Pulakesh Upadhyaya
Integral Humanism and the BJP
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Integral Humanism is one of the core ideologies on the basis of which the Jana Sangh and subsequently the BJP were founded. Given the present ideological stands taken by the BJP, one has to subsequently give a thought whether they are adhering to the principles which formed the core their existence, and whether changes if any, were made in any positive direction. Integral humanism is a phrase which has been associated with many including Mahatma Gandhi, but the Bharatiya Janata Party adopted integral humanism propounded by its ideologue, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya.

The need for integral humanism was felt in Independent India primarily because ideological differences were kept aside in order to achieve the collective goal of independence and self-rule. The need for establishing coherent socio-economic ideologies was felt as there was an environment of ideological haziness in the country, both in the Congress and their opponents. Nehru had his own inclination towards socialism, bordering on blind faith. There was a growing intellectual opposition and resentment to Nehruvian thought, both in the left as well as the right.

In this environment, Deen Dayal felt that the rise in opportunism in the ruling party as well as opposition was detrimental to national interest. Many in the Opposition were of the viewpoint that one could adopt anything from extreme Marxism to capitalism just to defeat the Congress. Add to that, the presence of people from all extremes, from right to left in the Congress Party also created a sense of dissatisfaction and vagueness in the polity. This situation is observed even today, but the BJP is unable to attract allies, and those that it attracts might not have any ideological coherence with it. Most of its call to allies is based on opportunism, some on plain anti-Congressism. Has the BJP its core ideology of integral humanism to provide a direction for the future? Most members in the BJP suffer from ideological haziness, and many of its stands have tended to depend on plain anti-Congressism and not on any of the foundational principles. So, along with the ever-existing lack of ideology in the Congress, the BJP is using anti-Congressism as a tool for its Congressization. The ideological vagueness of the Congress has also penetrated into the psyche of the BJP.

Western concepts of individuals, and society were widely accepted because of the reduction of intellectual activity in India during the middle ages. Integral Humanism is supportive of Western advances in science and technology, but does not believe in the compatibility of western socio-economic constructs in the vast country of India. Nor is it the opportunist centrism that the BJP tries to project these days to further “secularize” and “democratize” its image. Integral Humanism does not even believe in the western evolution of nationalism, which it finds opposed world peace. Integral humanism doubts the validity of constructs like secularism as it was merely a response to clergy and socialism, a response to exploitation. Socialism stands as opposite to individual liberties in freedom. The degeneration of capitalism based on perfect competition to a monopolistic structure and crony capitalism is also evident.

Reason has been replaced by opportunism. Integral humanism, he believed should understand the need for change according to time. That is the reason why Deen Dayal rejected the proposition that India should start afresh from ideologies that existed at the time when it was not subjected foreign rule. Ideology, he believed had to exist in continuum. He believed that the scientific approach to Western economic constructs would be to accept wisdom of the West, but also to learn from the incongruities.

Integral humanism was a knowledge based system which he believed would continuously evolve and adapt to various incidences in the world. He cited disastrous effects of a mix of nationalism and socialism in Hitler, which buried democracy and took away individual freedom. Marxism, he believed promised bread, but in the end people neither had bread, nor voting rights. He believed that people with no background of the national character hurriedly try to fit India into existing boxes of Western ideological constructs. There is no clarity from the BJP in this regard. In fact, if one goes into the details of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech in first adhiveshan in Mumbai, he spoke clearly about ideological opposition to Marxism as well as capitalism, in fact calling them twins. One of the bases of this speech was the ideology of ekatma manav-vad.

Has the BJP then discarded integral humanism propounded by Deen Dayal and Atal Bihari? Does it still believe in the basic unity of all life, and in a process in which the individualistic as well as social view is taken into consideration? Or have they become a party with a hazy mix of opportunistic socialism and crony capitalism?

When Pandit Ji talked about honesty being a principle rather than a policy, little did he imagine that many who would be working under the banner of integral humanism in the future would make a mockery of his proposition! Unlimited centralization of power, he believed, in the hands of the State (or the High Command in the context of political parties) results in decline in Dharma, as it forces people into excessive reliance on the state, and ensures revolt. BJP seems to be moving slowly towards the Congress model of centralization, although many factors have not allowed that transition to take place completely.

Integral Humanism was not entirely spiritual, as it proposed that physical needs and desires should not be suppressed. In many ways, it was the first clearly defined Indian model for ideological non-alignment or meaningful centrism. Society was looked upon as an abstract concept with a collective physical presence, a mind of its own, an intellect and a soul. For example, individuals can tolerate a lot of insinuations against themselves, but when a word is spoken against their group/society/religion, the entire group changes character. A few good men, Deen Dayal Ji believed, together do not necessarily make a good group. The BJP should also have realized this fact long ago!

Nations as well as political parties do not exist by mere cohabitation. He talked of Chiti or the soul of the nation, and the fact that institutions should be created keeping in mind this soul. He believed that conflict was not the path to development, but overcoming them and focusing on integrated development was. It was only through cooperation that broad national goals could be reached. The present mess in the BJP is a result of opportunism, and an inability to grasp either Chiti or Dharma.

Panditji believed that the State was not supreme, nor was it the society itself, and nor was it the sole representative of the nation. Thus, has the BJP not learnt a lesson that as a political party, it has greater responsibilities than fighting elections and winning them to have a stake in the powers of the State? He did not deny the importance of State, which he said was a vital institution.Yet he did not regard it as the supreme institution. He believed that delegation of power merely to states was not decentralization in the truest sense. He believed in delegation of power to the janapadas and panchayats, much like what Mahatma Gandhi believed in and preached about. What has the BJP done, in its own party framework to replicate that model? In fact, although states like Madhya Pradesh, BJP has progressed very well in this regard, BJP has focused more on centralization in recent years in expectation of electoral gains.

The soul of the nation or Chiti, Deen Dayal Ji believed was difficult to comprehend, and so the individual should focus on Dharma, which he said was not religion, but a sense of duty. He believed that Dharma could not be imposed on its citizens, but had to come from within. Thus, integral humanism is opposed to a theocratic definition of State. Not all is lost; the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s repeated insistence on integral humanism as a guide for policy has worked very well in the state. Has the BJP really given a thought at some ideological churning at the national level? Has it given some thought to the process of adaptation to changing global and local conditions? What guides the party’s stand on economic and foreign policy? Have they become too tied down by electoral compulsions? Is there no pressure from supporters and workers, or have they too become too engrossed in political arithmetic that they fail to understand our needs and aspirations?

The BJP is passing through a phase where it requires serious introspection, otherwise it does not take very long for political parties to break up and reach political oblivion. It has already shot itself in the foot by discarding ideologues and well-wishers, paying lip-service to icons who built the Jana Sangh; the only way it can kill itself is by losing whatever remains of its ideology.