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BJP, RSS forge new collaboration based on approval, tacit support

india Updated: Oct 13, 2016 00:44 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times
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PM Narendra Modi with RSS swayamsewaks. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech denoted a shift in equation between the Sangh and the BJP. (AP File Photo)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s endorsement of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in his annual Dussehra speech on Tuesday is an indication of the synergic mentor-protégé relations.

Barring a stray reference to a point of contention — the Gau Rakshaks (cow vigilantes) — the RSS chief’s speech denoted the shift in equation between the Sangh and the BJP. The RSS no longer confronts the party publicly.

Post the 2014 sweeping success of the BJP, the party-RSS equation perceived as turbulent during the NDA’s first term with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the PM has morphed into camaraderie where one compliments the other and disagreements are kept private.

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From the re-calibration of its position on Pakistan to rejig of the Union Cabinet, the decisions taken by the government have the approval — tacit or otherwise — of the Sangh Parivar.

Bhagwat’s message is clear — the government need not worry about dissent within.

This explains why differences on issues such as economic policies and modified crops are aired at party-Sangh interactions; but not for whipping the government openly. Unlike the Congress affiliated INTUC that was compelled to join other trade unions in protests during the UPA rule, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has recused itself from public confrontation.

Political watchers say the terms of agreement of the new collaboration are clear. Affiliates such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and the BMS have the freedom to pursue their agenda (opposition to FDI reforms for instance) but the directions are explicit — not to embarrass the government.

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The BJP has reciprocated by letting the Sangh shape the agenda in sectors such as education and culture and moved on its suggestions for appointments in academe and cultural institutions.

“This is in sharp contrast to the relations between Vajpayee and K Sudarshan (then RSS chief). Affiliates such as the BMS and SJM made their disapproval of liberalisation and reform public,” said a political commentator.

Can the synergy between the BJP-RSS be attributed to the equation being anchored by the Modi-Bhagwat duo? “Dr Bhagwat is far more pragmatic than his predecessor.

This is clear from the fact that important RSS affiliates such as the VHP and SJM, which were often at loggerheads with the Vajpayee government, are now lying low,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former Vajpayee aide, when asked if Bhagwat’s less-hawkish outlook has helped bring about the change.

Read | From intolerance to LoC strikes: When RSS’ Mohan Bhagwat backed BJP

He, however, said the foundation of the relationship has not changed. “When we compare the BJP-RSS relations during Vajpayee’s tenure with what they are now, what we see is change with continuity,” Kulkarni said.

Sources within the Sangh iterate that the relations are limited to the ideological, but admit there is concerted effort to ensure “manbhed, not matbhed” (difference of opinion, not differences).

“After BJP’s 2004 electoral debacle, the Sangh realised that micromanaging the party has a downside. Now the relations are complementary. The Sangh keeps its distance and the party has a freehand,” said a Sangh functionary.