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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 21, May 25, 2024

Nadda on BJP-RSS relations: Father, Son and Political Equations | Ram Puniyani

Saturday 25 May 2024, by Ram Puniyani


As the election season (April-May 2024) is in progress there are observations by some that this time RSS volunteers (swayamsevaks) are not on the field to help the BJP for electoral mobilization. So far, in most elections barring the one of 1984, in the aftermath of anti Sikh pogrom. There are many guesses about the role of RSS combine in the elections this time. In this context the interview of Mr. J.P.Nadda, given to IE (May 19, 2024) claims that RSS is a cultural and social organization while BJP is a political party. Nadda claims that “… the BJP was now self-reliant and was fully capable of running its own affairs. The party has evolved over a period of time and unlike when during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s time, it was completely dependent on the RSS, this was not the case anymore.”

This is claimed particularly in the light of Narendra Modi’s spectacular rise, most of his decisions being made by himself and the charisma created around him by multiple mechanisms, including what is called Godi media, Controlled by his circle of corporate cronies. Some will tend to believe that BJP is now a totally autonomous party like any other party. Can this be true?

As we recall RSS was formed in the context of rising ‘Indian-consciousness’ during the freedom struggle. India’s anti-colonial freedom struggle was founded on pluralism and diversity. The triggering point for formation of RSS was the rising dalit struggles for social equality. The formation of this Hindu nationalist organization was also inspired by the Nationalism of Mussolini and Hitler. Unlike another organization devoted to Hindu nationalism, the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS focused on training swayamsevaks and pracharaks (propagators) in the ideology of Hindu nationalism rather than jumping directly into the political arena.

In due course it started throwing up different organizations, mostly formed by its trained volunteers. Interestingly the first subordinate organization was Rashtra Sevika Samiti, for women. This was guided by K.B. Hedgewar the first Sarsanghchalak, and formed by the women close to RSS pracharaks (propagators), as women are not permitted in RSS itself. The pracharaks in due course formed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh, Vishwas Hindu Parishad and a bit later Bajrang Dal. Today it has over 60 organizations working on the agenda of Hindu Rashtra.

The formation of the political wing of RSS came in the wake of murder of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, by RSS trained Pracharak Nathuram Godse. RSS felt the need for a political party which can articulate its ideology in the political arena. So far entering the political arena was an anathema for this organization. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of Hindu Mahasabha helped by Arya Samaj in particular took the lead in formation of BJP predecessor, Bhartiya Jansangh. RSS loaned three of its prominent Pracharaks to Jansangh: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishan Advani and Deendayal Upadhyay. Later with Deendayal Upadhyay becoming the President of Jansangh, RSS control on this party became total.

At the same time its shakhas were training young boys in the ideology of Hindu nationalism, based on glorification of the ancient past and hate for the Muslims. As per Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel it was the Hate spread by RSS due to which murder of Gandhi became possible, “Sardar Patel was firmly of the opinion that the communal poison spread by the RSS was responsible for the Mahatma’s assassination. …He said, ‘As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhi’

Jansangh-RSS eagerly joined the Jayaprakash Naryan movement 1975. Soon they came to control the movement and got respectability in public eyes, which was extremely low due to their association with Gandhi murder. Jansangh also merged into Janata Party which was inspired by JP. Soon many components of Janata Party asked the Janasangh leaders in the party to give up their association with RSS, i.e. to give up dual membership (of Janata Party and RSS). The Jansangh leaders owed their primary loyalty to RSS and left Janata Party to form Bhartiya Janata Party in 1980.

While they were nurtured and trained in the ideology of Hindu Nationalism, BJP for electoral purposes put forward “Gandhian Socialism” as their motto! As they did not get much traction on the electoral arena they soon shifted gears and took up Babri Mosque-Ram Temple as the central issue. The accompanying anti Muslim violence led to polarization and BJP’s ascent on the political chessboard went up by leaps and bounds.

The major policies of RSS Combine, of which BJP is a component, are coordinated through annually held ‘Akhil Bhartiya India Pratinidhi Sabha’ (ABPS, All India Representatives Meeting), presided over by the RSS Sarsanghchalak. As BJP became more powerful the RSS was getting more space to work and infiltrate in the state apparatus. Since 2014, the number of RSS Shakhas (Branches) has gone up in number in a big way. As per the ABPS report 22-23 “Over 8,500 new ‘shakha’ (daily meetings) were started by the RSS in the country during 2022-23. The total number of ‘shakha’ rose 12 per cent to 68,651 from 60,117 during the previous year. “

This shows the speed with which RSS work is expanding during present BJP rule. What prevails in RSS and BJP is a division of labor, with RSS being the parent organization and laying the broad contours of march to Hindu Rashtra.

The present scenario where Mr. Nadda is making this statement needs to be understood in the context of their electoral strategy and relationship to RSS. It is in no way the parting of ways between the parent organization and its political progeny. Modi’s towering image is needed for the agenda of Hindu nation. As most of the sectarian nationalisms, which are mostly dictatorial, need a towering image to undermine and wipe out democratic freedoms. So projecting Modi as a tall figure in no way contradicts the agenda of RSS combine, as a matter of fact it aids their goals in immeasurable ways.

What Mr. Nadda is stating needs to be taken in the proper context and tactical need of the RSS-BJP agenda. It in no way suggests any differences in their long term goal or relationship.

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