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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 40, New Delhi, September 26, 2015

RSS - BJP Kinship

Monday 28 September 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

If there was any iota of doubt about the links between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Narendra Modi dispelled it. He presented his key Ministers to the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, and asked them to provide information on the working of their Ministries. That the Prime Minister had no qualms about it was evident from the way the entire presentation was aired on news channels. He has been an ardent pracharak of the RSS before joining its political wing, the BJP.

The party has been evasive on the link because of its realisation that the RSS does not go down well with an average Indian. It was the same question of connection which split the Janata Party. The Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of the BJP, promised to severe its links with the RSS when it joined the Janata Party and gave an assurance to the Gandhian, Jayaprakash Narayan, that it would cut off its relations with the RSS, provided it was allowed to stay in the Janata Party. This delinking did not, however, happen and it betrayed JP’s confidence.

I recall asking JP why he allowed the Jana Sangh to merge with the Janata Party when the former had not cut off its links with the RSS. In reply he said that he had been betrayed because the Jana Sangh leaders had gone back on their word. They had given him an undertaking that once the Janata Party started attending to the organisational work, after forming the government, the Jana Sangh would have nothing to do with the RSS. “I have been personally let down,” said JP.

This must be true but in the process the Jana Sangh was able to get secular credentials. The blunder committed by JP has cost the nation dear and the Jana Sangh of yesterday has emerged as the BJP of today, and has been able to secure an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress should have gained from the situation. But its obsession with the dynasty and party President Sonia Gandhi’s insistence on having her son, Rahul Gandhi, as her successor has dissipated the advantage. The party has lost its dependable vote-bank of Muslims. The community is now following either regional parties or even flirting with the idea of supporting Owaisi, who is trying to present himself as the sole representative of Muslim leaders, as those in the Muslim League used to do before partition.

The community does not want to go back to parochial politics. Yet, it may have no option except to toy with the idea since the RSS has come out openly on the field to guide the BJP, jettisoning its role of being a pure cultural organisation. That the RSS has not gone through the electoral process does not bother the organisation because it knows that the BJP has to depend on the RSS cadres to win elections.

Nonetheless, it is sad to see on television channels RSS chief Bagwat making it clear who is the boss when Prime Minister Modi met him and paraded his ministerial colleagues in front of him. True, the electorate has given a majority to Modi but never did he say during his campaign that when it comes to the country’s governance, the RSS would be very much there.

In fact, during his campaign, Modi assured the minorities, particularly the Muslims, that whatever be the party’s stance in the past the new slogan was sab ka sath, sab ka vikas. At a few meetings he went out of the way to make the Muslims believe that he would be their best custodian.

Really speaking, there is nothing discriminatory in his way of working so far. However, the fact of the RSS saffronising the educational institutions and making appointments of its own men in key positions is visible. It suggests that Modi is implementing the RSS agenda slowly but relentlessly. It is evident that the Muslims have seized to count in the affairs of governance. The Central Cabinet itself has just one Muslim Minister. Even otherwise, the increasing impression inside and outside the government is that a soft-type of Hindutva has begun to prevail in governance.

The target of the RSS—to have a Hindu Rashtra—may look distant at present. But Modi still has three-and-a-half years to go. Both he and the RSS chief, who now often meet publicly, seem to be working according to the plan which they have devised at Nagpur, the RSS headquarters. The BJP and its students’ wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, have no independent thinking. They just follow the script finalised at Nagpur.

This has a different manifestation. Sometimes it appears in the shape of a ban on meat and sometimes the dress code and even compulsory teaching of Sanskrit in schools and specific morning prayers in assemblies. The redoing of the Nehru Memorial Museum at Delhi is part of the same thinking. The RSS, which was nowhere when the movement to oust the British was fought, is now trying to occupy all the space and parade as the real champion of freedom.

One sadly feels the absence of the passion of the freedom struggle and the philosophy of pluralism. Even the name of the architect of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, is being systematically erased. For example, the postal stamps of Nehru and Indira Gandhi are being obliterated. The havoc caused in the field of education is terrible. History is being re-written and textbooks are changed to downgrade the role of leaders who were instrumental in getting us our freedom. It is no surprise that the names of Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who stood bravely against the Muslim League, are seldom mentioned.

Understandably, the RSS and its affiliated units like the BJP and the Bajrang Dal, feel left out when freedom struggle is mentioned. But they do not have to minimize the freedom struggle itself because that will amount to a great disservice to tomorrow’s generations. The important thing is the struggle for independence and the sacrifices made by innumerable people.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com