RSS reaches out to moderates

RSS reaches out to moderates

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during a book release function in New Delhi, on Thursday. PTI

As RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat concluded his three-day interactions, answering several uncomfortable questions, he pushed the boundaries for both the 93-year-old Sangh and its political offshoot the BJP.

When he said no to Hindu Rashtra without Muslims or his unabashed pitch for the need to ensure that the LGBT community does not feel isolated, the Sangh chief was breaking many of the stereotypes with which the Sangh has come to be associated with.

He lauded the role of Congress in the freedom struggle and acknowledged the contribution of previous governments in nation-building, in stark contrast to the BJP rant against the five-decade rule of the Congress.

But what was most striking was that Bhagwat, on the last day of the event, distanced the RSS from remarks made by its second Sarsangchalak M S Golwalkar in his controversial book “Bunch of Thoughts” and said those statements were made in a particular context and are not permanent in nature.

Observing that the Sangh acknowledges only those parts of “ Bunch of Thoughts” which are relevant to the current circumstance, Bhagwat said, “the Sangh is not a closed organisation.”

Opposition parties have repeatedly targeted the RSS and the BJP over Golwalkar’s controversial book and his views on the reservation.

In 2015 Assembly polls in Bihar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad used to wave the book in his election rallies to paint the RSS as anti-reservation. Bhagwat said the Sangh “fully backs all kinds of reservation which are in sync with the Constitution” and it is for “the reserved classes to decide till what time quota should continue”.

Bhagwat’s clear line that diversity should not be a reason for discord and his attempt to allay apprehensions among Muslims about Hindu Rashtra concept of the RSS, comes at a time when for the first BJP is making a serious bid to wean sections of Muslims — Muslim women through progressive measures like banning triple talaq.

Bhagwat said Hindu Rashtra does not mean driving away Muslims and that any Hindu saying a Muslim cannot stay doesn't reflect Hindutva.

The first indication that it is keen to send out the message of its opening out to scrutiny by people from other than RSS background was evident when it invited a quintessential Congressman and former President Pranab Mukherjee to its headquarters at Nagpur in June. Even for this three-day event, the RSS had earlier planned to invite many prominent Opposition leaders but sensing their mood to boycott, it chose not to do so.

The open invite by the RSS chief to outsiders to “come to Sangh, see it from inside and then form an opinion about it” is another attempt by the party to “clear misgivings about the Sangh”.

However, Bhagwat’s moderate line on various issues expressed at the event has been taken with a pinch of salt.

"All that he spoke was good but the thing is how credible he was when he said that the Sangh does not have any preference for any party or that RSS does not approve of cow vigilantism. How many times RSS leaders strongly condemned when cow lynching events happened. How many top office-bearers in the RSS are from disadvantaged sections?

“Mohan Bhagwat’s speech in Chicago and his speech in Delhi should be seen together. There he terms Hindus as lions and others as wild dogs. Here he speaks of diversity. It exposes his doublespeak,” CPI’s D Raja said.

At a time when BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be overtaking the larger RSS identity through a personality cult, the RSS chief also sought to impress upon the difference of identity between the two.

It not only distanced itself from “Congress Mukta Bharat” slogan given by the BJP sometime back by saying that RSS is not those who believe in “Mukta” rather it believes in “Yukta” and that RSS volunteers are free to work for any party.

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