Rashtra Pratham, Seva, Being Active Listeners and Worship of the People
On the fortieth foundation day – Sthapana Diwas – (6 April 2020) of Bharatiya Janata Party Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the party’s workers across the country. It was an inspiring, thought-provoking address, calling upon us to plunge in Seva – service with the ideal and resolve of Rashtra Pratham – nation first and to also introspect and firm up our inner resolve to go all out and contribute to the victory over the COVID pandemic afflicting humanity. The BJP’s ideal and approach, as Prime Minister Modi pointed out, has always been Sanghatan, Sangharsh and Seva. The party was formed, in fact it flowed from the Jana Sangh, and evolved, grew and rose out of its roots, with the ideal of empowering India’s democratic experiment and her marginalised millions. Prime Minister Modi exhorted us to keep the flag of that ideal fluttering.
His words today reminded one of the past, when the political journey began with three, with two and eventually moved to reach a peak of more than three hundred members in Parliament. A party which Nehru had vowed to crush – the Jana Sangh, a party which observers and people thought would not last and hold out – the BJP, stuck deep roots, because its founding ideals were always kept at the forefront and because generations of workers and their families resolved to give themselves up to establishing and cementing its foundations.
In his historic presidential speech at the first national convention of the newly formed BJP in Mumbai, towards the end of December 1980 (28 -30) Atalji spoke of these marginalised millions, when he said, “The soul of Indian democracy dwells in the intense desire of our 650 million people for equality and for freedom from exploitation. Those who keep thinking of devising ways to destroy or debilitate democracy can do so only at the risk of being swept away by the fury of the people…With the Constitution of in one hand and the banner of equality in the other, let us get set for the struggle. Let us take inspiration from the life and struggle of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Let Mahatma Phule be our guide in our crusade for social justice…”
Defence of democracy and social equity has been a cardinal article of faith both of Jana Sangh and BJP. Emergency had just ended and its memories were still fresh in 1980, even though Indira Gandhi had returned to power, her role in imposing Emergency, the excesses of Congress leaders, all attempts to destroy institutions, hack at the Constitution, the communist support for Emergency, all of these had generated an apprehension in the minds of the people towards a possible return to that state disrepair. The growth of the BJP, its steady expansion and upward swing provided a much needed balance and stability to Indian democracy. The fact that most of the leaders who mattered in the party had all risen through the ranks, through struggle and by being part of a peoples’ movement for pushing forward India’s democratic march, made a great difference in the minds of the people. People realised that the BJP was an effective answer to the Congress’s monopoly of power and dynastic rule.
While listening to Prime Minister Modi on the Sthapana Diwas, one was also reminded of the words of Deendayalji. Deendayalji spoke of the wisdom of the ordinary people, the need to listen to their voice, to surge ahead to serve them even though the high and mighty may criticise us. In a piece he wrote on the new leadership emerging in India and the in the party, a particular passage of his, in which he exhorts the workers of the Jana Sangh to perform detached karma, one can get a sense of Prime Minister Modi’s approach to the common people of India, of how he can discern and read their wisdom, listen to their voice, elicit their response, resolve and support, and of how he surges ahead in the work of evolving policies and situations to which they respond positively.
Democracy, peoples’ welfare, approach and use of power, welfare of the masses were all issues on which Deendayalji amply thought, wrote and spoke. His ceaseless mass contact programmes and activities, his continuous tours across the country, his grassroots outreach, his connect with workers, with their emotions and aspirations, his embodiment of all that they stood for made his observations and analysis relevant and pragmatic. Deendayalji pointed how, if “we have to make democracy the rule of the people, we shall have to determine our ultimate goal as the ‘good of the people.’
In aspiring to do this, he spoke of the need for us to “reach the common people and make their well-being both [the] immediate and ultimate goal.” The common individual, Deendayalji argued, though he “may not be knowledgeable” is “often wiser than the greatest scholar and is braver than the greatest warrior. He is not bound by anyone. He has more capacity to make sacrifices than any martyr.” It is to serve and for the sake of the common people, Deendayalji exhorted, that “we must strive with all our energy to forge ahead, even though the high and mighty of our land may criticise our work.” For him the voice of the people was the voice of God and to that voice one could listen and connect only when one became silent and turned into “active listeners.” Being silent and turning into “active listeners” did not “imply idleness or inaction, but rather total action, but the precondition was that “such action must be detached” and not “done with the expectation of any rewards.” “Philosophical inaction”, Deendayalji argued, “is not my way…I expect the Bharatiya Jana Sangh to really become the organisation of the people of India. It is not the extraordinary or the illustrious, but the common folk who truly represent the people. Come, let us worship them…”
On the fortieth foundation of BJP, PM Modi, in fact, reminded us of that resolve, he exhorted us to do exactly that, to realise that the voice of the people was the voice of God, that it was the common people who truly represented the aspiration and voice of India, that we had to evolve into “active listeners” to be able to listen to their voice and then to plunge into “total action” and to surge ahead for their sake. He urged us to keep striving to maintain the Bharatiya Janata Party as truly an organisation of the people of India. It is in that true worship of the people that we shall find strength and determination and discern the path to make India great. That is the real mantra and way of Rashtra Pratham through Seva…
- Bharatiya Janata Party – Party Documents (1980-2005), Vol.10: Evolution of BJP
- Need for a New Leadership (CWDU:4)
(The writer is the Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation)