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Anirban Ganguly
Upadhyaya found that there were insufficient efforts to propagate India’s views. Today, the relentless pursuit of the country’s interest in the comity of nations and Prime Minister Modi’s outreach to the global community, has begun to alter the old perception for the better
Against the backdrop of the non-alignment period, it would be interesting to note that after the 1965 war, among other things, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), in its resolution on defence and foreign affairs, in its Jalandhar session in 1966, reiterated its demand for a “rapid expansion and improvement of our defence forces both in quantity and quality of its equipment” and called for the manufacturing of atomic weapons and missiles and for the speeding up of manufacturing of arms and equipment within the country, “steps must be taken to make the country self-sufficient in defence needs at the earliest.”
The BJS resolution also argued that “India’s foreign policy must also be formulated and implemented primarily with an eye on the defence needs of the country. We must muster friends against Pakistan-China combine…India can count only on those countries which are prepared to stand by it against the pindi-peking axis”, it argued.
Upadhyaya’s Jana Sangh, in 1966, also called for providing “every encouragement to the movement for independence of east Bengal and Pakhtoonistan from the totalitarian control of Pakistan.” In line with his own views of a pragmatic foreign policy approach, the Jalandhar resolution of the BJS argued that India should stop extending support to Communist China’s entry into the United Nations and must, instead, strive to secure a permanent seat for itself in the Security Council and develop “close economic and cultural ties with countries of Southeast Asia”.
With his pragmatic approach to fulfilling India’s national interest on the global scene and his approach to forging multiple alliances and in overcoming “hesitations of history” in framing these in India’s interest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has in fact, broadly followed this line while pursuing India’s diplomatic objectives.
Upadhyaya’s political diaries, his books and the manifestoes of the Jana Sangh, under his stewardship, provide a fascinating insight into his mind and worldview – an intellectual map which enables us to absorb, to a certain extent, the dimensions and contours of his vision. It would be worthwhile to look into some of these and read them again. In his impressions of the West that he wrote after a visit – towards the end of 1963 – to east Africa, Germany and the US – Upadhyaya made a point that kept occupied many a nationalist mind and is only now gradually being altered.
While he “found a great fund of goodwill for India” and a “desire to appreciate our point of view” even “where they differ with us”, what rankled Upadhyaya was the continued existence of “not only a colossal ignorance about India but also a distorted picture of India given to them by Miss Mayo and her tribe.”
He pointed out how “Pictures of the snake-charmer, the yogi, with long beard and matted hair and the banjara belle have been so widely published that most people do not know that all these represent only some of the uncommon features of Indian life.” He had then found insufficient efforts made to propagate our views. Today, the relentless pursuit of India’s national interest in the comity of nations, especially in the last two years, the dynamic engagement with the Indian diaspora and Prime Minister Modi’s relentless outreach to that section and to the global business community has in fact begun to alter this piecemeal perception of India for good.
Upadhyaya’s discussion of the political situation and its various manifestations, demonstrated his irrepressible intellectual energy and alertness and his ceaseless quest in drawing parallels and at the same time in laying the political track for the evolution of the future polity. His article on ‘Congress and Democracy’, for example, remains striking for its relevance even today. Penned in 1961, Pandit Upadhyaya points out how the Congress even then was a bad loser in the democratic game of elections and legislative majority and numbers.
For Upadhyaya, the safe and successful completion of elections meant that the people of India “are basically democratic and peace-loving.” But he, argued, eventually “it is the faith” in the democratic process and institutions of “those who enjoy power, and those who intend to capture power”, which will “smoothen the progress of democracy in the country and fashion the present institutions into effective instrument of translating the people’s will”.
Often, that faith, argued Upadhyaya, has been seen to be missing even after nearly one and a half decades of independence – the party in power then, through its behaviour had not yet given a “demonstrable proof of its faith in democracy.”
The undemocratic tantrums and behaviour of the Congress get well documented through Upadhyaya’s columns. His first example was a devastating one and on which even today there has been no sufficient explanation from the Congress, nor Nehruvian acolytes, communist sympathisers and apologists. It would be best to speak through Upadhyaya’s pen, “That a parliamentarian of Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s stature should have died in detention in mysterious circumstances”, he wrote, “and that the whole matter should have gone unenquired, was a glaring instance which created grave apprehensions about the future of parliamentary democracy in the country.
The parliamentary system is Government by discussion, and those in authority must always be prepared to consider and concede the opponent’s point. Mookerjee with his ardent faith in this system, repeatedly pleaded for a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss issues arising out of the Praja Parishad’s satyagraha. But the Prime Minister refused to meet and discuss the Kashmir question with one who was virtually the leader of the Opposition. The ignorant may be silenced with the plea that the action of the Prime Minister was supported by the majority in Parliament, but it has to be remembered that in a parliamentary system the majority party only forms the Government.
The country is not ruled by the Government but by Parliament. It is in this way that the Opposition too contributes to the successful discharge of responsibilities by Parliament. But for this fact, there would be hardly any distinction between treason and opposition.”
One can only contrast it with the situation today when Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly reaches out to the Opposition; himself actively participates in all party meets to deliberate upon crucial national questions and challenges and from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day recalls the contributions of past Prime Ministers, leaders and Governments in national reconstruction.
(This is the third in a six-part series on Deendayal Upadhyaya. The writer is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi)

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