Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching the Vital Centre?


Jaswant Singh and Vidya Subrahmaniam

In his 1949 book, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. coined the phrase ‘the Vital Centre’ to refer to the contest between democracy and authoritarianism. Sixty-five years later, we are faced with an acute political dilemma in India. Are our dreams of liberalism challenged by a growing conservatism within democracy? Or is our democracy itself threatened by a totalitarian movement from without? This is the starkest question that our national political parties are confronting now, as India runs up to General Elections 2014. The problematic seems to be presenting itself more intensely to the Bharatiya Janata Party, with the emergence of an arguably new brand of personality-oriented politics within its own administration. For our second issue of The Citizen Politician debate series, senior leader Jaswant Singh discusses the criticality of following the middle path, and creating a vital centre within the party. In her response, journalist Vidya Subrahmaniam critically assesses the BJP’s claims as a centrist party, and the hurdles that it has to cross before reaching this goal.

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