Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani in a blog post on Thursday said that his party has never regarded those who disagree with it politically as “anti-national”.
“Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our ‘enemies’, but only as our adversaries,” the former deputy prime minister said. “Similarly, in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as ‘anti-national’.”
Advani said the essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. He said the defence of democracy and democratic traditions has been the hallmark of the BJP. “Therefore BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions, including the media,” he said. He added that electoral reforms have a been a priority for the BJP.
The BJP leader said his party is guided by the principles of truth, dedication to the country and democracy both within and outside the party. “The sum total of all these values constitutes cultural nationalism and good governance,” Advani claimed. He said the BJP’s opposition to the 1975 Emergency was based on these principles.
Advani said that in the backdrop of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, political parties, mass media, electoral authorities and the common people should all engage in “honest introspection”.
He added that he is grateful to the people of Gandhinagar for electing him to the Lok Sabha six consecutive times since 1991. The senior BJP leader has not been given a ticket to contest the 2019 elections. BJP President Amit Shah will contest from Gandhinagar instead.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi later tweeted that Advani had “summed up the true essence of the BJP” in his blog post.
BJP National President Amit Shah, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have described the Congress’ manifesto for the elections as “anti-national”. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed on Wednesday that parts of the Congress’ manifesto dealing with Jammu and Kashmir have been drafted by the “tukde tukde gang”, meaning those who want to break India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly attacked Opposition parties in his rallies, claiming they were making Pakistan happy by demanding proof of the Indian Air Force’s strikes on Pakistan’s Balakot in February. He has also labelled the Opposition the “poster boys of Pakistan”, and claimed that it speaks the language of terrorists.
On the day the Election Commission announced poll dates, Modi tweeted: “The festival of democracy, elections, are here.” However, after commending the poll panel, the prime minister claimed that his government had spent five years “fulfilling basic necessities that were left unfulfilled for 70 long years”.
Mamata Banerjee backs Advani’s views
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed Advani’s statement. “As the senior most politician, former deputy PM and founding father of BJP, the views Advaniji has expressed about extending democratic courtesies, is significant,” she tweeted. “Of course, all Opposition who raise their voices are not anti national. We welcome his statement & convey our humble regards.”
On March 27, Banerjee had alleged that the denial of a ticket to Advani was an insult to the senior leader. “[Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayee ji, Advani ji were the pillars of the BJP,” she had said. “Advani ji is a senior man. And now how he has been left out. This is of course an insult to Advani.”
Here is the text of Advani’s post:
On April 6th, the BJP will celebrate its Foundation Day. This is an important occasion for all of us in the BJP to look back, look ahead and look within. As one of the Founders of the BJP, I deem it to be my duty to share my reflections with the people of India, and more specifically with the millions of workers of my Party, both of whom have indebted me with their affection and respect.
Before I share my thoughts, I take this opportunity to convey my most sincere gratitude to the people of Gandhinagar, who have elected me to the Lok Sabha six times since 1991. Their love and support has always overwhelmed me.
Serving the Motherland has been my passion and my mission ever since I joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at the age of 14. My political life has been inseparably associated with my Party for nearly seven decades – first with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, and later with the Bharatiya Janata Party and I have been a founding member of both. It has been my rare privilege to work closely with stalwarts like Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and many other great, inspiring and self-less leaders.
The guiding principle of my life has been ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last.’And in all situations, I have tried to adhere to this principle and will continue to do so.
The essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression. Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our “enemies”, but only as our adversaries. Similarly, in our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as “anti-national”. The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at personal as well as political level.
Defense of democracy and democratic traditions, both within the Party and in the larger national setting,has been the proud hallmark of the BJP. Therefore BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions, including the media. Electoral reforms, with special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding, which is so essential for a corruption-free polity, has been another priority for our Party.
In short, the triad of Satya (truth), Rashtra Nishtha (dedication to the Nation) and Loktantra(democracy, both within and outside the Party) guided the struggle-filled evolution of my Party.The sum total of all these values constitutes Sanskritik Rashtravad (Cultural Nationalism) and Su-Raj (good governance), to which my Party has always remained wedded. The heroic struggle against the Emergengy rule was precisely to uphold the above values.
It is my sincere desire that all of us should collectively strive to strengthen the democratic edifice of India. True, elections are a festival of democracy. But they are also an occasion for honest introspection by all the stakeholders in Indian democracy – political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the election process and, above all, the electorate.
My best wishes to everyone.