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They were not expected to see eye to eye on many issues, but the ruling BJP will be hard put to explain away some of the remarks made by the chief of its mentor organisation, the RSS. Mohan Bhagwat has first sought to puncture the belief that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut powered the BJP to Delhi. It is that the people wanted change and not the efforts of individuals, said Mr Bhagwat. Now this will cause a few red faces in the BJP, which has been projecting its victory as individual-driven. But that is small potatoes, given the other remarks Mr Bhagwat has made, some of which seem in contravention of the Constitution. He has asked why the citizens of Hindustan are not called Hindus if people from Germany are called Germans and those from America called Americans. He also says that Hindutva is the glue which keeps India together and that Hinduism is our way of life. Now many in the government may subscribe to these views but they certainly cannot endorse them. The BJP may go blue in the face saying it is independent of the RSS but it is no secret that all major decisions need the approval of Nagpur.
Mr Bhagwat has been unusually assertive in his capacity as the leader of the RSS and as the days go by, this will bring him into a collision course with the Modi government. As it is, there are fears that at least a section of the BJP is keen on changing the inclusive and secular character of India, making it more Hindu-oriented. This would be detrimental to Mr Modi’s efforts to project an image of India as a modern and progressive country unlike, say, our troublesome neighbour.
The problem is that the BJP needs the foot soldiers of the RSS to help it win elections. Its spectacular Lok Sabha victory would not have been possible without the RSS workers who fanned out across the country to push the BJP to power. This is an issue which will require all Mr Modi’s considerable political acumen as well as perhaps that of BJP president Amit Shah. With assembly elections and by-polls coming up ahead, the BJP cannot afford to antagonise the RSS. But the RSS has to understand that it cannot constrain the BJP with its unidimensional views on Indian society. Both cannot do without each other, the trick is to make this cohabitation as comfortable and productive as possible.