ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

What is BJP's ideology?

What is BJP’s political ideology? The supporters of BJP would proudly call it a ‘nationalist party’, which is deeply committed to the idea of Hindutva-a political philosophy that is supposed to be a religion-neutral term (at least, this is what the 1998 Manifesto of the BJP says). The opponents of the BJP, interestingly, often give the very similar arguments with a slightly different interpretation: BJP is a rightist party, which represents a wider political coalition called the Sangh-Parivar! We are very well-aware of these answers and there is a long debate on the political legitimacy of these claims. However, our knowledge of the official position of the BJP as a political party is rather limited. Thus, it would be intriguing to look at BJP’s self-portray of its ideology.

Article IV of the Party’s Constitution says that Party is committed to Gandhian approach to socio-economic issues, positive secularism and value-based politics. According to the national website of the Party, Hindutva and Integral Humanism are other two components that constitute the ideology of the party. Although the relationship between these ideological components is not at all explained, the Party’s website offers an elaborated explanation of Hindutva and Integral Humanism.

The Party adheres to Arun Shourie’s interpretation of Hindutva as his article (along with 1998 Manifesto) is given on the website as an authentic source. The philosophy of ‘Integral Humanism’ is based on the four lecturers delivered by Deen Dayal Upadhyay in the mid-1960s, which are also available. These lecturers offer a critique of national politics by evoking the intrinsic relationship between individual and society.

Interestingly, there are two official versions of the lecturers. The contents of the lecturers given on the national website of the BJP are slightly different from the Gujarat BJP’s official website.

The national website’s version of Lecture 3 (Individual of Society) talks about the specificities of the ‘group feelings’ and group identity. It says:                   

Group has its feelings too. These are not exactly similar to the individual's feelings. Group feelings cannot be considered a mere arithmetic addition of individual feelings. … A person may be ready to forgive and forget a personal abuse to him, but the same man loses his temper if you abuse his society. It is possible that a person who is of a high character in his personal life, is unscrupulous as a member of the society. Similarly an individual can be good in society but not so in his individual life. (http://www.bjp.org/about-the-party/philosophy/?u=integral-humanism#chapter3 accessed on 3 February 2014)

This description is concluded with a following paragraph.    

….. There is a thesis is that when a group of people live together for a long time, by historical tradition and association, by continued intercourse, they begin to think similarly and have similar customs. It is true that some uniformity is brought about by staying together. (http://www.bjp.org/about-the-party/philosophy/?u=integral-humanism#chapter3 accessed on 3 February 2014)

But this is not the case with the BJP’s Gujarat website. Between the above mentioned two paragraphs, there is an explanatory description, which says:

Let me give you an illustration. Once during a conversation between Shri Vinobaji and the Sar Sanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shri Guruji, a question arose as to where the modes of thinking of Hindus and Muslims differ. Guruji said to Vinobaji that there are good and bad people in every society. There can be found honest and good people in Hindus as well as in Muslims. Similarly rascals can be seen in both the societies. No particular society has a monopoly of goodness. However, it is observed that Hindus even if they are rascals in individual life, when they come together in a group, they always think of good things. On the other hand when two Muslims come together, they propose and approve of things which they themselves in their individual capacity would not even think of. They start thinking in an altogether different way. This is an everyday experience. Vinobaji admitted that there was truth in this observation but had no reasons to explain it.

If we analyse this situation, we shall discover that the modes of thinking of an individual and of a society are always different. These two do not bear an arithmetic relation. If a thousand good men gather together it cannot be said for certain that they will think similarly of good things. (Emphasis added, http://www.bjpgujarat.org/english/philosophy accessed on 3 February 2014  )

So, the question is which ‘integral humanism’ is authentic? Does BJP as a registered political party still believe that Muslims as a group cannot think of ‘good things’? What is the relationship between integral humanism and the Gandhian approach? These questions, I suggest, need to be raised for a healthy discussion on the ideology and politics of BJP. ‘Ideology’, after all, has recently made a remarkable comeback in Indian politics!         

About Author

Hilal Ahmed (ahmed.hilal@gmail.com) ​ is Associate Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing societies, New Delhi. He is the author of Monuments, Memory and Contestation: Muslim Political Discourse in Postcolonial India (Routledge/Forthcoming). Ahmed writes on popular Islam and Muslim politics. He is working on his second book project, Politics of Muslim Political Representation.     
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