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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 18 New Delhi April 20, 2019

RSS raring to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra laboratory

Tuesday 23 April 2019

by Arun Srivastava

Saffron desperation for a thumpimg win is quite perceptible. Notwithstanding Narendra Modi demonstrating his macho image at the public rallies and displaying his vocal power, the RSS is not sure that he would be able to ensure a thumping win for the party. If the speeches and public comments of former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, the person closer to the RSS, are any indication, it can safely be construed that the RSS does not intend to lose the opportunity to capture power. The Sangh even may bet on some other leader.

Last week the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest decision-making body of the Sangh met in Gwalior to review the dynamics of the election campaign and also to evolve the fresh strategy to reinforce the BJP’s election campaign in West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha, Karnataka and northeastern States, where the BJP had failed performed well in 2014. The RSS cadres would not only campaign for the BJP; in fact, they would man the polling booths too. The RSS cadres would prove to be more effective in man-management than the BJP cadres.

Sources also confide that the Sangh leaders are quite perturbed at the mechanism of campaigning by the party and also do not approve Modi’s self-promotion mechanism. The Sangh feels that he has been more self-centric than harping on the ideological orientation of the campaign.

There is a general feeling in the top leaders of the Sangh that he has not been able to make nationalism and prestige of the security forces a major public issue. It is only the saffron supporters and cadres who have been championing it on public fora. The common people are still skeptical of the claims and intentions of Modi and his Ministers. They are not opening up their mouth due to fear of reprisal. Modi shifting to the development agenda is indicative of the fact that nationalism and security have failed to cut ice.

Though the Sangh would like to propagate the idea of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra, it also prefers not to alienate the majority of the Hindu population. The situation existing today is really a matter of concern. Barring its hard-core cadres and supporters, a large population of Hindus are unwilling to subscribe to the line of nationalism and security of the country. They feel that Modi has played into the hands of the die-hard party and Sangh supporters. He has not succeeded in penetrating the Hindu body.

Amit Shah might have succeeded in projecting himself as the iron man and modern-day Chanakya, but the fact remains that he has not succeeded in making inroads in States like Kerala, West Bengal and Odisha, where the BJP lost in 2014. In fact a section of the leaders, both in the BJP and Sangh, believe that his crude mannerism has simply alienated the Hindus. Being the party chief he should have been more restrained in accusing and abusing the opponents. Even a few BJP leaders feel that he has failed to differentiate between the fundamentalist Muslims and common Muslims. This has been more visible in West Bengal, where he clubs Bengali Muslims who subscribe to the Bengali culture with of non-Bengali Muslims, most of whom are converts. Besides the party does not have any proper mechanism to turn its support into votes.

The Sangh leaders nurse the view that the BJP leaders have miserably failed to handle the Dalit question effectively. In 2014 some Dalits had voted for the BJP in some States, but the party failed to build a strong base. The Dalits by and large are skeptical of the Sangh’s attitude towards them. The Dalit leaders, who are with the BJP, cannot claim to be true representatives of Dalit aspiration.

The Sangh, which was helping the BJP deal with the caste challenges by working among the socially marginalised, is now evolving a new Dalit outreach. It is cut up with Modi and the BJP for alienating the Dalits and pushing them closer to the Congress and other forces. It is also significant that India witnessed the emergence of a really powerful and popular young Dalit leaders. One such leader is Chandrsekhar alias Ravan who will take on Modi in Varanasi. He may be defeated but the euphoria that the announcement of his candidature has created is unprecedented. In 2014 Dalits did not oppose Modi, but this time they are united and rearing for the final showdown.

In the 2019 elections the RSS cadre will spare no effort in helping the BJP to perform better in States that withstood the Modi wave in the 2014 elections. The aim is to help the BJP win more seats in these States and reduce the victory margin of its opponents in potentially tough contests.

The Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest decision-making body of the Sangh, which met in Gwalior in the second week of March, would reinforce the BJP’s election campaign in West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha, Karnataka and North-Eastern States. RSS cadres would not only campaign for the BJP, they would man the polling booths too. The RSS cadres would prove to be more effective in man-management than the BJP cadres.

The Pratinidhi Sabha decided that the Sangh cadres and supporters will need to focus on Modi as a strong leader, especially post-Pulwama, reinforce the end of dynastic politics, caste-based political entities and hammer home the importance of choosing a nationalistic party.

During his five-year rule Modi has utterly failed to connect with the farmers and rural poor. It has been primarily focused on the urban middle class. Almost all his programmes have been designed to cater to the needs of the urban middle class. The Sangh leadership has categorically told Modi and the BJP to focus on the rural electorate to counter the image of the party being urban-centric. During the last Lok Sabha elections, the party did not perform well in the rural areas.

Treating 2014 as the baseline would be a foolish exercise. The verdict was the manifes-tation of the anger and frustration of the people towards the Congress. That did not reflect popular support. The victory of the Congress in three States, the BJP bastions, clearly underlines it. Usually the media, working on behalf of the BJP, especially Modi, have been using the electoral figures of 2014 and comparing those with the present scenario. They have been doing the job of propagandist of the BJP and Modi. Take the case of Wayanad; they claim that the total population of Muslims is more that 50 per cent. But the fact is that Muslims are 24 per cent while Hindus are 49 per cent; Will the media, which claims to the fourth estate of democratic India, clarify why it has been resorting to this kind of nasty and skewed propaganda?

The RSS managing the BJP’s election would prove to be a real challenge for the Congress and other anti-BJP parties. The RSS would never cherish the idea that the work done for spreading Hindu Rashtra should go in vain. It would like to grab power at any cost. Meanwhile the Sangh has been trying to assuage the hurt feelings of the rank and file and conveying to them that it would even change the leader, if required.

The meeting of the ABP Sabha comes weeks ahead of the general election and is being keenly watched for political undertones and polemics; perhaps that is one reason why the Sangh chose to pass resolutions on the Sabarimala issue, the promotion of family values, and challenges in contemporary India. The ABPS usually avoids discussing electoral politics but this time that featured prominently for the reason that the situation is slipping out of the control of Modi and his government.

The RSS also held the view that for the sake of the elections the BJP should behave and look like a secular organisation. Some Sangh leaders blame Modi for not taking pre-emptive steps for building the Ram temple. They feel the government should have pushed for an early decision on the issue.

For the RSS, its march towards Hindu Rashtra is more precious and important than preserving the integrity of India. In Hindu Rashtra democracy has no relevance. It is worth mentioning that former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has recently observed that “the narrow worldview of the RSS is deeply problematic for an open democratic country like ours”. Rajan said the RSS’s narrow view might be an anomaly to India that was built upon “the views of our founding fathers like Nehru and Gandhi as well as the Constitution”. “So to that extent, I believe it is a much narrower view and because of this, it does not give as much of freedom of participation in the broad stream of Indian life to a variety of communities outside the majoritarian community, and others that it considers part of the majority.”

That the RSS dislikes openness is also clear from its dislike for the former Prime Minister and founder leader of the BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Vajpayee was opposed to the political-ideological line of ultra-nationalism of the RSS. There is no denying the fact that the RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling BJP, is a “serious threat to a liberal, tolerant, innovative India”.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]gmail.com

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