If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forms or leads the next government in Maharashtra, a part of the credit will have to go to its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which pulled out all stops to power the party’s campaign for the assembly elections.
From private meetings across the state to guaranteeing votes of the ideologically committed people and extending logistical support wherever needed, the RSS functionaries did it all in the past six weeks.
Thousands of RSS workers committed to working for the election, stepped up their efforts after the BJP and Shiv Sena split, party sources said. Though exact figures were not available, estimates put it at around 50,000 workers across the state.
The emphasis was to reach out to potential BJP voters in a low-key manner and impress upon them that a BJP government in Maharashtra was possible. The Sangh effort was the anti-thesis of the BJP’s high-profile and visible campaign, sources said.
While PM Narendra Modi addressed rallies and BJP chief Amit Shah coordinated with state leaders till 2am every day, the Sangh functionaries concentrated on ensuring that the ideologically committed support turned into votes.
The RSS set out tasks, which differed depending upon the abilities of the workers and the requirement in a designated area. For example, a doctor couple from Pune was deputed to small towns in north Maharashtra and Vidarbha for a month to mobilise sympathisers and get them to vote.
Sangh functionaries were allotted areas in suburban Mumbai to canvass support for BJP candidates with regular meetings and door-to-door campaigns. The meetings were always scheduled in a worker or sympathiser’s house and had a handful of carefully chosen invitees. “I have been in Mumbai for nearly two months now. The aim was to see a BJP government in the state,” said a middle-aged functionary in the western suburbs, who was given a small apartment in Andheri to function from.
The pattern and extent of the RSS’ involvement was similar to their effort during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, but on a smaller scale, sources said.
Functionaries were asked to concentrate on seats where the BJP candidates lost by small margins in the past and in those seats that were fought by the Sena, but housed a considerable support for the Sangh’s ideology.
Ram Madhav, BJP vice-president and general secretary, and former RSS spokesperson, declined to comment on the Sangh’s involvement. However, Keshav Upadhye, state BJP spokesperson, said, “There were easily more than 50,000 RSS workers in the field in this election.”
The RSS had, immediately after its involvement in the general election earlier this year, decided to refrain from participating in the Assembly polls. However, that decision was revised when it appeared that the BJP could go in for the kill.
The RSS has repeatedly stated that it is not a political organisation, but only a socio-cultural one.