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75 going on 25

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This year is the 25th anniversary of the formation of the BJP, valdh (or son of) the Jana Sangh. It is useful in this context to remind readers of something that happened exactly 100 years ago.
In 1905, a delegation of Muslim leaders primed by two Englishmen"" Harcourt Butler, private secretary to the Viceroy Lord Minto and Principal Archbold of the Anglo-Oriental Muslim College, Aligarh""and led by the Aga Khan, met the Viceroy to present a memorandum on behalf of the Muslims.
The next year, was formed. That was the first step in the division of modern Indian politics between Hindus and Muslims. Ever since then the Congress has been trying to bring the two communities together.
So it was interesting to see the president of the BJP, Lal Krishna Advani, telling a TV channel on Tuesday that his party had succeeded in dividing recent Indian politics into two clear divisions""one led by the Congress and the other led by the BJP.
From uni-polar, anti-Congressism politics, he said, we have moved towards some sort of a two-party system, of which anti-BJPism had become the leitmotif.
The irony of what he was saying""that the had achieved exactly what the Muslim League had, communal tension""was clearly lost on him. On the contrary, he appeared rather proud of such politics, just as the Leaguers had been.
It was also lost on him that such politics is the product of insecurity, something that the majority Hindu community hardly need feel.
It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that the BJP has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.
Communal politics, which the party seeks to dignify by labelling as nationalism, remains the BJP's staple fare. For the rest, whether it moves to the Left, Right or Centre, is largely irrelevant.
After all, in foreign policy the party has to deal with global realities and has little elbow room; and in economic policy, it is moved by current circumstance as much as any other party is. So there remains only one way of judging its distinguishing feature""its social policy, which remains flawed.
To conclude from its electoral success during the decade of 1989-1999 that such a divisive policy is what works and deviation from it doesn't (witness the setback of 2004) suggests both desperation and a paucity of ideas.
It also shows an inability to recognise the fact that the India of 2005 is very different from the India of the 1990s. If ever a party needed young blood, therefore, it is the BJP today.
The Congress, despite its rhetoric about the populism of the 1990s, appears to have made""or is at least in the process of making""that transition. In reality, therefore, while the chronological age of the BJP might be 25, its mental age is around 75.
For the party, this is the real tragedy and no amount of huffing and puffing to blow the UPA house down will succeed unless the party succeeds in using its renewed emphasis on Hindutva to raise things to fever pitch all over again.
But is that possible, and in any case is that what the country either wants or needs?


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