RSS blames economy and lack of regional leadership for Haryana, Maharashtra results
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s performance in the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections, which has fallen short of its own expectations and the predictions of most exit polls, has raised concern in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its ideological mentor, that it signals the return of caste-based politics and indicates a diminishing regional presence for the party.
On Thursday, functionaries of the Sangh also blamed an economic slowdown, which pushed growth down to the slowest pace in over six years in the quarter that ended in June, for the potential reverses the BJP faced in Haryana and Maharashtra.
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According to senior functionaries of the Sangh, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the trends indicate that voting preferences in the states had been “dictated by caste considerations instead of issues of national relevance”.
While the RSS does not fail to reiterate that it keeps a distance from electoral politics, its cadre play an instrumental role in opinion making and drumming up support for the BJP.
“Even though the government has been announcing interventions, there are concerns about an economic slowdown. Also, local issues still override other concerns and perhaps those were not paid adequate attention,” said an RSS functionary, requesting anonymity.
A quick review of the results has indicated that the BJP needs to groom regional leaders who are the first point of contact for the electorate.
“Regional leaders know the pulse of the electorate. They should be part of crucial electioneering processes such as ticket distribution and campaign strategy. A very centralised approach has its pitfalls and that is a lesson that all political parties have learnt, be it the Congress during Indira Gandhi’s reign or others at various times,” the functionary cited above said.
The BJP has been criticised by opponents for politicising issues such as the February 26 strike on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, and the effective abrogation of Article 370 that divested Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and making these issues key planks of its campaign in the assembly elections.
The RSS feels mobilising the electorate on these issues is an illustration of how the electorate can be unified on issues that concern the people at large. It also helps to deflect attention from friction arising out of caste conflicts such as the Jat agitation in Haryana and the Maratha campaign in Maharashtra for reservations, said a second senior RSS functionary, also requesting anonymity.
When the Bhima-Koregaon caste clashes broke out on January 1, 2018, the RSS had pushed the alarm button. At a meeting between the RSS brass and BJP president Amit Shah in the weeks following the clashes, the Sangh expressed concern over the escalating friction between Hindu caste groups. It pushed for improving ties between different caste groups to ensure the Hindu votebank is not divided.