I am pleased to welcome you all to this important and the first meeting of the newly constituted National Executive in Mumbai. We are meeting for the first time after the elections to the 14th Lok Sabha. The verdict of the people has gone against our expectations - indeed, against everybody's expectations, including those who are in government now.
Naturally, our party has to introspect at all levels on why we could not succeed in retaining the mandate of the people. We had the finest leadership. The performance of the NDA government, under the able leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was good. Our government took the country forward impressively during its six years in office. The development it achieved, and the many developmental initiatives it launched, will go down in history. Yet, our performance fell way below our expectations. It is necessary to conduct a comprehensive, in-depth and objective analysis of the election results and pinpoint the factors that contributed to this setback.
The Parliamentary Board of the Party, which met in Delhi two days ago, has taken a decision to entrust this
responsibility to a small committee. I shall, at the end of this Executive, announce the names of the members
of this Committee.
Three principles of introspection
I must point out that the BJP has a distinctive culture of introspection and analysis, which every functionary of the party should understand. I would like to point out three guiding principles for conducting this exercise.
1. Our approach to introspection and analysis should always be positive and constructive. In other words, analysis cannot be only for finding out what went wrong; rather, its principal purpose should to enable us to overcome the shortcomings and forge ahead with greater confidence and resolve.
2. Our party does not believe in blame game and finger-pointing. Unlike most parties in the Indian political system, the BJP is not a personality-based party. We believe in the principle of collective responsibility - both in victory and in defeat.
3. Collective responsibility, however, does not preclude the need for individual accountability. Each one of us, at an individual level, has to examine our own decisions and actions and weigh their contribution to the overall outcome of the elections.
As the President of the party, I have to admit my responsibility not only for my individual actions, but also for the performance of the party as a whole. I sincerely thank my leaders as well as my colleagues for the confidence they have continued to repose in me. I pledge to work with redoubled energy and strive my utmost to fulfill the high responsibility placed once again on my shoulders.
No anti-NDA wave and no pro-Congress wave
Friends, let us analyse. Was there an anti-NDA wave? No. There was generally a pro-Vajpayee and pro-BJP mood all over the country.
Was there a pro-Congress wave? No. This is clear from the fact that the Congress party managed to win only 7 seats more than the BJP. It drew a blank in Kerala; was reduced to only 8 seats in Karnataka; could not increase its tally in Maharashtra - indeed, it lagged behind the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance -- in spite of forging a much talked-about alliance with the NCP; it managed to win only one seat in Punjab and Uttaranchal. All the States I have just mentioned are ruled by the Congress party.
The Congress fared worse than before in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which are BJP-ruled States. It failed to make any gains in Orissa. Its performance was dismal in the North East. In Assam it could not improve its position in spite of being in the government. Even in Gujarat, where the BJP is said not to have fared well, we won more seats than the Congress, although it was below our expectations.
Therefore, it is completely untenable for the Congress to claim that the people's mandate has gone in its favour.
It is said that the rural people were unhappy with the NDA and they did not vote for us. This is not true. Results show that most of the seats that the BJP won are actually rural constituencies.
It is also claimed that the poor people were not happy with the NDA and they too did not vote for us. This is also not true. As a matter of fact, most of the constituencies where we won fall in areas that are poor and backward. These are in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, North Karnataka, Orissa, and Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra.
As we examine the factors that contributed to our poor performance, it emerges that we were, perhaps, overconfident in our assessment of the situation. Overconfidence might have led to complacency in certain places. Our workers and supporters in some constituencies felt that they could take it easy, since the BJP and the NDA were "anyway going to form the government".
The damage due to complacency among our workers and traditional voters was, in several constituencies, compounded by the local situation. We did not give adequate weightage to the anti-incumbency factor operating against many of our sitting MPs while re-nominating them. This cost us dearly. Nearly 50% of our sitting MPs failed to get re-elected. This is a matter of serious concern, requiring close study and corrective action.
The outcome of the recent election shows no clear or uniform national pattern. The preference of the electorate deferred from state to state, so much so that it seems that the final verdict is actually an aggregate of state verdict influenced mostly by local factors.
In addition to the factors that I have just mentioned, in a few states we suffered on account of the alliance factor. I am not saying this to put the blame on our allies, but only as a matter of fact. We have no regrets.
The BJP is firmly in favour of further strengthening the National Democratic Alliance and our relationship with the supporting parties. It is true that some allies left the NDA prior to the elections. In every single case they left on their own. We did not leave any of our allies.
Yes, we have to identify the shortcomings and correct the lapses. We have to learn lessons from the past, and move forward leaving the past behind.
