The assembly elections in Bihar eight months away may be a compelling reason for the RSS, and now the BJP, to distance themselves from the Shiv Sena campaign against north Indians in Mumbai.
But RSS and BJP leaders say the “real” reason for speaking out now is because they see a long-term damage to their ideological cause and to the country. It has less to do with the future of the BJP’s alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
The stir of the Senas — due to rivalry between the two — has every possibility of jeopardising the Sangh’s new thrust on its pet theme of pan-Indian nationalism, RSS and BJP insiders say. Being Maharashtrian himself, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who became the Sangh head a year ago, has not been comfortable with such agitations, which have seen attacks on migrants in the big city.
With Nitin Gadkari, another Maharashtrian appointed as president of BJP at the behest of the RSS, it was seen as the “right time” to send out a message against the stir.
It is no secret that the BJP has been careful to ensure that with a Maharashtrian as its chief, its rivals in Bihar do not trigger any controversy, which could put ally and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar in a tight spot.
A fortnight ago, Gadkari was quoted in Bihar’s press as opposing migration to big cities. A harried BJP chief had to quickly clarify that his party and he stood by the constitutional guarantees for all Indians to live and work anywhere in the country.
Gadkari read out Article 19(1) of the Constitution that says all Indians have the right to reside in any part of India, and reminded the Sena that the BJP’s opposition to Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, is also on the ground that it is an impediment to national unity. Since he took charge as head of the RSS, Bhagwat has also been trying to re-activate the Sangh cadres to promote, among other things, issues such as nationalism, patriotism, and protection of the village economy.
“The brand of Marathi chauvinism that the Sena is espousing does not fit in with the RSS’s plan for promoting nationalism,” said an close aide of Bhagwat. “It was time to call a spade a spade,” he said. “When we are talking of uniting Indian society by asking everyone to appreciate Indianness and Hindutva, we cannot be a silent spectator in the face of narrow regionalism.”