Discretion and brevity are clear not among RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s strong points. He never hesitates to pronounce on different matters, almost always setting a cat among the pigeons. The latest from him is that Hindus should procreate more as there is no law against it raising the old theme of the Hindu population being threatened by a galloping Muslim population growth rate. Mr Bhagwat, you are wrong, the census data shows a decline in the Muslim growth rate. If Mr Bhagwat’s dream of Hindus producing more children were to come true, people might be interested in knowing what plans the RSS has for educating, clothing and feeding more children who are bound invariably to be more from poorer families. He then goes on to say that he is not a messenger for the government.
While the RSS claims to be an apolitical, cultural organisation, its actions suggest otherwise. It is the mentor organisation of the BJP and it is from its talent pool that many leaders of the party have emerged. These range from LK Advani, AB Vajpayee, Rajnath Singh and the prime minister himself to name but a very few. In which event, Mr Bhagwat’s assertion that he is not speaking on behalf of the government is not enough. The government must publicly distance itself from such factually incorrect and potentially divisive remarks. These follow on the heels of another pronouncement from the irrepressible Mr Bhagwat to the effect that a woman is bound by contract to look after her husband and if she fails to do so, the husband can disown her. Apart from embarrassing the government, Mr Bhagwat is doing a disservice to his own organisation. In recent times, worried by a drop in numbers joining its ranks, the RSS has tried to modernise itself. But so far these efforts have been confined to focusing on a new uniform to replace the khaki shorts and white shirt ensemble. But real modernisation has to come in the form a mindset change which is nowhere in evidence as proved by Mr Bhagwat’s remarks.
The RSS wields huge influence on the BJP and while the party is trying to project an image of a modern India on the move, the RSS is still talking in terms of the primacy of swadeshi and annexing territories which were part of united India. All these tarnish the government’s image as does the RSS’s efforts to push its own candidates for prime positions in institution of excellence. The government cannot afford to be perceived as being pushed by an extra-constitutional authority and it should make its stand very clear.