BJP should answer: When Deendayal Upadhyaya questioned PM Nehru about China conflict, was it a “demoralizing” act?

If questioning Narendra Modi Government by the opposition parties about the “sensitive” border dispute with China amounts to “demoralizing” the nation and its soldiers, is the ruling BJP ready to apply the same yardstick to its ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya who slammed the Jawaharlal Nehru regime during the Sino-India conflict?

In the late 1950s when India-China relations were fast deteriorating, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya expressed his views in The Organiser. In his weekly column titled “Political Dairy”, he attacked the then Prime Minister Nehru for being “weak” and “timid”. He alleged that Nehru had “temperamental weakness” in dealing with China. He even charged him with “practically surrendering” Indian territory to China.

At that critical time the BJP ideologue was at the forefront in making a scathing attack on the Nehru-led Congress Government. His main criticism included (a) Nehru-led Government’s compromise with China over the border and (b) its inaction to firmly deal with it.

Ironically, the attitude of the BJP leaders when in power appears different from their attitude when they were in opposition. While the Congress and other parties seek accountability from the Modi Government on its “failure” to handle the recent Galwan Valley dispute with China, the ruling party leaders — being unmindful of its act as opposition leaders — are doling out advice to the opposition parties that they should rise over “petty” interests.

Note that the opposition leaders — particularly former Congress president Rahul Gandhi — have repeatedly asked the Modi Government to clarify the doubts around the Galwan Valley that saw a bloody clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers on 15/16 June. The ruling BJP — instead of answering the questions and clarifying the doubts — chose to call Rahul Gandhi as the “most irresponsible politician”. A few days back the BJP president J. P. Nadda came forward to accuse the Congress party of being an “irresponsible” opposition and “demoralizing” the nation and its soldiers. A large section of the mainstream media, too, is toeing the Government’s line and it curses the opposition parties. However, the saffron party —when it was in the opposition from 2004-2014 — didn’t miss any opportunities to “corner” the Congress-led government and “sought explanations” on the strategic issues with China.

A recent story, published in The Indian Express, documents that “the BJP in these years…had issued almost two dozen statements on China, cautioning the then government many a times and seeking explanations”. One such example is the resolution passed in the BJP’s Panaji National Executive Meeting (2013) which stated that “Our fishermen are being captured and killed in southern seas, our soldiers are beheaded and mutilated on our northern borders, our boundaries are violated at will umpteen times on Indo-China borders. The latest being, the incursion by Chinese troops almost 19 km inside Indian territory and holding its position for nearly a month. India is being dishonoured, trivialised and its legitimate authority questioned. Our government at the Centre, at best, is only offering platitudes to its citizens”.

It is within this context that an attempt has been made to go back to the past and bring to the public how “responsible” the Hindutva forces, as an opposition, have been over the security issue. A similar conflict — perhaps worse than the current one — was developing in the late 1950s. At that time the political scene was the opposite. The Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru was in power, while the Hindutva forces were in opposition.

In the late 1950s, the differences between India and China began to widen. While India objected to China laying claim on large parts of NEFA and Ladakh as its territory, China was not ready to accept the McMahan Line, calling it “a product of the British policy of aggression against the Tibet Region of China”. While India insisted on respecting the McMahan Line, China was not ready to deem it as “legal”. The political asylum of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and his supporters to India and ensuing pro-Tibet and anti-China protests in the country further alienated the communist republic.

Writing a piece on April 27, 1959 Deendayal Upadhyaya — former president of the Jana Sangha, which came to be known as the BJP since 1980 — accused Prime Minister Nehru of “succumbing to China” over Tibet issue. He went on to question Nehru’s foreign policy that “Tibet presented a case where altruism could be practised only at India’s cost, Pandit Nehru, who is not reputed for following a foreign policy fashioned to further nation’s enlightened self-interests, too, readily succumbed to the fanciful theory of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, when the new fanged principles of Panch-Sheel were fanfared [exhibited as fanfare] to the world (reprinted in Deendayal Upadhyaya, Political Dairy, Suruchi Prakashan, New Delhi, 2014, p. 132).

In another article published on May 25, 1959, Upadhyaya dismissed Nehru’s policy towards Tibet as the “most disappointing”. As he put it, “The Prime Minister’s recent enunciation of policy with regard to developments in Tibet is most disappointing. It has belied all expectations and ill serves the cause of Tibet’s freedom and India’s interests. Simply by giving asylum to Dalai Lama and a horde of refugees, we can neither secure Tibet’s Independence nor satisfy the sentiments of the people in India. There is need for adopting a bolder policy in this regard. Dalai Lama should be allowed to direct and guide his people in their struggle against the Chinese imperialism” (p. 128).

He even charged Nehru with exhibiting “temperamental weakness in dealing with the issue of Chinese aggression”. His write-up, published on September 21, 1959, contended that “As usual the Prime Minister has exhibited his temperamental weakness in dealing with the issue of Chinese aggression. When first he announced that the defence of the North East Frontier borders had been handed over to military control and that India will defend every inch of her territory, high hopes were raised. People felt that Government was conscious of their duty and that the integrity and honour of the country can be considered safe in their hands. Later utterances of the Prime Minister however have belied all these hopes” (p. 123).

Finally, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya alleged that Nehru was “not very particular about the territorial integrity of the country”. In an article dated September 21, 1959, he said, “it seems that the Prime Minister is not very particular about the integrity of the country. When he says that it does not matter whether a mile remains with us or goes to China, he betrays [portrays] a lack of proper and patriotic grasp of the concept of territorial integrity (p. 124)”.

He ended up accusing Nehru of having “weak” and “timid” nature and “practically surrendering” Indian territory to China. “There has been aggression at three points, namely Longju in the NEFA, Bara Hoti in U.P. and Ladakh in Kashmir. The Prime Minister has so far pin-pointed attention only to one. With regard to Ladakh he has practically surrendered that area to China. Though the aggression has taken place two years ago, the Prime Minister has taken no practical steps to meet the challenge! In his recent statements also he has not shown any desire to pursue the matter (p. 125).”

As is evident here, the BJP ideologue himself fell far short of the BJP’s guidelines to the opposition parties that they should avoid raising “sensitive” questions regarding national security. BJP should answer if Deendayal Upadhyaya making scathing criticism of Nehru too was a “demoralizing” act.