The formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh on 21 October 1951 as an ideological and political alternative to Nehruvian Congress was a watershed in the political history of independent India. The role played by Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji and his close associate, Prof Bal Raj Madhok in its formation is worth remembering at a time when the country is facing multiple challenges. It is important to know how the two luminaries and intellectual giants met and collaborated for the formation of Bharatiya Jana Sangh to give a viable alternative to the Gandhi-Nehru Congress, which had betrayed the faith of all nationalist Hindus by secretly conceding to a Partition based on the two-nation theory to placate the Muslim League and the British.  As the Industry Minister in the Nehru Cabinet of free India, Dr Mookerji resigned to protest against the Nehru-Liaquat Pact signed in April 1950, barring India from taking any interest in the plight of the Hindu minority facing genocide in East Pakistan. He stood for the rights of Hindus of East Bengal and felt the need of a new political platform to reflect his political philosophy.

Prof Bal Raj Madhok, on the other hand, was actively involved in Jammu and Kashmir. As a professor of history in DAV College, Srinagar, and a trusted confidant of Mahraja Hari Singh, he prepared the ground for the accession of J&K state to India and played a notable role in the defence of Srinagar at the time of the Pakistani invasion in October 1947.

He entered active politics in the same year as the founder secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Praja Parishad to voice the concerns of Hindus and Buddhists in the state. In March 1948, he met Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to apprise them of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the anti-India activities of Sheikh Abdullah.

By this time, Prof Madhok’s first book, India on the Crossroads, was already published in Lahore in 1946. It was based on an essay by the same title that had won him the first prize from the Provincial Liberal Federation in 1945. The essay, written on the eve of Partition, dealt with the Hindu-Muslim problem, which, according to Prof Madhok, was the outcome of “incomplete Indianisation of Indian Islam and weakness of the nationalist forces as against the reactionary”. His call for “Indianisation of Indian Muslims” brought him wide recognition as a nationalist thinker and writer. It also won him the esteemed trust and friendship of Dr Mookerji. Together they actively collaborated for the formation of Bharatiya Jana Sangh with which Prof Madhok remained associated throughout his life. At the behest of Dr Mookerji, Prof Madhok drafted the manifesto of Bharatiya Jana Sangh with Indianisation as its core value.

Jana Sangh laid special stress on Indianisation of all such elements as had strayed away from the national mainstream. Dr Mookerji himself moved a resolution in the first plenary session of Jana Sangh held at Kanpur in December 1952, which, by implication, accepted the concept of India being a Hindu country. The resolution nailed all the misleading claims that Jana Sangh was never committed to Hindu Rashtra.

Bharatiya Jana Sangh grew from below. First, its units for Punjab, Pepsu, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi were formed in May 1951, with Prof Madhok as its first general secretary. Similarly, provincial party units were formed during the next three months in West Bengal, UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Bharat. An all India convention convened by Prof Madhok was held in New Delhi on 21 October 1951, in which representatives of these provincial units, together with some representative citizens from other states, participated. It was formally launched as an all India political party with Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji as its first national president and Prof Madhok as its general secretary. The presidential speech of Dr Mookerji, its constitution and manifesto are the basic documents of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

Jana Sangh laid stress on nationalism rooted in Indian Hindu culture and tolerance for all forms of worship. It considered secularism as projected by Nehru Congress as euphemism for communalism and continuation of policies which had resulted in the Partition of the motherland in 1947.

In the economic field, it stood for decentralisation of economic power with special emphasis on agriculture, self-employed, labour intensive and small scale industry and competition. It aimed at “jan kalian” or welfare of the common man and minimum dependence on state.  In foreign affairs and defence, it stood for reciprocal policy towards Pakistan, closer ties with Hindu-Buddhist countries and full diplomatic ties with Israel. Regarding J&K, it stood by Praja Parishad for its full integration with the rest of India through revocation of special status, abrogation of Article 370, promulgation of the Indian Constitution on the state and its reorganisation.

In the first general elections of 1952, it won three out of eight seats and polled 3% of the total votes to emerge as a national party.  The demise of Dr Mookerji on 23 June 1953 in Srinagar shook Jana Sangh. But Prof Madhok, as its co-founder and senior-most leader, held Jana Sangh steadfast to its ideological moorings.  Jana Sangh reached its highest water mark under his national presidentship in 1967, when it entered into a political arrangement with Swatantra Party and Akali Dal and won 35 seats in the Lok Sabha, while Swatantra Party got 45 seats. Along with 20 independents and others elected with their support, it formed a bloc of ideologically united 100 MPs in Lok Sabha.  It also performed well in the state Assemblies of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. It secured an absolute majority in the Delhi Metropolitan Council and registered its presence in Gujarat and won a seat in West Bengal. Jana Sangh was now ready to take off. This was no mean feat. Prof Madhok could achieve this as he never compromised with its basic ideology as a truly nationalistic alternative to the Congress, the communists and the communalists. Like Dr Mookerji, he remained rooted in Jana Sangh, its ideology and the saffron flag throughout his life, till his last breath.