Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (more popularly known as Congress) are two major political parties in India and major rivals. BJP, Relatively newer than Congress, got a chance to govern India only for 6 Years with alliance. Whereas, Congress has governed India for the major part of the history of independent India. The two parties are different on their basic ideology, yet they are considered similar on bigger issues like economic and foreign policy. This article tries to highlight the difference between BJP and Congress.
Congress puts more emphasis on uplifting socially underprivileged sections of the society, historically Congress has advocated in favour of farmers, labourers, labour unions, and religious and ethnic minority. This makes Congress very strong in the rural India which makes the most of the country. Congress strictly follows the principal of secularism and claims to fight against polarizing elements and communal forces.
BJP remains committed to Hindutva. It believes Hindutva should be the cultural identity of India, and oppose westernization of the country. Political rivals claim BJP as communal for having such ideology. However, BJP disconnects Hindutva from Hinduism and believes this cultural identity extends to every religion in the country. A similar concept that Vladimir Putin believes pursues in Russia.
At present it is often believed that beside the general differences there is no solid difference in the economic policies of the two parties. However, BJP is considered slightly right of centre and Congress is considered slightly left of the centre. No party has extreme views though, and sometimes their views overlaps and sometimes their views are contradictory as well. For example, BJP opposes FDI in retail, which is supported by Congress.
The BJP opposes the socialist economic policies of Congress and blames Congress of keeping India’s growth rate down, economy in dark and corruption. Economic policy of Congress were initially centred on the public sector and aimed at establishing a “socialistic pattern of society.” The BJP government was more reform friendly and claims to have established a stronger foundation of the economy during its rule. Congress on the other hand blames BJP of blind privatization during its term.
After free-market reforms and economic liberalisation initiated in 1991, economic policies of both the parties overlaps on the majority of the issues. Although BJP promotes foreign trades and privatization, it supports Swadeshi movement and encourages indigenous industries and opposes excessive foreign imports. BJP opposes Congress of Bringing FDI in retail claiming this will reduce the number of jobs in the country, as retail sector is second largest employer in India after agricultural sector. BJP’s views on FDI in retail remains highly debateable and challengeable.
Another contradiction can be that BJP opposes GST (Goods and Service Tax), which is supported by Congress. GST, once implemented, will replace all other taxes like VAT, excise duty, service tax, entertainment tax, luxury tax, etc. providing relief to the common man.
In a popular move, BJP now recently supports complete abolition of Income tax, whereas Congress looks favourably upon the levying of income taxes.
Whoever is in power, nobody wants to deteriorate India’s foreign relations with another country. Therefore foreign policies of the two countries mostly remains same except few major differences.
Congress urges that a viable Palestinian state be established at the earliest. On the other hand, BJP mentioned in its 2009 manifesto that it pursues enhanced cooperation with Israel. However, BJP acknowledges both Arab world and Israel are beneficial for India and it will not inter link the relations between the two, something which will be very complicated.
BJP opposed Congress on inclining India more towards Soviet Union and the communist bloc. BJP favoured relations with USA to bring the balance back to India’s non alignment policy. After the collapse of Soviet Union, BJP now supports enhanced cooperation with Russia, Central Asia as well as USA. On the other hand, Congress also now supports enhanced cooperation with the USA. Indo-US nuclear deal and signing recent heavy defence deals with USA is one such example. In this regard, both the parties now have similar views on the relations with Russia and USA after the collapse of Soviet Union.
Both the parties maintain similar views on India’s neighbours and want friendly and peaceful relations with all of them.
Both the parties wants friendly relations with Sri Lanka and want the Sri Lankan government to ensure the interests of Tamil minorities. However, Modi in his October speech, commented that India’s concern for non-resident Indians (NRI) should also extend to Sri Lanka’s Tamil population, whose families have been living in Sri Lanka for at least a century and in some cases even longer.
Both the parties believe that friendly relations with Pakistan can only be achieved if Pakistan dismantles its terror infrastructure. One step ahead, BJP supports the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir into India by revoking its “special status” granted in the Indian constitution, which can further tense the situation in Kashmir and relations between India and Pakistan. BJP maintains extreme views especially on Pakistan. However, The Vajpayee government (BJP) surprised everyone by taking various new initiatives to setup friendly relations between the two countries which includes resuming bus and train services between the two countries.
Both the parties want friendly relations with Nepal and Bangladesh. However, BJP blames Congress of ignoring relations with Nepal and supports fencing of Indo-Bangladesh Border.
Congress supports India’s “no first use” policy, which states that India keeps its nuclear arsenal as deterrent and will only use its weapons if a country strikes India first with nuclear weapons. This indirectly states that India will never attack a non-nuclear state with its nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, BJP believes in keeping “all options open” policy, and does not further define its stance. However, BJP government always believed that nuclear weapons should be avoided as long as they can be, but does not assure enemy countries that it will never strike first. In October 18, 2013 speech of Modi, he lauded Vajpayee’s public declaration of a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, striking a “balance” between strength and peace.
BJP believes more in showing the world India’s capabilities and supports projects that showcases strength of India. BJP cleared Chandrayaan-I moon mission, BJP now supports Chandrayaan-II mission to moon and claimed in its 2009 manifesto that it will facilitate sending a manned mission to moon in next 5 years. As of now, no government has ever cleared a manned mission to moon or near earth orbit.
BJP is assertive that once it comes to the power, it will once again initiate an aggressive nuclear program. BJP supports expedition of India’s indigenous thorium technology programme and giving all financial assistance to it.
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