Don’t lose focus on core values, RSS tells cadres
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fount of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has sent a key message to its footsoldiers as it gears up to prepare its political affiliate for upcoming electoral battles. The message, according to RSS functionaries, is this: don’t lose focus on the “core values” of the organisation.
The message has been sent against the backdrop of internal concerns that enabling the BJP’s electoral victory in the 2019 general election, which will be preceded by a string of crucial state polls, has overwhelmed all other issues in the larger organisation.
The core values, one senior functionary explained on condition of anonymity, were “recognition of indigenous talent and production, preservation of traditions and languages, rooting out casteism and correcting historic perceptions that showed India in poor light.”
With feedback from the cadre indicating that the BJP’s electoral ambitions seem to have taken precedence over other issues, the RSS brass, at a meeting in Pune recently, reaffirmed the need for consolidating the gains the organisation has made by increasing its presence across the country through new shakhas (units) and by focusing energies on reaching untapped areas.
In March, at the annual meeting of its highest decision making body, RSS claimed its activities have spread to 95%of the country’s geographical area; its presence is limited only in parts of the north-east and Kashmir. Daily shakha gatherings are now held in 37,190 locations, which have gone up from 29,624 locations in 2014.
RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi attributed the rise in the numbers to the hard work of the Sangh. He told journalists at the end of the Pune meeting that the RSS is satisfied that in 90 years it had reached over 60,000 villages and has 80,000 units across the country.
“The result of the hard work is visible …in the past few years, participation at RSS events has gone up, which means acceptance has gone up. People are not only curious about the RSS, but also keen to join us,” he said.
Though the RSS and the BJP share the same ideology, the former has always de-linked itself from electoral politics, asserting that social issues are the fulcrum of its activities. It has also periodically iterated that joining the RSS is not the first step towards starting a political career with the BJP.
Has the BJP’s electoral ambition indeed overshadowed the Sangh’s work?
“There has been some concern over the RSS or its affiliates having to climb down from their positions or pull back their demands. A section of the cadre feels that the Sangh has to play a diminished role so as to keep the BJP in good stead,” said another functionary who was privy to discussions on the issue.
Citing an example, he said that while the economic and labour wings of the Sangh had opposed disinvestment and foreign direct investment, the government had gone ahead with pursuit of both; another point of consternation are unmet demands such as a new education policy and a blanket ban on cow slaughter.
“While the Sangh does not discourage its affiliates from stating their opposition to government policies, there has been a word of caution that statements should not embarrass the government. After we repeatedly raised the issue of economic policies hurting the small and medium enterprises, the view was taken up by the Sarsanghchalak (RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat) too, but now it has been left to the government to sort out the issue,” said a functionary attached to the RSS labour arm, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.
In a recent interview to HT, RSS watcher and author Walter Andersen said there was some churn within the Sangh on core issues being put on the backburner for the sake of political expediency. He referred to the issue of abrogation of Article 370 that gives autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, which is not being pursued by the BJP government even though it has been a core demand of the Sangh. Andersen also referred to the tension between the RSS and the BJP in Goa, where the state government has not met a demand to withdraw support to English medium schools.
Will the strains affect RSS-BJP coordination?
The RSS pulled out all stops to help the BJP prepare for the 2014 general polls and subsequently for a clutch of assembly elections. Will the strains over economic policies and other administrative decisions come in the way of the Sangh cadre buttressing the BJP’s campaign? Sangh functionaries ruled that out.
“Though senior Sangh leaders have been asking the volunteers to focus on the Sanghatan (organisation) rather than the Sarkar (government), the cadre will do whatever is required to. There is no disagreement over larger issues. Also, the cadre has lent their support to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi for his administrative skills and corruption-free governance,” said the first functionary cited above.