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RSS as party spoiler

india Updated: May 03, 2007 23:25 IST

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The dictum that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics seems lost on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Otherwise, it would not have stirred up a hornet’s nest with its comments on Sikhism not being a separate religion but part of a larger Hindu fold. Predictably, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee is up in arms at what it sees as yet another attempt by the RSS to dilute the Sikh identity. The RSS’s assertion that the Hindu Code Bill should apply to minorities, including the Sikhs, is not likely to go down well either. The RSS forgets that its political arm, the BJP, has over the years improved its political fortunes through strategic alliances, often with parties whose ideologies are vastly different. In fact, the Akali Dal, a dyed-in-the-wool Sikh party, is an ally of the BJP.

This is not the first time the RSS has put the BJP in an embarrassing position. Over the years, the BJP has been attempting to get away from its exclusivist Hindu image and project itself as an accommodative organisation. To an extent it succeeded in the years that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister. But, every now and again, under pressure from the RSS, the BJP has had to prove its Hindutva credentials with one or the other anti-minority statement. The RSS must realise that its own future lies with the growth of the BJP. On its own, the RSS is stagnating. The number of its shakhas has declined dramatically and its dedicated pracharaks too have not increased significantly. However, the BJP’s numbers have grown in the last decade, indicating that power politics rather than ideology is what draws people. The RSS’s best bet would be to try and keep in sync with the pragmatic politics of today. It must endeavour to tone down pronouncements on minorities and try to project an image that it respects the diversity of faiths that puts India in a class apart from many other countries.

The ongoing UP elections show just how much disconnect there is between the RSS and the BJP in that hardly any cadres of the former were visible to help the party. What the BJP does not need when it is desperately trying to make a comeback is to expend its energies to contain the damage that the RSS unleashes ever so often. Now is the time for the RSS to come to the aid of the party.