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BJP manifesto may contain core agenda
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 2
The BJP is returning to its three core Hindutva issues, namely construction of Ram temple at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uniform Civil Code and abolition of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, after a gap of 11 years, when it releases its manifesto here tomorrow.

The BJP has avoided this in last two general elections, 1999 and 2004, when leading the NDA alliance it attempted to project itself as “secular” leading partner of a cohesive alliance.

Elections in 1999 elections were forced because AIADMK leader J Jayalalitha withdrew support to Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. “We did not come out with any thing at all because of two reasons. The overall pall of gloom in the country on account of Kargil and also we had put together an effective and cohesive alliance and we wanted to convey that we all stood united and therefore a deliberate attempt to avoid contentious issues,” said a reliable BJP source.

In 2004 BJP again avoided a separate manifesto. At an elaborate function at the residence of Pramod Mahajan under an airconditioned pandal Vajpayee and NDA convenor George Fernandes released “NDA: An agenda for development, good governance and peace.”

This NAG mentioned construction of Ram temple but in a very conciliatory tone. On page 35 the document read, “The NDA believes that an early and amicable resolution of the Ayodhya issue will strengthen national integration. We continue to hold that the judiciary’s verdict in the matter should be accepted by all. At the same time efforts should be intensified for a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill.”

Prior to this ever since 1986 when L.K. Advani assumed the presidentship of the BJP, it has banked heavily upon these three contentious issues, Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code. And BJP insiders believe their party grew in strength from only two members in the 8th Lok Sabha to 182 in the 12th Lok Sabha thanks to these issues.

But in 1998 when it formed the government with the support of parties like TDP, JD-U and even the Dravidian parties, who swore by secularism, it decided to put all these issues on the back burner.

Recently their prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani invited the current RSS sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat urging the Sangh to involve its men more effectively in the BJP campaign.

That is when Bhagwat had asked him to restore the party’s credibility by reiterating its commitment to its core issues. Advani had pleaded that this could scare away the present and prospective allies. To which Bhagwat had reportedly told Advani that allies will come on their own if the BJP has the numbers like in 1998.

Similarly another move by the BJP to enact a law to ban cow slaughter throughout the country was also dropped because of similar opposition from the “secular” allies. This may also find a mention in the BJP manifesto tomorrow.

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