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SOS to the RSS

It will be most unfortunate if the BJP, failing to re-position itself in more centrist, inclusive terms, becomes more and more irrelevant in ever-expanding swathes of Indian territory, writes Suhit Sen.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2009 01:48 IST
Suhit Sen

The dust hasn’t yet settled on the crisis in the BJP, but it finally seems to be limping towards a resolution. The intense faction fighting, however, is an ‘inner-party problem’. As for the public, two things have become abundantly clear. First, not many people will, in the near future, buy the protestations that the BJP is its own master and its bond with the RSS is fraternal, cemented by a shared worldview. It is now beyond doubt that the RSS controls the BJP and that the party is incapable of handling its affairs without its hands being firmly held, especially in unpropitious circumstances.

Second is the matter of ideology. In its currently enfeebled state, it appears that the BJP cannot settle its ideological questions without reference to its ‘mentor’. The curious argument that party spokesmen first offered in justification of the Jaswant Singh-Arun Shourie episode seems to confirm that.

It was said, not entirely without an element of risibility, that Singh was turfed out without even a show of basic courtesies due to a senior leader because he was guilty of an ideological solecism. Shourie, on the other hand, was left alone because his trenchant critique related to matters organisational and made sense. Since then, Shourie has been half-heartedly asked to show cause. If we are to accept the justification offered at face value, we will conclude that after its electoral debacle the BJP is taking the road towards ideological purity — a hard line on Hindutva — especially when we look at the magnitude of Singh’s ideological indiscretion.

All that he suggested in his less than admirably put together tome was that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was not the only one responsible for Partition and that he was inexorably driven towards the two-nation theory by the Congress’s intransigence over committing itself to guarantees for the minority community, among other things.

If the BJP has committed itself to such a hard line on its own — as Shourie put it, it offered the RSS a ‘blood sacrifice’ without having been asked for it — the increased role of the Sangh in settling the party’s affairs must surely signal a further drift to the right. The RSS, unlike the BJP, has made no bones about its diagnosis of the electoral debacle, clearly stating that an insufficient commitment to Hindutva took pride of place among the causes of the defeat.

So, it seems a cinch that there won’t be many takers in the party for the line put forward by Sudheendra Kulkarni, the ideologue who left the party in the wake of the elections. Kulkarni stated that what the BJP needed to do was make itself more inclusive — specifically, he advised the party to drop the ‘H’ from Hindutva and adopt ‘Indutva’ as its guiding philosophy. Kulkarni probably sees, as many other observers of Indian politics do, that the sectarian line has played itself out. It is highly unlikely that even a high-octane, rathyatra-style ‘movement’ will yield the BJP electoral dividends.

The BJP, and even more the RSS, can be forgiven for not seeing things quite that way. Any attempt at radically reconstituting the party along a more centrist line will challenge the foundational tenets of the party’s obscurantist social philosophy and exclusivist political moorings. Just as the RSS cannot in the very nature of things countenance a dilution of the Hindutva ideology, so can’t those who will inherit the leadership with the express blessings of the guardians of the flame.

Modernisers within the party will not have an easy time of it should they decide to show their hand. At least until such time as the need to go hunting alliances surfaces. The question is whether the BJP can achieve the ‘balance’ once again having lost the moderating voice of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and having, in the face of its current bloodletting, surrendered itself more completely to the RSS.

It will be most unfortunate if the BJP, failing to re-position itself in more centrist, inclusive terms, becomes more and more irrelevant in ever-expanding swathes of Indian territory. No one would want the Congress or a Congress-led alliance to gain a monopoly at the Centre by default. And certainly, as things stand today, no party other than the BJP can provide robust opposition on the national stage.

Suhit Sen is a Kolkata-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.