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The Rediff Election Special/George Iype

March 31, 2004

Earlier avatar

Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in which incarnation it was part of the 1977 Janata Party government at the Centre and which was broken up by the Socialists led by, among others, George Fernandes, now defence minister. Reinvented itself as the BJP in 1980.

Show of strength

183 in the Lok Sabha and 45 in the Rajya Sabha.

Leading lights

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and Human Resources Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi. Vajpayee and Advani are consulted by the the leadership on all major decisions and issues.

The Big Chief

Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, 55, elected party president in July 2002. The BJP holds regular organizational elections, and although the trinity above may have a say in the ultimate choice there is clear evidence of internal democracy at work. Apart from Naidu, the party has five vice-presidents and six general secretaries to manage its affairs.

The next level

Compared to its main rival the Congress, the BJP boasts of a prominent second line of leadership. Chief among them are Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj.

Path to power

In the 1984 election which swept Rajiv Gandhi to power the BJP won only two seats. But in 1989, riding V P Singh's anti-corruption crusade and its Ram temple at Ayodhya campaign, it won more than 80 seats. Since then it has not looked back.

The turning point

In the 1996 election it emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, and formed a 13-day government led by its moderate face, Vajpayee. When support to its divisive manifesto was not forthcoming, the government resigned in 13 days, paving the way for the United Front government, a conglomeration of regional parties supported from the outside by the Congress party. When elections followed in 1998, the BJP shelved its key issues -- abolition of Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Uniform Civil Code and Ayodhya -- roped in regional parties to form the National Democratic Alliance. This time there was no denying it federal power.

Lessons learnt

Apparently not many. The 1998 government was brought down in 13 months a piqued ally, J Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu. In 1999 the BJP allied with her rival, M Karunanidhi, but this time round it is back to Jayalalithaa.

Core meltdown

Its Vision Statement released on March 30 tells it like it is. The Uniform Civil Code re-emerges as a gender-based issue, not an anti-minority one; no mass-based movement for a temple at Ayodhya but deferring to the rule of law; and silence on Article 370, which can be interpreted any which way. Plus, goodbye to Swadeshi or economic self-reliance.

So what is the BJP V2 all about?

India Shining, which the party has claimed as its own. Development is the new mantra, and the party's mascot, L K Advani, is criss-crossing the country pushing his party's case. And, yes, even wooing the Muslims.

Has the Sangh Parivar, the saffron family, been silenced?

For the time being at least, yes. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and hardline leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are not in the forefront of the election campaign.

Cutting edge?

That the BJP is a young party compared to the Congress. That during its journey from political wilderness to replacing the Congress at the center of governance, it has become a party with a difference.

Junior artistes

The Mahila Morcha (for women), Kisan Morcha (farmers), Yuva Morcha (youth), Schedules Caste Morcha, Scheduled Tribes Morcha and, yes, Minorities Morcha.

It also has various cells for doctors, intellectuals, artists, ex-servicemen, sports, media, chartered accountants and the like.

The foreign hand

For non-resident Indians there is the Overseas Friends of the BJP, which is very active in America and elsewhere.

Image: Uday Kuckian

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