Mainstream, VOL LII No 36, August 30, 2014
Modi in the Frame of the RSS’ Vision of a Hindu India
Sunday 31 August 2014
by Arun Srivastava
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remark certainly does reflect the concern of an overbearing parent that the progeny would go astray. Bhagwat, through his observation that the BJP came to power at the Centre because the common man wanted a change and an individual alone could not have ensured the party’s victory, primarily aimed to shield Narendra Modi from the accusation that he was implementing the RSS agenda. We ought to remember that the RSS under Bhagwat is not the RSS of 2004 under K. S. Sudarshan. While in 2004 the RSS literally had no functional understanding with the BJP which was under the control of Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, Modi is under the control of the RSS. In 2004 Sudarshan had expressed that Vajpayee and Advani should step down. How the RSS treated Advani after his return from Pakistan is a part of history. Modi is the blue-eyed boy of the RSS.
While hailing Amit Shah, his protégé, as the new President of the BJP, Modi had described him as the “man of the match” for his perfor-mance during the elections and adored Rajnath Singh as the captain of the team. This remark from Modi reinforced the belief that his arrogance was getting precedence over prag-matism. His stance had the potential not only to alienate the common people but also a significant section of the leadership and cadres. This was not in the interest of the BJP as well as the government. The RSS has chalked out an impressive future programme which ought to be accomplished by the Modi Government. Naturally it would like that its action plan is not torpedoed.
The entire episode was nothing but a simple case of mock-fight, a shadow-boxing. It cannot at all be attributed as a reality check from the Sangh chief. The matter of fact is, purely with the view to protect and shield Modi, the RSS
adopted a tough posture. He also wanted to send the message across that none else but it was he who was the boss and the RSS the supreme authority. Bhagwat’s observation—“if the people are not happy, they would change this government too in the next general elections and in future too, such change will depend on them”—was intended to allay any wrong impression about Modi. The RSS
also cautioned Modi to exercise restraint by saying that there was a time when the ruler decided how the people should be ruled. Now, people decide who would be their ruler. Bhagwat’s comment that with changing times, ancient traditions have to change to suit contemporary needs should be seen in the broader context.
A between-the-lines reading of the text would reveal the real intention of Bhagwat. Just within 24 hours of Modi’s comment, Bhagwat expressed his disagreement with the suggestion that the BJP’s victory was solely due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal pull. Bhagwat said: “Kuchh log bol rahe hain ki party ko safalta mili. Kuch log bol rahe hain ki koi vyakti ke liye jeet mili. Koi vyakti, party ya sangathan ki wajah se yeh parivartan nahin hua. Aam aadmi ne parivartan chaha. (Some people say the success was due to the party. Some others say it was because of some individuals. The fact is that the common man wanted change.)” The same individuals and the party existed earlier also. Why were not they voted to power? It is the people who wanted change and brought the party to power.
The word of caution could also be viewed as the expression of the desire by the RSS not to allow concentration of too much power in one hand. This would endanger the growth of others in the organisation. It is a known fact that in Gujarat Modi did not have cordial relations with the RSS. In Gujarat, some of the Sangh Parivar units declined to work because of this modus operandi of Modi. He would certainly like to replicate this in Delhi for getting more exposure and not allowing others to sideline him. Some of his rivals are quite influential.
Notwithstanding his posturing, Modi cannot become Atal Behari Vajpayee. Challenging the dictates of the RSS needed more conviction. Modi cannot muster courage to challenge the authority of the RSS. A closer look at policy decisions and execution of works would reveal that Modi has been assiduously following the RSS diktat. Bhagwat did not mince words in telling the global fraternity that all those living in Hindustan are Hindus. This was also a clear message for Modi to act within the framework of this directive. To substantiate his argument he took resort to illogical logic: if inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and USA are Americans then why are all inhabitants of Hindustan not known as Hindus?
