Maria Abraham, Reuters
Thursday 24 June 2004
Last Update 24 June 2004 12:00 am
BOMBAY, 24 June 2004 — India’s Hindu nationalist opposition, licking its wounds after last month’s election defeat, yesterday vowed to re-dedicate itself to Hindu ideology as it rebuilds itself ahead of state polls.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) hawkish senior leader, L.K. Advani, said it was the failure to nurture its critical Hindu voters that led to the party’s surprise defeat.
“Somehow, our political strategy and conduct during the past six years was not oriented to strengthening and enthusing our workers, our ideological family or our social support base,” Advani said at a party executive meeting in Bombay.
Addressing nearly 200 delegates of the BJP’s national executive on the second day of a three-day conference, Advani said the party had neglected the people who voted it to power for its Hindutva ideology.
Hindutva is the philosophy of an umbrella of Hindu organizations, including the BJP, which stresses greater primacy or prominence to Hindu religion, history, morals, culture and philosophy in India’s political, social and public life.
“We were somewhat confused as to how to relate to our own ideological family,” said Advani.
Party leaders and officials passed a four-page resolution on strategy that tells state branches, particularly the five states going to the polls over the next year, to also focus on the rural and urban poor who turned out in their millions to dump the BJP-led central government last month.
After the BJP failed to retain power on a moderate platform of economic prosperity and peace with Pakistan, hard-liners have pushed for a return to its Hindu nationalist roots.
Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee angered hard-liners last week by calling for the removal of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, blamed for religious riots in 2002 that left up to 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.
But hard-liners vetoed any debate at the meeting. Political analysts have expressed concern.
“With the BJP returning back to Hindutva, I see a rise in the possibility of communal confrontations,” political commentator Prem Shankar Jha told Reuters.
“The BJP has a huge issue before it. Does it want to return to the politics where it will try to rouse the 80 percent of the Hindu masses to hate the remaining 20 percent?”
In what some newspapers interpreted as a veiled attack on Vajpayee, Naidu warned against “the virus of individualism” on Tuesday and said the party should not be personality-based.