Congress party's self-serving interpretation of the mandate
Friends, in the aftermath of the unexpected election results our adversaries, especially the Congress and the Communists, have given a totally a false spin to the people's verdict. The Congress claims that it has won the people's mandate. Numbers belie this claim. The Congress party has managed to win only 145 seats. The Congress and its pre-poll allies could win only 218 seats, which is far below the half way mark of 272 necessary to form the government.
It is of course true that they have been able to cobble together the necessary majority to form the government. The ruling outfit calls itself the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Far from being united, it presents a picture of disunity right from the beginning. Far from being progressive, its contradictions and compromises will take the country in a regressive direction. Far from being an alliance, it is merely an opportunistic arrangement for power sharing.
I do not wish to comment much on how this government was formed and has been blundering along for the past month or so, because these aspects are covered in the draft political resolution to be placed before the National Executive.
Dangerous portents of competitive pseudo-secularism
In this context, I would like to draw your attention to a very disturbing aspect of the mindset of those who are a part of the new government or are associated with it. This is the phenomenon of competitive pseudo-secularism. It is shocking that the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA does not even mention cross-border terrorism, as if that menace is over.
Within a week of the formation of the new government 33 BSF Jawans and their family members were killed in a terrorist attack in Kashmir. A few days ago, security forces unearthed yet another Lashkar-e-Toiba conspiracy to assassinate Shri Narendra Modi. Four persons, including two Pakistani nationals, were killed in a police encounter. What is shocking is that certain pseudo secular parties and organizations are using this incident in their anti-BJP campaign and also trying to make it into a Hindu-Muslim issue. They are projecting it as a case of human rights violation, forgetting that human rights are for the protection of innocent citizens and cannot be misused for the protection of terrorists and anti-nationals. They had the audacity to say that the attack on Akshardham was also stage-managed! These parties were even in the forefront of organizing bandhs in defence of the terrorists.
The BJP would like to caution these pseudo-secular parties that, for short-term gains, they are encouraging and emboldening anti-national and terrorist forces with their pronouncements. It is the same mindset, which has guided the new government to promise repeal of POTA, ignoring the continued threat of terrorism. This is a highly dangerous trend, which poses a threat to our national security, national unity and even to India's democratic system.
As a nationalist party, it is our duty to educate the people and arouse public opinion about the consequences of competitive pseudo-secularism. The BJP will take up a major nationwide campaign on this highly disturbing issue.
Performing the role of an effective opposition
Friends, we shall perform the role of an effective opposition with a construction and responsible approach. We have patience to sit in the opposition. We shall spare no opportunity to expose the contradictions, compulsions, compromises and failures of the new government. Our campaign against the tainted Ministers in the Manmohan Singh government is only the beginning. We shall soon launch nationwide campaign against the Congress and Communist parties' vile attempts to re-falsify India's history in the name of "desaffronisation" of text books.
When national interests and issues of people's welfare are involved, we will support the government. But it is for the government to come forward and seek our support. It is the government's responsibility to demonstrate that it will carry forward the tradition of consensus-building on major issues, which was initiated by the Vajpayee government.
Also, as Shri Advaniji has rightly pointed out, the only sensible meaning of the highly fragmented mandate, in which no party or pre-poll alliance has won a majority, is that the people of India want the new government to actively seek the cooperation of the opposition on all important issues.
However, it is crystal clear that the new government is no mood to follow this sensible message given by the electorate. Rather, it is a vindictive government that wants, wherever it can, to undo the good legacy of the Vajpayee government. Therefore, our Party has to be extremely vigilant both inside and outside Parliament. We must stoutly defend all the good work done by our government. We must also pressurize the Congress-led government to carry forward the good initiatives of the Vajpayee government.
It is worth mentioning here that very important development initiatives of the Vajpayee government, such as the National Highway Development Project, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Samporna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, Swajaldhara, Antyodaya Anna Yojana, and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, do not even find a mention either in the new government's Common Minimum Programme or in the President's Address to the Joint House of Parliament.
Party's new initiative: Subject Committees
Our party's representation in Parliament presents a good blend of experience and youthfulness, of proven capability and promising new talent. Many of our members have excelled themselves both in governance and in opposition in the past. We are indeed blessed with the leadership of Shri Atalji and Shri Advaniji in the Lok Sabha. In the Upper House, we have the leadership of Shri Jaswant Singhji. Therefore, we can have full confidence in our Parliamentary wing to do a great job.
In this context, we have decided to create a new category of structures within the Party organization to draw upon our colleagues' rich experience in governance and in parliamentary work. These are subject-specific committees, somewhat on the pattern of Standing Committees in Parliament, comprising our MPs, members of the National Executive and non-Party experts. This will impart a new dimension to our Party's work both inside and outside Parliament.