Interestingly, he preferred to forget that our country is India and Bharat. All other countries have one name in English as well as in Hindi except India which is Bharat. Our kids are taught in the schools that we live in Bharat and India. Even our Constitution mentions the name of the country as India. Obviously it is wrong to say that whoever lives in Hindustan is Hindu. First, Mohan should explain whether the country is Bharat or Hindustan. Bhagwat cannot claim that the cultural identity of the people of this great country is Hindutva. Instead it is Bharatiyata as acknowledged long back by BJP stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee. Mohan, in the interest of the RSS, must not twist the fact. No doubt Hindutva is the way of life. The people who believe in this way of life would prefer to adopt it. Why to coerce or impose it on any individual? India is the greatest democracy of the world and such observations do not add to the image of our motherland, India. Bharat has cultural diversity and any move to change this would destroy the basic character of the country. It is sad that Bhagwat has been distorting the facts to suit the politico-religious needs of the RSS. In earlier times there was Sanatan Dharma, not Hindutva. Sanatan Dharma has wider implication. It encompassed the entire life and dharma. It would be wrong to equate Sanatan Dharma with Hindutva.
The word Hindutva is the political gift of the RSS and BJP to the country. Multiculturalism has been an alien concept for the RSS and BJP. For the Sangh an individual could be a Hindu but for becoming a practising Hindu he should subscribe to its Hindutva ideology. Obviously his observation, that the world has now realised that Hindutva has been the only basis to keep India united since ancient days despite having plenty of diversities, is entirely flawed. This is a strategic move to send the message across that India is having a government espousing the Hindutva philosophy and approach. This is a strategic move by the RSS, which abhors the basic concept of multiculturalism, to pursue its efforts to metamorphose the modern Indian Republic into its vision of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
It is an open secret that Modi’s idea of India is at odds with the concept of multicultural India. During the Vajpayee Government the RSS could not force its dictate, but in 2014 it would find easier to push its agenda. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat he might have been at loggerheads with the RSS but the Lok Sabha elections made it clear that he cannot survive without the tacit support of the RSS. Modi embodies majoritarian politics. Obviously he is the best bet for the RSS to implement its policies at the national level, as he did in Gujarat: bringing in the anti-conversion law, rewriting of textbooks, a uniform civil code. This is part of the RSS’ Hindutva agenda. He did not do anything for the Muslims. He even did not implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. A polarised society is the safe guarantee for the BJP to make a come-back to power in the next elections.
So far the Modi Government has not initiated any move which could dispel the impression that he was not pursuing the RSS agenda and Hindutva line. Within 24 hours of the Modi Government being installed the Minister of State in the PMO, Jitendra Singh, declared that the government may review Article 370 of the Constitution. It is on the basis of this Article that the State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union. Significantly, the 2014 BJP manifesto had made its intentions clear that it “remains committed to the abrogation of this Article”. Close on the heels of this controversy Modi’s Agriculture Minister sought a debate on the imposition of a uniform civil code (UCC). Building of the Ram Mandir on the disputed site of Ayodhya, imposition of a UCC and the abrogation of Article 370 have been core agenda of the RSS.
Following the suggestions of the Justice Sachar Committee and recommendations of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission the UPA Government, in December 2011, carved out a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent. out within the 27 per cent OBC reservations for religious minorities, categorised as part of the OBC list. But it is the politics of polarisation practised by Modi that motivated his Minister for Social Justice, Thawar Chand Gehlot, to oppose this sub-quota for minorities on the plea that reser-vation on the basis of religion was “unconsti-tutional”. His Minority Affairs Minister, Najma Heptulla, also opposed the minority reservation because quotas killed the “spirit of competition”. According to her, Muslims were not minorities.
The most important action of the Modi Government took place in June. On June 23, the PTI ran a story: “On the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Home Ministry is on a cleanliness drive and, in less than a month, has destroyed nearly 1.5 lakh files ...”. It further noted: “While going through the steel almirahs of North Block, officials also found some interesting files which gave an insight into some historic moments.” Among many interesting such moments was, “Another file (which had) details about the Cabinet meeting that was called before the death of Mahatma Gandhi was announced, an official said.” The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi had shocked the nation. The Prime Minister, after a Cabinet meeting, had announced the tragic news of the assassination in an address to the nation through the All India Radio. That was the famous speech, a speech that began, “A light has gone out from our lives...” Parliament sought to know the truth from the government. Though the government denied this particular news report, Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechuri writes: “it was clear that there remain very strong apprehensions that this BJP-led NDA Govern-ment of Narendra Modi has begun its tenure by seriously attempting to rewrite Indian history.”
