1. Anything but a "Hindu" party
The strange thing about the BJP is that
its voters consider it a Hindu party, its enemies denounce it as a Hindu
party, but the party will call itself anything except a Hindu party.
Unlike most critics of the BJP, who tend to
make their point by quoting sources openly hostile to the party, we should
prove our case by going to its own formulations of its ideology. To
summarize the ideological positions of the BJP and its former avatar, the
BJS (Bharatiya Jana Sangh), from authentic sources, we will reproduce the
brief professions of ideological commitment given in the Constitutions of
the BJS (1973) and of the BJP (1992). The summary given in the BJS
Constitution under the heading "Aims and Objectives in Brief", a programme
to which all BJS party members pledged their loyalty, are as follows (we
give it in its entirety, but change the order so as to group the different
points under headings of our own making):
1) Cultural nationalism:
"Political, social and economic reconstruction of the country on the basis
of Bharatiya Sanskriti [= culture] and Maryada [= "limit", ethics].
Protection and promotion of the cow. Use of Hindi and other Pradesh [=
provincial] languages as official languages in their regions. Changes
in the judicial system to suit the genius of India and fit in with
2) Political nationalism:
"The establishment of a unitary government and decentralisation of
political and economic power. Establishment of Akhand Bharat [=
undivided India including the Pakistani and Bangladeshi territories].
Complete integration of Kashmir. Liberation of territory occupied by China
and Pakistan. A foreign policy based upon enlightened self-interests of the
country. Modern-most military armaments."
3) Social concerns:
"Protection of the fundamental rights of the individual and the promotion of
interests of the Society. Guarantee of the fundamental right to work and
livelihood. Upholding establishment and protection of the tiller's right to
ownership of land. Ceiling on agricultural land and redistribution of
land. Eradication of untouchability. Elimination of corruption. Free
education up to middle class. Facilities for medical care and social
4) Economic programme:
"Encouragement to small mechanised and rural industries. Nationalisation
of basic industries. Curbing monopolistic tendencies in the economic
sphere. Determination of minimum and maximum expendable income. Worker's
participation in the profit and management of the industries. Stabilisation
Under headings 1 and 2 we certainly
find a nationalist programme, considerably more radical than anything stated
by the later BJP. Under headings 3 and 4, we do not find the "rightist"
policies which the leftists always attribute to the Hindutva forces, but a
typical social-democratic programme. But either way, what we do not find,
is an explicitly Hindu orientation underlying this programme. One may argue
that in its practical application, Hindu social philosophy boils down to an
"integral humanism" of which this programme is the logical explicitation;
but even then, there should be no reason to be so modest (not to say
secretive) about the Hindu source of this orientation.
The BJP defines its ideology
The party is pledged to build up India as a strong and prosperous nation,
which is modern, progressive and enlightened in outlook and which proudly
draws inspiration from India's ancient culture and values and thus is able
to emerge as great world power playing an effective role in the comity of
Nations for the establishment of world peace and a just international
"The party aims at establishing a democratic state which guarantees to all
citizens irrespective of caste, creed or sex, political, social and economic
justice, equality of opportunity and liberty of faith and expression.
"The party shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India
as by law established and to the principles of socialism, secularism and
democracy and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
III: Basic Philosophy.
Integral Humanism shall be the basic philosophy of the Party.
The Party shall be committed to nationalism and national integration,
democracy, Gandhian Socialism, Positive Secularism, that is 'Sarva Dharma
Samabhav', and value-based politics. The party stands for decentralisation
of economic and political power."
Upon joining the party, every BJP
member makes the following pledge:
"I believe in Integral Humanism which is the basic philosophy of Bharatiya
"I am committed to Nationalism and National Integration, Democracy,
Gandhian Socialism, Positive Secularism (Sarva Dharma Samabhava) and
"I subscribe to the concept of a Secular State and Nation not based on
"I firmly believe that this task can be achieved by peaceful means alone.
"I do not observe or recognize untouchability in any shape or form.
"I am not a member of any other political party.
"I undertake to abide by the Constitution, Rules and Discipline of the
I have taken the trouble of
quoting the BJP's explicit statement of its political objectives and methods
in full, because these official self-declarations and the received wisdom
about the BJP are miles apart. These statements can be used as
counter-evidence by those who are concerned about the slanderous
descriptions of the BJP as "Hindu fundamentalists" standing for
"preservation of caste oppression", for a "theocratic state", for "communal
violence", if not for "fascism". However, while comforting for those who
try to prove that the BJP is a nice secularist party, the cited official
statements of the BJP party-line are somewhat worrying from a Hindu
viewpoint. Indeed, the word "Hindu" does not figure in them at any point.
Moreover, like in the Indian
Constitution, there is nothing typically Hindu about these BJS/BJP
programmes. The BJS text still contained some Sanskrit words which could
have been replaced with English terms without loss of meaning, but the
operative term is Bharatiya, "Indian"; the BJP can do without the
Sanskrit altogether (except for one problematic expression, cfr. infra).
These manifestoes are entirely in the tradition of Western
liberal-democratic nationalism, and most of the expressions used can be
found in texts of the American and French Revolutions or the speeches of
19th-century liberal nationalists like Lajos Kossuth or Giuseppe Mazzini.
Not that this is objectionable in itself, but from a party claiming "Bharatiya
culture" as its inspiration, this wholesale borrowing from the West is not
The term integral humanism,
the BJP's official ideology, was introduced in Sangh ideology by Deendayal
Upadhyaya, as a social doctrine based on Hindu instead of Western thought.
It was given a universalist rather than a "national" name, which in
principle I consider a good thing; "Western" ideologies like liberalism and
socialism have not been labelled after their country of origin either. At
the same time, a nagging suspicion remains that the term was chosen and
promoted as yet another attempt to acquire a "secular" identity.
Reproduced in Bharatiya Jana Sangh Party Documents 1951-1972,
Constitution and Rules (as amended by the National Council at
Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on 2nd May 1992) of the Bharatiya Janata Party,
p.3-4. "Sarva-Dharma-Samabhava" is a Gandhian slogan meaning
"equal respect for all religions".
Constitution and Rules, p.19.