BJP bid to show its pro-reforms, secular face
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Barring L K Advani's suggestion of starting identification of candidates for the next Lok Sabha elections, which he predicted will happen an year ahead of schedule, the mood at the three-day national meeting of the BJP did not indicate any urgency reflective of elections. It was more about fleshing out the issues that the party wants its workers to go to the people with — corruption, price rise as well as FDI in multi-brand retail.
With Atal Behari Vajpayee no longer available, the BJP seemed to be bouncing around ideas for a cohesive message to show itself as a party of good governance.
One of those ideas was "economic good governance", compared to the alleged mis-governance of the UPA. The BJP obviously hopes that the Vajpayee government's forward-looking economic stance coupled with the pro-development record of its own chief ministers will lend weight to that message.
The party's eagerness to clarify its position on FDI in multi-brand retail fit in with this. Ironically, while party workers at the meeting themselves seemed to need no convincing, the BJP was at pains to explain its opposition, seen by some as going against its pro-reform image.
The second message emerging from the BJP meeting was reiteration of its "secular" credentials, given the realisation that it needs a larger support base to come back to power. While none of the leaders mentioned Ram mandir or Article 370 or a common civil code — once its pet demands — Advani talked of commitment to "secularism" and BJP president Nitin Gadkari of "social harmony". Both also condemned the anti-Islam film that has seen protests.
The one contentious matter that all remained silent on was who would lead the BJP into polls. A poem by Vajpayee displayed prominently at the meeting perhaps said it all — "Chhote man se koi bada nahi hota, tute man se koi khada nahi hota (Only a person with a large heart can become big, only one with an unbroken heart can stand tall)."
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