Yechuri further writes: “It is necessary to recollect that, on the basis of the decisions taken at that very Cabinet meeting whose records, we are now informed, have been destroyed, Vallabhbhai Patel, then Home and Deputy Prime Minister, banned the RSS following the assassi-nation of Mahatma Gandhi. A government communiqué dated February 4, 1948, drafted by Patel, announcing the ban on the RSS, says: ‘The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself. It is part of the overall objective to straightjacket Indian history into a monolithic record of the glorification of the ‘Hindu nation’ and ‘Hindus’ alone.’”
Resorting to symbolism is the best recourse to convey the most complicated and difficult message and contour. Modi, by paying obeisance at the Pashupatinath temple in Nepal and by offering a puja with 2400 kg ghee, managed to send the correct message to the Hindu prota-gonists of that country. Before leaving for Nepal he cautioned not to do anything which may send a positive message to the Hindu forces. He was the only Indian Prime Minister to offer Puja at the Shiv temple. Other PMs not visiting the Shiv temple certainly did not imply that they were not Hindus or against the Hindu religion.
Yet another issue that ought to be pointed out is that while Modi paid visit to Shiv temple, at home he did not extend greetings on the occasion of Id. This matter was even raised in Parliament. The Trinmul Congress MP, Sudip Banerjee, told Parliament: “The Prime Minister went and offered puja in Nepal with 2400 kg of ghee. I appreciate the steps taken by the Prime Minister but it was equally expected that he should communicate Id Mubarak to others also.” The previous Prime Ministers used to host Iftar party, a tradition even Atal Behari Vajpayee had maintained. But this time Modi did not hold the Iftar party during the month of Ramzan.
During his brief three-month stay in power, the Modi Government has initiated a number of pro-Hindutva actions. The Centre has set up a committee on restructuring the UGC under former chairperson Hari Gautam. The UGC under Gautam in 2001 had asked universities to introduce Vedic Astrology as a science course. This move had triggered a controversy with scientists challenging the proposal. P.M. Bhargava, a former Director of the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology, who had challenged Gautam’s order in the court, expressed apprehensions that it was a move of the Ministry to push the saffron agenda in the educational sector. In this background it is worth recalling the clarion call of BJP President Amit Shah to its representatives from across the country to replace the Congress ideology by that of the BJP ideology.
All is not well in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Tamil Nadu. Vaiko, chief of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), which fought the Lok Sabha elections as an NDA ally, charged the Modi Government with trying to impose Sanskrit hegemony over other languages such as Tamil. He said imposing the language of a “single group” on others was “dangerous and atrocious”. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi focussed on the development agenda during his election campaign. We do not understand why he is deviating from this focus now through such moves,” he wondered. If the Centre wanted to promote classical languages, Tamil had to be given equal importance. “Tamil is no way lesser to Sanskrit,” he said. Political parties in Tamil Nadu opposed the CBSE’s circular asking affiliated schools to conduct Sanskrit week from August 7 to 13. The most vocal condemnation came from the allies of the BJP—the MDMK and PMK.
Modi abhors anything socialist. Modi disbanded the Planning Commission only for the reason that it was a socialist-era vestige. It was set up in March 1950 by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, to promote a rapid rise in the standard of living by efficiently exploiting resources, increasing production and offering employment opportunities to all. Modi said the Planning Commission, a 64-year-old Soviet style body, will be replaced with a new institution keeping in view the changed economic situation internally and globally. There was an imperative need to reform and restructure it. Instead he scrapped it. A new institution, National Development Reforms Commission, of eight members—three from industry and the rest comprising former or existing Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers— will be constituted. Modi envisages shifting the allocation of Plan funds to the Finance Ministry. The role Modi saw for the Commission was already being performed by it. This signals a major shift in India’s economic and planning process. The Modi Government is also contem-plating to reduce the NREGA outlay by 60 per cent on the plea that this money should be utilised on material costs so that productive assets are created. If at all the Modi Government is serious about creation of productive assets it could well have arranged additional funds instead of slashing the poor man’s wages.
The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org