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Mainstream, VOL LII No 36, August 30, 2014

BJP’s yatra Failed to Realise its Objectives

Sunday 31 August 2014, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

who has won, and who has lost? The President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, can certainly claim that his mission was fulfilled when he unfurled the Tricolour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk in the wintry morning of January 26, even if the last lap of the ekta yatra had to be done flying in the IAF transport Anton-32 plane.

The huge concourse that the yatra had gathered at Jammu could not however cross the Banihal—not only because of the bad weather and landslides on the way, but also because the BJP leaders themselves realised, and very wisely, that a huge cavalcade running through the militants’ gauntlet would be a sure invitation to a bloodbath which would fetch no kudos for them.

The Kashmiri militants, on their part, would have the satisfaction that their threats and the rocket-and-bomb operations could halt the BJP’s yatra and blow up the police chief’s office at Srinagar, though they could not prevent the hoisting of the Tricolour by the BJP chief at the Lal Chowk on January 26. Their counter-curfew from Ghazikund to Srinagar—virtually the stretch of the Kashmir Valley beyond the Banihal—could not be tested as the ekta-yatris did not come by the road but took to air flight.

It has therefore been a checkmate situation. Neither the BJP could claim that it has established by this yatra campaign the invalidity of Article 370 nor the militants could demon-strate that their writ alone runs in the Valley, and that even the nation’s security forces can defend the nation’s flag when it is hoisted by a citizen of this Republic.

Now that the drama is over (or, is it the melodrama?) it’s time to evaluate the impact of the ekta yatra as a whole. The Prime Minister was certainly right when he had said that nobody wanting to plant the national flag anywhere in the Republic could be barred from doing so. And his government did all it could not only to let the yatra proceed unhampered, but volunteered sage advice about the desira-bility of reducing its strength in view of the risk involved, and then to offer to airlift the BJP leaders when the road to Srinagar was found to be blocked by natural calamity. Finally, armed protection was provided to the BJP leaders to unfurl the national flag at the designated spot offering them full security cover even for their safe return.

If the government has done its part, it is incumbent upon the BJP leadership to dispassionately review what they set out to achieve and what they actually accomplished. Objectively speaking, the BJP leadership expected, when they planned out the ekta yatra, that it would be able to whip up such a mammoth mass movement for the revocation of Article 370 that the government would be compelled to do so. Secondly, a massive campaign for all-out liquidation of the militants would lead to a determined military operation in the Kashmir Valley and making it impossible to hold any parleys with any section of the militants for a political solution of the Kashmir crisis.

Has the BJP leadership been able to realise either of these objectives through the ekta Yatra? For one thing, the progress of the yatra with all the fanfare of full-blast publicity from Kanyakumari to Kashmir did not touch off the mass stirrings expected of it. It has been a resonable mass turn-out throughout—moderate in its magnitude. The language of the campaign, at least in some cases, was highly provocative, through one has to concede that Dr Joshi himself was not intemperate in his polemics. By no means a raving expedition, it did not have the flavour of a pilgrimage to unify the nation as the title of the project suggested. The seasoned leaders of the BJP would know very well that the campaign, as it has turned out, would not force the Parliament to delete Article 370 from the Constitution. There is no sign that the balance of forces for and against the Article concerned has been changed as a result of the ekta yatra.

Secondly, the impact of the yatra on the ground realities in the trouble-tossed Kashmir Valley is far from what the BJP, or for that matter any other responsible party, would have liked to bring about. The entire action brought niether disarray nor demoralisation for the armed militants. Rather, they took it up as a challenge, and the growing difference which was becoming evident between those who are for independence of the Valley like the JKLF, and those who are for the Valley’s annexation to Pakistan, like the Hizbul Mujahideen, was closed up to meet the BJP challenge. The very fact that the Kashmir administration had to go in for additional mobilisation of security forces to manage the occasion bears this out.

Thirdly, the BJP leadership sought to display an aggressive unilateral attitude which does not fit in at all for a party which has earned a national status through the ballot box. It would be naive for it to deceive itself that it alone is the only patriotic party committed to the defence of the nation’s integrity. Rather it must have noted that at the National Integration Council held on December 31, it found itself isolated from all parties on the issue of the ekta yatra. A campaign launched by a responsible party to unify the entire nation on an issue of national concern was so directed and managed that it widened its difference with other parties. Nobody can accuse the BJP leadership to suffer from the hallucination that it alone has the monopoly of patriotism. Does it not therefore strike it as odd that all those whom the BJP has dismissed as faltering in its crusade for establishing Hindutva nationalism are, in their totality, far bigger in number than itself with its fellow-travellers? No party in isolation can any longer claim to represent the nation as a whole.

Now that the ekta yatra is over, it is but necessary for the BJP leadership to review the entire campaign with stern objectivity. In a democracy, any sectarian approach on the part of any party claiming to command national eminence, can only rebound on its mass influence, whatever may be its membership strength. A party with aspirations to be national has to cultivate a national approach in taking others along. Otherwise its crusade for uphol-ding national sovereignty would remain just an empty shibboleth no matter how stridently this is voiced.

(The Daily, January 30, 1992)