it amply clear that if the BJP gets a two-thirds majority, "we will build the India of our dreams". The BJP has consistently maintained that its Hindutva agenda cannot be fully implemented since it is in a coalition and does not have a majority on its own. Vajpayee asserted that a two-thirds majority would enable the BJP not only to build the temple but also fulfill the RSS dream of accomplishing the Hindutva agenda. And it is on this score, the most important issue before the country today, the defence of national unity and communal harmony, that I would like to draw your pointed attention.
1. Despite being a coalition called the NDA, all important portfolios, Home, Finance, External Affairs, HRD, apart from the Prime Minister's office -- crucial for deciding the fate of the country -- are vested with the BJP. The other constituents can in no way be called equal partners in the coalition.
2. I am addressing this letter to you, despite your being part of the NDA, because of your secular record. Many amongst you were part of the effort in 1996, which led to the formation of the United Front. The only motivating factor then was to keep the BJP out from power, as all of us rightly perceived the BJP to be a threat to national unity. Whatever might have been your compulsions in joining the NDA, we hope you still stand by your secular beliefs.
3. The BJP is no ordinary political party. It is the political arm of the RSS, a rabidly communal organisation that seeks to establish a Hindu rashtra in India. What Vajpayee reiterated at the Staten Island meeting, has been established and known for years, inspite of the camouflage. You may recall that the main reason for the downfall of the Morarji Desai ministry and breakup of the Janata Party in 1979 was on the dual membership issue (membership of the RSS alongwith that of the Janata Party). The erstwhile Jan Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, had merged itself into the Janata Party. However, the members of the Sangh refused to give up their membership of the RSS, whose activities were being indirectly encouraged and helped by its members in governmental positions. This conflict ultimately ended with the downfall of the Morarji Desai government and the emergence of the BJP as a separate party.
4. What the Prime Minister said at Staten Island was the obvious. It is the lack of a clear-cut majority that is preventing the BJP from fully implementing its agenda and they are doing whatever is possible within the constraints of the coalition. It is the mere failure to command adequate numbers that has compelled the BJP to seek your support. While it does not hide its intentions, at times it does not reveal itself fully and hides behind some pretext. You may recall that while the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation began in the mid-eighties, the BJP did not openly associate itself with it. Later on, at an opportune time, the BJP openly jumped into the bandwagon, with Shri L.K. Advani, the then president of the party, leading from the front, in the infamous rathyatra, which left behind a trail of death and destruction. His arrest at Samastipur, led to the BJP withdrawing support to the V.P. Singh government.
5. Again in December 1992, despite the promise to the highest court of the land, not to touch the Masjid at Ayodhya, it egged on and encouraged its supporters to bring down the Babri Masjid. The entire country hung its head in shame at this most barbarous attack on secularism in post-independent India.
6. After assumption of power by the BJP at the Centre, a systematic attack has been launched against the Christian community. The campaign commenced from Gujarat, one of the BJP's strongholds, and has now spread to different parts of the country. The most gruesome of these was the Manoharpur incident in which a Christian priest, Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive. Even while disassociating itself from this campaign, no less a person than the Prime Minister sought a national debate on "conversions".
7. Now the RSS Chief, Shri K.S. Sudharshan has called upon Christians to establish "Indian churches". This single statement is designed to raise suspicion about the patriotism of a whole community, a tactic used earlier against the Muslims. In his address on the occasion of Vijayadashami, Shri Sudharshan also called for the "Indianisation" of the Muslims. Shri Sudharshan, reportedly stated that like the Muslims in Indonesia, the Muslims in India should accept Ram and Krishna as their deities.
8. The BJP is using the State machinery and the Ministry of HRD to saffronise education and the higher institutions of research. This plan to subvert the secular content of education has already proceeded without any serious concern being expressed on your part. A leading newspaper today has reported on a disturbing incident in Tonk, Rajasthan. Here the Principal, his daughter and two other Muslim teachers of the Adarsh Vidya Mandir, were forced to resign after being threatened and coerced by the Bajrang Dal men.
9. The BJP has never hidden the fact that it has not given up its agenda of a common civil code, abrogation of Article 370 or the construction of a Ram temple at the site where the Babri Masjid stood.
10. Another issue on which the BJP has an entirely divergent view point is with regard to the question of more powers to the states and centre-state relations. The BJP, given its philosophy, has been an ardent advocate of a unitary set up and for more concentration of powers at the Centre. It has been opposed to the very concept of linguistic states, as it does not recognise the different linguistic cultural and ethnic communities in India. Its narrow approach is confined to viewing these from a purely religious and sectarian angle -- Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan. It is opposed to a restructuring of Centre-State relations based on devolving more administrative and financial powers to the states.
Therefore, on the two crucial and important pillars of the Indian republic, secularism and federalism, the BJP has a diametrically viewpoint as opposed to the rest of the political spectrum.
Lastly, it would not be out of context, to draw your attention to a news item on the US Ambassador's queries to the newly elected BJP President, Shri Bangaru Laxman. Mr. Celeste, it is reported, sought clarifications on a number of issues including the reasons for the party's defeat in the local body elections in Gujarat. The country has come to such a pass where the US dares to ask questions not only about the internal affairs of the country, but also about the party's internal affairs.
In the interests of the country and its people, it is essential that these trends be checked before it is too late. Despite differences, I hope that you will take a stand to counter these policies and trends. Failing to do so will cause immense harm to you and more importantly to the country.
(Harkishan Singh Surjeet), General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)