The recent Lok Sabha polls had shown that an election could be won “without Muslim support” and it was time the minority community learnt to respect Hindu sentiments, VHP chief patron and senior RSS leader Ashok Singhal has said.
Narendra Modi — an “ideal swayamsevak” — would deliver on the Hindutva agenda unlike the first NDA government, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad supremo and one of the longest serving senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders told HT in an exclusive interview.
The right-wing Hindu leader, who had a front-row seat at Modi’s swearing-in, said “tables had turned”. The polls were a “setback to Muslim politics” used by “foreign and divisive forces to destroy our identity,” he said. It was time for them to learn their lessons.
“Muslims will be treated as common citizens -- nothing more, nothing less. And, they must learn to respect Hindu sentiments. If they keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?” said the 88-year-old who has been a lifelong pracharak of the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP.
Asked to elaborate, Singhal said Muslims should give up claims over Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and also accept a uniform civil code.
The VHP is understood to have asked interlocutors to convey this message to Muslim organisations.
“We’ll then give them love, and not claim any other mosque sites even though there are thousands built on the ruins of temples. But if they don’t accept it, they should be prepared for further Hindu consolidation. It has happened at the Centre, it will happen in other states,” said Singhal, who set up the VHP and spearheaded the stir for the Ram Temple.
The temple issue, civil code and abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, had strained the VHP’s ties with the Vajpayee government. The Hindu outfit felt that the NDA did not come good on “core issues”.
But no such apprehensions this time, Singhal said in clearest indication, so far, of the RSS’ assessment of what the Modi government can deliver.
“The government will not and does not need to backtrack because it has the numbers in the House, and whatever we want to do, we want to do it through constitutional means,” the VHP leader said.
The Ram Temple and Godhra had made the BJP win possible. “These were the undercurrents and then issues of development and governance appealed to the young.”
For the RSS veteran, elections and religion are never too far. “Religion is the rock on which this country rests.”
In Modi, he sees an “ideal swayamsevak. “During the campaign, he conducted himself like a swayamsevak. He also showed to the world the discipline and hard work that a Sangh pracharak puts in.” The PM started his political journey as an RSS pracharak.
Singhal admitted that there was “an unprecedented mobilisation” by the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella term for various Hindu outfits, during the elections.
Did Sangh expect rewards? “The governors being appointed -- be it Ram Naik or Kesari Nath Tripathi -- are all from the Sangh but this is not necessary. We worked because it was our duty,” he said. “The important thing is the agenda must be fulfilled.”
Despite the Sangh’s tough anti-Pakistan stance, he sees Modi’s invitation to PM Nawaz Sharif as diplomacy. “You also have to resort to deceit at times, and there are segments in Pakistan who want good ties. The problem lies with the jihadi elements, and till they are there, relations can’t be good.”
There were some more suggestions on foreign policy. India should take the lead in building a “cultural commonwealth” of South and Southeast Asia, with Hindu and Buddhist population. “China cannot lead such a grouping, it has no cultural backbone and, like the USSR, China will collapse one day.”