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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Analysis: BJP swings to the right
Venkaiah Naidu with LK Advani
The party is in the hands of hardline leaders


The overriding aim of Mr Vajpayee's reshuffle is to rejuvenate his party's sinking fortunes by bringing new blood into it.

It is his hope that the younger leaders - all in their 40s and 50s - will be able to come up with fresh ideas that will prove popular with voters.


Hindu hardliners now believe it is time the party got back to basics

Half-way through his term, Mr Vajpayee knows that his party must do better in state elections due next year than its performance in several state polls earlier this year.

The BJP openly admits that it needs to revamp its image, particularly as part of preparations for the general election scheduled for 2004.

So ministers such as Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley are taking over from the older generation to strengthen the party.

Parallel with the younger generation moving to the forefront is another distinct shift.

Pressure from hardliners

Recent events clearly indicate that the BJP has decided to revert to its original Hindu revivalist ideology.

Hard-line Hindus demonstrate
Hindu hardliners are pushing their agenda

For months now, Hindu hardline groups allied to the BJP have openly disapproved the adoption of a moderate line - partly to satisfy its coalition partners in government.

The hardline groups - the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) believe that the BJP has lost the support of Indians who valued its distinct ideology.

The VHP and the RSS acknowledge that a partial weakening of political identity was inevitable for two reasons - first, the compulsions of managing a coalition government made up of over 20 parties.

And second, the commitment that the BJP had made to its allies that it would not pursue the more controversial aspects of its revivalist agenda, notably the building of a Hindu temple on the ruins of an ancient mosque at Ayodhya.

But the Hindu hardliners now believe it is time the party got back to basics.

Election setbacks

Their biggest anxiety is the erosion in electoral support.

The BJP rules in only three states; the opposition Congress controls 14.

All attempts to win voters over have failed and the party is frantically casting around for a winning strategy.


Political commentators say the BJP is prepared to use divisive issues if that is the only way it can return to power

Several recent events demonstrate the BJP's decision to revert a hardline agenda.

It has chosen the former leader of the sectarian Bajrang Dal group, Vinay Katiyar, to lead the party in Uttar Pradesh.

An outspoken supporter of the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992, Mr Katiyar was a deliberately controversial choice.

His appointment shows that the party intends to use the issue to rally Hindu support.

Recent declarations by the VHP are in the same mould.

At a public rally earlier this month, no attempt was made to conceal its anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Reneging on an earlier pledge that it would respect any court ruling over the temple issue, the VHP said it would disregard any decision it did not agree with because 'faith' was more important than the law.

Back to basics

Political commentators say the BJP is prepared to use divisive issues if that is the only way it can return to power.

They point to the party's refusal to sack Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, after the massacre of over 1,000 Muslims by Hindu mobs, as an example of the new hardline stand.

Mr Vajpayee had appeared to be in favour of sacking Mr Modi but it was the younger leaders - the same leaders who have been charged with revitalising the party - who prevented him from doing so.

In fact, the party's new aggressive mood and shift in thinking first became apparent at a party conclave in Goa in April.

The constant refrain in Goa was that the party must return to its ideological moorings to check its sinking electoral fortunes.

There were also demands within the party for Home Minister LK Advani, a known hardliner, to be elevated to the post of deputy prime minister.

This has now happened.

The VHP and RSS believe that Mr Advani is a more reliable votary of Hindu nationalism than Mr Vajpayee.

Mr Advani is the ideological mascot of the VHP and RSS - he is seen as someone who may make tactical adjustments for the sake of running a coalition but would not compromise on fundamental beliefs.

See also:

28 Jun 02 | South Asia
03 Jun 02 | South Asia
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07 Jan 02 | South Asia
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