The RSS’ efforts in sending the BJP hurtling towards power seems to have met with resounding success, if the opinion polls are to be believed. This raises several possibilities.
The RSS could bring its weight more heavily to bear on the BJP’s cultural policy should the party come to power and burrow deeply into the process of selecting ministers and even the functioning of the government. Even in the days of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s premiership, the influence of the RSS was palpable. Mr Vajpayee could not have Jaswant Singh as minister in 1998 because as a defeated candidate in the Lok Sabha election that year, the latter did not get the RSS’ approval.
Even LK Advani at times found himself on the wrong side of the RSS, so much so that in a TV interview in 2005, the year after the BJP went out of power, then sarsanghchalak KS Sudarshan said that both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani “should go”. The train of events that this set off put the BJP in such a quandary that the party could not get its act together, leading to another defeat in 2009. Mr Advani rubbed the RSS the wrong way and lost the BJP presidentship in 2005 for his “complimentary remarks” on Pakistan’s founder, MA Jinnah. Mr Singh, who too “erred” by praising Jinnah, in a book at that, was expelled from the party in 2009. Though he returned to the BJP a year later, the damage had been permanently done.
On the other hand, the well-orchestrated Modi campaign has helped the RSS also in the sense the organisation has seen its numbers swell. In fact, this is a process that had started three years ago when activist Anna Hazare launched the India Against Corruption campaign. The RSS had lent support to the movement, and in doing so had been able to cast its net wider. After Narendra Modi was appointed the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, the two processes were spliced. But whether the intertwining will turn out to be a smooth affair or not is difficult to tell because RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat sang a different tune some months ago by saying it was not the job of the pracharaks to chant “NaMo NaMo”. Perhaps that was a tactical ploy to give the RSS a more hallowed look by suggesting that it did not fall for the lure of power. But in the face of adversity, maybe some years hence, such statements do become a factor in influencing events, as has been seen in the Advani episode.
In the ‘modernity vs conservatism’ debate the RSS has erred on the side of being traditional. But the BJP has made the youth and all they aspire to the centrepiece of its campaign this time. Now, if the RSS is to have a greater say in policy formulation, that could be an arena of conflict between the outfit and the BJP and their differences will further impinge on their respective ideologies. If he becomes prime minister, Mr Modi should be wary of that.