Gear up for the coming Assembly elections
Esteemed colleagues, many formidable tasks lie ahead of us. A draft Working Paper on "Tasks Ahead" will be placed before the National Executive for discussion. This discussion will continue beyond Mumbai. We have planned to hold a Chintan Baithak in the month of July. Its main purpose is to deliberate on how to further expand the Party's social and political base to win back the confidence of the people, based on suggestions from you and from Party functionaries at various levels.
Our immediate task is to gear up for the electoral battle in the States of Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh, which will elect new Assemblies within the next few months. I should also add Uttar Pradesh to this list, because, looking at the situation there, elections might be held before schedule. All these Assembly elections are very important for us.
We are meeting in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra. I would like all of you to join me in congratulating the Maharashtra unit for performing well in the Lok Sabha elections, belying many forecasts. All of us here hope that the BJP, together with our time-tested ally, Shiv Sena, will be able to drive out of power the unholy alliance of the Congress and the NCP. The incumbent government has become a byword for corruption, non-performance and internal bickering. The people of Maharashtra are in a mood for change.
The people of Bihar are also eagerly awaiting freedom from the Jungle Raj of the RJD-Congress Communists alliance. Our colleagues in the Bihar unit should prepare a meticulous strategy for ending its misrule, by learning the right lessons from the recent Lok Sabha elections.
For the BJP, it is very important to win a renewed mandate in Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh. I should add here that we have the opportunity to perform better in Haryana.
No question of being apologetic about Hindutva
Friends, preparing for the coming Assembly elections is of course our priority in the immediate term. But, simultaneously, we have to address the other crucial tasks before the party.
The foremost task before the entire Party organization is to rededicate ourselves to our ideology and to idealism. We have to create awareness right from top to bottom that we are not an ordinary political party, but a party with a mission. We are also a part of a larger movement, inspired by the ideology of nationalism.
What this mission is, and what this movement is, is something that our functionaries and karyakartas must internalize fully. It must be reflected in our thinking, communication and conduct.
There is once again speculation in a section of the media that the BJP is going back to Hindutva. The question of going back to Hindutva does not arise, because we have never left it, nor will we ever leave it.
For us, Hindutva is not an electoral issue. Electoral issues usually change from one election to another. But that is not the case with Hindutva, which is a way of life. It is the soul of our Nation. Even the Supreme Court has affirmed that Hindutva is the basic identity of India.
The BJP has always believed that Hindutva, Bharateeyata and Indianness are synonymous. They are one and the same. Therefore, as far as the BJP is considered, there is no question of being apologetic about Hindutva. Indeed, we are proud of our civilization, our philosophy, and our cultural heritage.
I would also like to make one more thing clear. There is no question of giving up our efforts to reach out to all sections of Indian society, including the minorities. We never consider the minorities differently in our political work. Minorities are an integral part of our Nation. Our motto in this regard will continue to be: "Justice for all, appeasement of none".
Our Party will maintain good relations with all nationalist organizations working for the cause of nation-building.
Our commitment to Vikas will continue
Friends, there is some talk in media and political circles that, after the electoral setback we have suffered, the BJP would give up its focus on Vikas (development), which we had made as an important plank in our election campaign. I wish to make it absolutely clear that this will not be so. The BJP has twin commitments: Cultural Nationalism and Development. Indeed, the two are inter-related. Without our country's all-round and accelerated development, we cannot realize our dream of a resurgent India, capable of regaining and surpassing her past glory. We continue to believe that India has the potential, and all the needed resources, to emerge as a strong economic power and a Developed Nation in a short time. Therefore, "Development, Faster Development, and Equitable Development" will continue to be our mantra.
We are proud of the many path-breaking development initiatives of the Vajpayee government in infrastructure as well as in various social sectors. The BJP's policies and programmes will continue to highlight the urgency and imperative need for poverty alleviation, employment opportunities for all, removal of regional disparities, bridging of the rural-urban divide through innovative approaches such as PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), urban renewal leading to improvement in the living conditions of slumdwellers, women's empowerment, and speedy development of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and all other weaker sections of society. We firmly hold that even the last man must benefit from, and must have a feeling of involvement in the nation's integrated development. This is what we mean by 'Antyodaya', and it will remain our guiding principle. I would like all our karyakartas to give overriding importance to all these development-related issues in their political and practical activities.
Expand BJP's work among kisans and rural poor
Friends, we have to regain the confidence of the people by expanding and intensifying our activities in different sections of society, and also by effectively championing the causes of those sections of society in which we still have a narrow base.