The ruling BJP on Sunday hardened its position on nationalism asserting that the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech but not “destruction of the country” in the light of the debate around sedition charges against JNU students for allegedly chanting anti-national slogans.

The ruling party’s agenda was articulated in a political resolution adopted in its national executive where, along with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, the entire top leadership was present. The BJP response to the charge of being anti-Dalit following Hyderabad Central University scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the RSS’s reiteration to do away with caste-based reservation for the rich was, at the same time, far more defensive.

Ambedkar vision

Briefing reporters about the political resolution, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it focuses on policy measures towards socially backward communities, especially the institutional growth of Dalit entrepreneurs, Stand-Up India and building of the Ambedkar Memorial in Mumbai and the Maharashtra government’s acquisition of BR Ambedkar’s London house.

Later, Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave details of the programme devised by party president Amit Shah on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14 to the Panchayati Raj day on April 25. On April 14, the PM will visit Ambedkar’s birthplace in Madhya Pradesh and on the culmination day of the programme, on April 24, to Jamshedpur where he will address panchayat representatives from across the country.

The idea is to convey the BJP’s approach towards Ambedkar’s vision for India and Dalits as well as adopt a massive outreach to the farmers.

Guided by “nationalism”, the BJP will project itself as a party with “decisive leadership with a focus on economic and social inclusion, social justice, infrastructure development and good governance” as opposed to the “directionless” Congress in the run-up to the Assembly elections in five States.

Elaborating on the political resolution, Jaitley said nationalism guides the party’s faith and direction.

“We support freedom of speech. We fully support dissent and disagreement. But our Constitution allows dissent not destruction of the country. We believe that free speech and nationalism can co-exist. There is no contradiction,” said Jaitley, underlining the party’s tough stand against allegedly anti-national slogans in JNU last month that led to the slapping of sedition charges against student union president Kanhaiya Kumar and others like Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacahrya.

National security

The party’s emphasis on a toughened stand on nationalism was coupled with “strong” response to external and internal security threats even as it charged the Congress with “compromising” security issues, especially in the Ishrat Jahan case.

“The resolution particularly mentions the party’s strong stand against security threats, citing the swiftness and efficiency with which terrorists were liquidated in Pathankot and damage was controlled. It also mentions the promptness with which the Government solved pending issues. Nagaland and Bangladesh Accord were mentioned as well as meeting the soldiers’ aspirations by fulfilling the long-pending demand for OROP,” said the Finance Minister.

Uttarakhand issue

Jaitley also responded to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the BJP is using money power to topple a democratically elected government in Uttarakhand and answered questions on the uncertainty with regard to government formation in Jammu and Kashmir.

“In Uttarakhand, there is a deep division in the Congress ranks which is not attributable to the BJP. They are suffering from inner contradictions.

The situation is that the majority has voted against the finance bill and the Speaker has passed a failed bill. Democracy is about numbers but in this state, we have a Constitutional crisis where the majority has voted against the finance bill. How can they blame us,” Jaitley said to Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the BJP has conspired to topple the Congress government in the hill-state.