BJP’s 2014 pitch: Development or Hindutva or both?

By ZRG | Updated: Apr 11, 2013, 13:17 PM IST

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

As Narendra Modi takes centre stage, his pitch is not yet in sync with the rest of the leadership in the party. While Modi has stuck so far primarily to his pet governance theme, other party stalwarts have focused on the core Hindutva agenda.

Is this part of a grand design or a reflection of utter confusion over Opposition`s pitch ahead of 2014 elections?

Over the past few months, Modi has been pitching Gujarat’s growth model everywhere to tackle India’s worsening economic crisis. The theme of development was explored in the national capital during Modi’s interaction with the students of the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC).

Focusing on growth and development, he struck a chord with women during his address at the FICCI Ladies Organization annual convention. Modi re-invented the four P model during another fixture here making (p) people participation central to development. In Kolkata, he wooed Mamata Banerjee but the key message was to rope in industry as an equal partner in the growth agenda.

Nowhere, did he even allude to the traditional messages defining the party’s Hindutva agenda.

A study of statements/speeches by senior BJP leaders during the recent past shows the sharp contrast in the key content of their outing.

For instance, during February 2013, BJP president Rajnath Singh’s address to seers at the Mahakumbh in Allahabad was perhaps the saffron party’s first vocal enunciation of the Hindutva agenda. In Allahabad, Singh raked up the Ayodhya issues saying his party is committed to the construction of Ram temple.

More so, former deputy prime minister and party veteran LK Advani also made a similar statement at the BJP’s 33rd foundation day. He asked party men not to be apologetic for the Ayodhya movement and instead take pride in it.

The statement of the former president of BJP M Venkaiah Naidu in Visakhapatnam also signals that party may return to Hindutva agenda again. He promised that his party would bring in an anti-conversion law on return to power. Ally leader Ashok Singhal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) added to the clamour calling Narendra Modi the “hero of the Hindus”.

The difference of opinion over Hinduism was also seen in the BJP’s manifesto for the 2009 General Elections and for the 2012 Gujarat Assembly Elections. While BJP’s manifesto for previous Lok Sabha elections was centered on Hinduism, Gujarat’s manifesto didn’t even mention it.

So, who and what are calling the shots in the party aiming for a return to power next year? Is it core Hindutva agenda or development mantra or a mix of both? Or is this a recipe for disaster in the making?

KN Govindacharya, a former party ideologue, believes BJP leaders are speaking in different voices because the party is only about “internal contradictions and opportunism”. “I don’t think that BJP has any particular agenda barring to capture the power like any other major political party. If BJP really wants to pursue with Hindutva agenda for 2014 they have to be first clear about their pitch otherwise it will only confuse the voters.”

The lack of clarity in the speech does not surprise all. Professor Pradip Kumar Datta, head of department of political science at the University of Delhi, shares the same thought, “It is nothing new in the BJP as their leaders always speak in multiple voices. It used to happen even in the NDA regime when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani used to speak differently on a same issue.” His prescription: BJP should focus on growth since Hindutva doesn’t make any sense now.

Agrees psephologist-turned-politician GVL Narasimha Rao, who is member national executive, BJP. “Our party will focus on mis-governance and price rise in the UPA regime in the General Elections.” Modi’s development pitch has raised hopes of party doing well next year, according to Datta at Delhi University. “I think this is for the very first time in the politics of BJP that a leader (Modi) has overshadowed the RSS. He has defied organizations like RSS and VHP in Gujarat with his growth model.”