New Delhi: Long ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party had a policy of non-appeasement. Established as a counter to Congress’s votebank politics with respect to Muslims, BJP said it would not pander to any community, and exhibited this as its difference from other political parties.

The politics of non-appeasement was widely appreciated, and it contributed to the rise of the party in the late-1980s, as a worthy alternative to Congress mired in corruption and unable to overcome its dynastic shackles.

Then the Ramjanmabhoomi movement caught the political imagination of BJP leaders such as L.K.Advani, and the Sangha Parivar joined forces to ply it as a vehicle to bring the Bharatiya Janata Party to power. Religion in politics is always a double-edged weapon. In its cut and thrusts, it can bring you power, but it can become your nemesis just as soon.

Being away from such religion-driven politics, A.B.Vajpayee, in his person, joined the desire of the country to bring BJP to power but lead by a man of moderation. Vajpayee never spoke of BJP being a party with a difference nor of non-appeasement, catchphrases rather of Advani who observed them in the breach. But had Vajpayee adopted these slogans, they would have fitted his world view, and fairly approximated the principles by which he lived his life. A post-Vajpayee BJP has to embrace these philosophies once again if the country as a whole must trust it and entrust power to it, and it is better late than never.

Armed with these philosophies, the Bharatiya Janata Party can blaze a new trail. Without them, BJP has gone adrift, appearing an inferior version of the corrupt and venal Congress sometimes, becoming inflexibly pro-Hindutva on other occasions, and often desperately trying to mimic the so-called secular formations, in which the central party leaders seek to gain the upper hand on Narendra Modi. It won’t work for them or the party.

For example, there is muted excitement that the allegedly secular CPI-M and Trinamool Congress have publicly declared to share a platform with BJP against the ruling UPA-2, one for a no-confidence motion, and the other to oppose FDI in multi-brand retail. Central BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj may see hope in this for their own future prime-ministership. This sort of short-term politicking will get BJP nowhere.

The primary stress of BJP must be on coming to power on its own, which means it needs an A.B.Vajpayee-like leader who the country can instinctively trust, and it requires a political philosophy under which all sections of society can find peace, security and happiness. A policy of non-appeasement fits the bill, and if to this is added the positive concept of justice for all, and a considered thrust towards uplift of weaker sections, including the poor and the adivasis, BJP would become very attractive.

It is on making itself wholesome and attractive to the electorate that BJP must chiefly focus on. That single-mindedness is missing today as BJP factions search ways to gain power for themselves to the exclusion of others. This factionalism gives a chance to outsiders to meddle, such as Nitish Kumar, who insists on having a say on BJP’s PM candidate, unmindful of his weakening home base.

The CPI-M and Trinamool Congress of course stand on other footings. Neither would align with BJP because of their dependence on Muslim votes. They would want BJP to batter Congress but it wouldn’t lead to anything bigger. Certainly, both sides need each other against Congress, so there is no harm in a limited understanding. But to derive from there that BJP is no longer untouchable is to oversimplify the situation.

The point is BJP must address its flaws and reach first and foremost to the electorate. If it is successful with the electorate, it may not need to vulgarize itself to attract allies. Power will bring suitors, and power won rightly will stay, despite its fickleness.