New Delhi: The Raghumal Arya Kanya Vidyalya near Gole Market in central Delhi is barely a few kilometres from the sprawling headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Deendayal Upadhyay Marg.
On 21 October 1951, exactly 69 years ago, it was here that the BJP’s foundation was laid when 200 delegates from all over the country congregated and formed the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS).
The delegates elected Syama Prasad Mookerjee as the president of the newly formed party, a later avatar of which became the BJP that now rules over a dozen Indian states and is serving a second term at the Centre.
When the BJS was formed, the party adopted an eight-point programme that largely formed its ideological core over the next few decades.
These were: United Bharat; reciprocity instead of appeasement towards Pakistan; an independent foreign policy consistent with Bharat’s paramount self-interest; rehabilitation of refugees with suitable compensation from Pakistan; increased production of goods, especially food and cloth, and decentralisation of industry; development of a single Bharatiya culture; equal rights for all citizens regardless of caste, community or creed, and improvement of the backward classes’ standard; and readjustment of West Bengal’s boundary with Bihar.
At the time, the BJS headquarters was set up in a non-descript building at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi.
The Jana Sangh’s politics
The Bharatiya Jana Sangh was set up in the backdrop of the growing disenchantment with the Nehruvian politics as many believed it was too westernised and too soft on Pakistan and China, ignoring the national interests.
K.R. Malkani, the editor of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed weekly Organiser who later became a leading ideologue of the Sangh, and Lala Hansraj Gupta, a prominent Arya Samaj leader who was also associated with the RSS and became Delhi mayor in 1977, were among those who played a key role in the formation of the BJS.
Malkani’s writings in Organiser in October 1950 provide an insight not only into the context and object of the BJS’ formulation but also the ideological and governance framework that guided the party.
“If…the unity of the country is to be made stronger and more integral, ancient foundations must be reinforced and amplified and suitably modernized….The principal of this reorganization in Hindustan can only be “Hindutva”… Communism can be combated and conquered in Hindustan by the Hindus only through Hindutva,” wrote Malkani.
Mookerjee, the founder-president of the BJS had resigned from the Nehru Cabinet on 8 April 1950, in protest of the Nehru-Liaquat pact. He had a meeting with the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, before the BJS was set up.
The RSS had no official link with the BJS but many of its volunteers helped the party to grow over the years including some of its Pracharaks.
It was an RSS Pracharak, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, who propounded the philosophy of ‘Integral Humanism’ in the 1960s, which is now the official ideology of the BJP.
The foundation of the BJP’s formidable organisational structure was laid down by the BJS that created a cadre-based structure right from the beginning.
Its smallest local units were called ‘samitis’, which were overseen by ‘mandals’, and then district and state units. The BJP continues to follow largely the same structure with its constant focus to grow as a ‘cadre-based party’.
Organisationally, the BJS expanded rapidly. Within a couple of years since its inception, it had fully functional state units running in the whole of north and central India, and in West Bengal.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the BJS was organisationally divided into four zones at the national level. Balraj Madhok looked after the Northern Zone while Nanaji Deshmukh was in-charge of the Eastern Zone. The Western Zone was looked after by Sunder Singh Bhandari. The Southern Zone was under the charge of Jagannath Rao Joshi.
In India’s first Lok Sabha election in 1951-52, the BJS fielded its candidates on 94 out of a total of 489 seats. The party polled 3.06 per cent votes and won three seats — two from West Bengal and one from Rajasthan. Mookerjee won from Bengal.
Within a year of its inception, the BJS remarkably achieved the status of ‘All India Party’ under the Election Commission of India norms.
In the next 1957 general elections, the BJS contested 130 parliamentary seats out of 494. It won four with 5.97 per cent votes — two each from Uttar Pradesh and Bombay.
In UP, a young Atal Bihari Vajpayee won the Balrampur Lok Sabha seat in a straight contest. He went on the become India’s Prime Minister under the BJP.
In 1962, the party increased its tally to 14 Lok Sabha seats and its vote share jumped to 6.44 per cent, bringing it the status of ‘Official Opposition’.
Five years later, the BJS contested 249 out of 520 seats. It won 35 with 9.31 per cent votes. Apart from Delhi, UP emerged as its strongest bastion as the party won 12 of the 77 seats contested.
In Balrampur, Vajpayee avenged his defeat of 1962, winning by a huge margin. In Delhi, BJS won six out of seven seats and lost only the Outer Delhi seat.
The party contested 157 seats out of 518 Lok Sabha seats in 1971, winning 22 against a vote share of 7.35 per cent.
Six years later, it merged with the Janata Party that defeated the Indira Gandhi-led Congress and came to power. Three prominent BJS leaders were inducted into the cabinet – Atal Bihari Vajpayee as foreign minister, Lal Krishna Advani as information and broadcasting minister and Brij Lal Varma as industry minister.
The Janata Party collapsed in 1980, prompting the BJS leaders to form a new party on 6 April that year. This was named the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The writer is research director of Delhi based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra and has authored two books on RSS. Views expressed are personal.
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