Why RSS cannot sabotage BJP in elections

Why RSS cannot sabotage BJP in elections

The RSS realises that the unfinished aspects of its agenda for India cannot be pushed forward without Narendra Modi’s bombastic persona at the helm of the Indian State

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Last Updated : 24 May 2024, 05:05 IST
Last Updated : 24 May 2024, 05:05 IST

The statement of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president J P Nadda that the party did not need the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has once again ignited the debate about the relationship between the two organisations.

The implicit suggestion in Nadda’s interview to the media is that the BJP and its supreme leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi have outgrown the RSS. They, and not the RSS, win elections.

The Nadda interview has also come when there is speculation that the RSS cadre is not coming out to mobilise voters during polling. Reports from Uttar Pradesh suggest that the cadre feels the government has not rewarded it for its unstinted support and is reluctant to work for the party on the ground.

No wonder then in the midst of the general elections, Nadda’s interview has led to speculation about a deteriorating relationship between the BJP and the RSS. There are even suggestions that finally a ‘separation’ between the BJP and RSS has taken place.

After Nadda’s interview, according to a news agency report appearing three days later, the RSS cadre was finally stepping in to assist the BJP. It suggested that only when the party was confronted with a low voter turnout in the first three phases of polling did the RSS become active to counter voter fatigue, and the fading of Modi’s image with his core supporters.

These speculations seem far-fetched. Most of the volunteers manning the election booths, hustling voters to the polling centres, and handing them details of their voter registration details, are RSS workers. The RSS mobilises entire family units — if the adults are with the BJP or an RSS front organisation, the young adults are likely to be in the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha or the student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The children would probably be attending RSS morning branch meetings (shakha) where they would be indoctrinated into Hindu nationalism.

There is no reason why the RSS cadre would not be working for a Modi-led BJP campaign. It could not have imagined even in its wildest dreams of furthering the RSS’ Hindu majoritarian agenda as successfully as the Modi regime has: building the Ram temple at the site of the Babri masjid, criminalising triple-talaq, abrogating the special status of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, bringing in the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and implementing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as a pilot project in Uttarakhand. The Hindu militias of various hues have come to enjoy complete immunity when they target Muslims for their eating habits, the way they dress, or force them to prove their nationalism.

There is, therefore, no ideological reason why the RSS should not help Modi get a third term.

Perhaps the only clash is over the promotion of Modi’s personality cult. The RSS has tended to believe that as the mother organisation of Hindutva ideology, it is permanent (sashwat), and political leaders are temporary (nashwar).

Leaders and political fronts are not permanent, and their fortunes are guided by the RSS — in 1977 it directed the Jan Sangh (BJP’s predecessor Hindu majoritarian party) to merge its identity with the Janata Dal, it supported Indira Gandhi in the 1980 general elections, and in 1984 it supported Rajeev Gandhi’s bid for prime ministership after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

However, the RSS also perhaps realises that the unfinished aspects of its agenda for India cannot be pushed forward without Modi’s bombastic persona at the helm of the Indian State.

Moreover, in the last decade, the RSS has been able to own and operate offices in virtually every district and city of India, the lifestyle of its full-time workers has improved, its functionaries and loyalists have been appointed as heads of institutions including gubernatorial positions across the country, and no request by the organisation to a BJP government — either at the Centre or the states — goes unfulfilled.

Why then is it being reported that the RSS is not enthusiastic about the BJP in this election? The only possible explanation is that even the RSS cannot get entry into people’s homes if in every family there is an unemployed youngster desperate for a job. In Uttar Pradesh, in particular, the objective conditions are not right for the RSS to influence the voters. In the other states as well, the RSS cadre may have no answer to the acute economic problems being faced by the people at large. Even they must know that freebies are not a solution to the economic crisis faced by the poor.

Nadda’s claim that “the BJP runs itself” is nonsensical at best, especially coming from a former RSS man himself. The party both at the national as well as state levels is run by the RSS, which appoints the general secretary (organisation) for each unit. These organisation secretaries move back and forth between the RSS and the BJP. Modi himself replaced Kushabahu Thakre as general secretary (organisation) of the BJP at the national level, where he remained between January 1998 and October 2001, till he joined the party permanently.

The current incumbent at the national level is B L Santhosh, an RSS functionary leased to the BJP. He replaced Ram Lal after he was recalled to the RSS. In short, the RSS runs the organisation of the BJP at the Centre and in the states. It would be erroneous to assume that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Modi would place their personal differences, if any, above that of their organisational ideology. The BJP and RSS work in tandem.

The RSS then is the mother ship at the centre of a large flotilla. The BJP is the political front of the RSS. Nothing indicates a reversal of roles between the two organisations, or a change in the balance of power. That the RSS will deliberately sabotage the BJP’s chances in an election is just a naïve pipedream.

(Bharat Bhushan is a Delhi-based journalist.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.


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