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Marching to a new tune

So far as the RSS goes, in the centenary year of Guru Golwalkar, it should first try and set its own house in order. The Sangh seems to have lost its moral authority, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 00:10 IST

The RSS, which has always taken pride in describing itself as a cultural outfit committed to the cause of Hindutva and to restoring the country’s lost glory, seems to be slipping on its beliefs. It has now started talking openly about the politics of votes, having indirectly tasted power during the BJP-led NDA’s six-year stint in New Delhi.

The impression created by an editorial in the RSS mouthpiece, Panchjanya, following two important by-elections in Madhya Pradesh, is that the Sangh wants the BJP and Uma Bharti to reunite in order to consolidate the Hindu Sangh. The editorial insisted that the votes secured by both the BJP and Bharti’s party were saffron votes. It went on to ask how long internal feuds would split the Hindu society. “Who can derive comfort from the saffron versus saffron scene? For whom was this violence, expletives and cutting into each others’ votes? Are Hindus living in this country to see a saffron versus saffron (fight).”

Senior RSS leader MG Vaidya, too, advocated that Bharti return to the BJP since she was splitting the saffron votes. These remarks give away one thing. The RSS has got involved in the politics of votes and seems far more concerned with getting the BJP to power than removing the ills within the party.

The editorial also seems to be an attempt to deflect attention from the BJP’s performance in the Lok Sabha by-elections in MP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Though the party retained all three seats, the BJP leadership should be perturbed about the fact that their nominees polled six lakh votes less than in the 2004 polls. Whether this fall in the victory margin was on account of Bharti (Madhya Pradesh), Babu Lal Marandi (Jharkhand) or some other reason, it does reflect on the party’s dimming popularity.

The RSS has, till now, always maintained a distinction between culture and power. But the editorial and Vaidya’s statements clearly show that the Sangh is getting concerned about regaining power. This, when its priority should be restoring its affiliates’ commitment to the Hindutva ideology.

The Sangh is obviously being drawn into power politics. This was evident from the fact that following the BJP’s good showing in the UP civic polls, party chief Rajnath Singh thanked the RSS for its support. While Singh may have reason to praise the RSS, considering that his continuation as party president depends solely on the support he is getting from RSS Sarsanghchalak K Sudarshan, the RSS must not allow itself to be led into the BJP’s political agenda if it has to function as the controlling body.

The recent developments perhaps also substantiate the charge made by leader of the Opposition, LK Advani, last year that the RSS was interfering in the BJP’s day-to-day affairs. Earlier, the RSS used to leave politics to the BJP, remaining content with giving it moral support. But the time may not be far when the RSS declares itself as a political organisation. If that happens, its opponents’ charge about its fascist character may be revealed.

There are other indicators about the RSS’s growing interest in political affairs, as well as the lack of discipline among its cadres in general and office-bearers in particular. RSS joint secretary Madan Das Devi, who till last year used to coordinate the Sangh’s affairs with the BJP, seems to be still taking the job that was once his seriously. Despite being replaced by Suresh Soni and having been moved to Mumbai, he continues to make statements about what the BJP and the Sangh should be doing. He recently also advocated that RSS activists could go to any party of their liking.

This is strange since in the RSS, once one assignment is over, cadres are expected to concentrate on their next charge. Govindacharya, one-time BJP ideologue, had once compared a pracharak to a post card. He’d said that like on a post card, once the address is written, the destination is known, similarly for a pracharak, once the Sangh has decided where he had to go, he had to forget his past and move on. Govindacharya himself was once exiled to Chennai and he had gone there without a word.

Coming back to the appeals to Bharti, the Sangh seems to forget that she’d parted company with the BJP not because she’d stopped believing in the Hindutva ideology but because the BJP had deviated from its commitment to the basic beliefs of the Sangh. Her anger was not directed at either Advani or Vajpayee, whom she continues to respect, but at others who wanted to usurp important positions by manipulating the Big Two. Therefore, it is unlikely that she may respond to any appeal till these issues are addressed. By appealing to her, the RSS is obviously playing politics since it knows that once she puts up candidates for both the Uttaranchal and UP assembly polls, the BJP will be sunk. From available indications, Bharti’s objective seems to be to put the BJP in a difficult situation rather than win seats for her party. Even if her candidates did not win the MP by-elections, they certainly made their presence felt.

In UP, she can make life miserable for Rajnath Singh and company. Her likely strategy will be to put up Brahmins where the BJP gives tickets to Rajputs, Banias where the BJP gives tickets to Brahmins and to put up Scheduled Caste candidates in general seats where Mayawati puts up Brahmin candidates. The objective will be to create total confusion so that the BJP’s survival becomes difficult and the UP political scenario gets more confused than ever.

So far as the RSS goes, in the centenary year of Guru Golwalkar, it should first try and set its own house in order. The Sangh seems to have lost its moral authority and its decisions either do not get implemented or get deflected by those with superior political skills. There have been indications in the past that the RSS itself could see a change of guard before the year-end. It is obvious that there are sharp differences within the Sangh itself and this is reflected in the manner in which the Sangh and its leaders have been functioning. The Sangh may do well to listen to Advani’s advice and stop interfering in the BJP’s internal affairs. Between us.

Emailpvohra@hindustantimes.com