Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hindu Nationalists Rule India - but How Long? as the Bharatiya Janata Party Prepares to Rule, Its Opponents Derisively Call It the 'Eight-Day Wonder' and Predict Its Demise

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hindu Nationalists Rule India - but How Long? as the Bharatiya Janata Party Prepares to Rule, Its Opponents Derisively Call It the 'Eight-Day Wonder' and Predict Its Demise

Article excerpt

It was the day the lotus bloomed. As Atal Behari Vajpayee took the solemn oath of office to become the country's 10th prime minister, jubilant supporters of his Bharatiya Janata Party celebrated the historic victory of Hindu nationalism in India.

At the BJP's Ashoka Road headquarters in New Delhi, saffron-colored flags carrying the party's lotus symbol covered the gates. Inside the sprawling bungalow, the crowds watching the ceremony on television erupted into chants of Jai Shri Ram (Hail Lord Ram) and Atal Behari Zindabad (Victory to Atal Behari), and distributed sweets in his honor.

For the party faithful, any doubts about the unfinished agenda of proving a majority in parliament dissipated yesterday when Mr. Vajpayee and his 11-member Cabinet were sworn in by President Shankar Dayal Sharma at his official residence in a short 20-minute ceremony.

"We don't start on the premise that we might fail," BJP treasurer V.B. Goyal said.

"If we had so much doubt, we wouldn't have accepted {the president's} invitation," he said.

Still needing a majority

The BJP now has until May 31 to attract the support of at least 60 more members of parliament needed to ensure its political survival. Together with its declared allies, the party controls only 195 seats in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament. If Mr. Vajpayee cannot muster the support of a majority, his government will collapse.

The BJP hopes that it will be able to lure members from the ranks of the defeated Congress Party, the National Front-Left Front (NF-LF) alliance, or numerous uncommitted minor regional parties and independents. As an incentive the party has proposed granting more autonomy to the states in their financial affairs.

From the moment the first ballots were cast in the general election that concluded May 27, the country's 950 million people had been waiting for this day with either joy or apprehension.

Never before has India been so deeply polarized along religious lines, never before has the rest of the world been so alarmed by the sudden shift to the right of the world's second-most populated country.

At a press conference just hours after being invited to form a government, Mr. Vajpayee reiterated that his party would not compromise on any points of its election manifesto.

India's first Hindu nationalist prime minister pledged to keep the country's nuclear-weapons options open, retake parts of the northern state of Kashmir currently "occupied" by Pakistan, and construct a temple on a disputed religious site at Ayodhya.

"We expect that the nuclear nations will stop stockpiling nuclear weapons, but if they fail to do so, we will do whatever is required for the security of the country," Vajpayee warned.

The BJP leader also reiterated India's right over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which he stated "legally and rightfully belongs to India."

He added, however, that his government would pursue friendly relations with its neighbor. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and Western intelligence agencies say both countries have the capacity to build nuclear weapons if they have already not done so.

No going back

But Vaypayee also said there could be no going back on the party's Hindu nationalist ideology and its pledge to build a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a mosque destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists in December 1992. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.