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Narendra Modi is just a by-product of the 2014 elections: Author Shridhar Damle

Author Shridhar Damle speaks on the changing equations between the BJP and the RSS, the broadening Hindutva base, and the Sangh’s relationship with the Narendra Modi government.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2018 07:27 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,BJP,Bharatiya Janata Party
Shridhar Damle, co-author of The Brotherhood in Saffron.

Shridhar Damle, co-author of The Brotherhood in Saffron, is all set to bring out an updated version of his seminal work on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with American academic Walter Anderson.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Damle spoke on the changing equations between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological fount, the broadening Hindutva base, and the Sangh’s relationship with the Narendra Modi government. Excerpts:

What made you revisit the book?

We covered the history of RSS till 1983, after that much more happened. The Parivaar expanded and played a certain role in bringing the Vajpayee coalition government and also became the reason for the failure of that government. And now it has helped prop up the Modi government.

What are the changes that you noticed?

Till 1975, it was not an organisation to be recognised in the political scene; during Emergency it played an important role in the underground movement. After Emergency, when the Janata Party came up, Jana Sangh was a part of it. After Emergency, Balasaheb Deoras brought in changes, he opened the doors to non-Hindus, allowed women into the Pratinidhi Sabha, encouraged Samajik Samarasta and KS Sudarshan to have a dialogue with Christians and Muslims. This was a political change. Second change was social. The RSS – which was an urban, lower-middle class organisation – became one that incorporated OBC, non-Buddhist Dalits and tribals. The third change was that RSS encouraged women and their participation in the Sangh’s decision-making. The fourth change is that they broadened the definition of Hindu from religious to territorial nationalism, accepting diversity in religion, culture and customs...

Why is the RSS ambivalent about its role in politics when their influence in governance is unmistakable?

We were told by senior BJP-RSS leaders that the RSS has participated in the elections only twice, first after 1977 and then in 2014. Why 2014? Not for Modi, he is a by-product of the 2014 election.

When the Congress alleged about ‘Hindu terrorism’, that hurt. According to them it was a stigma to Hindu values and identity. It was worse than Gandhi’s assassination, because that stigma was against the RSS, but this was against the whole Hindu community and culture. If you hear Mohan Bhagwat’s speech after he became sarsangachalak, he clearly said we will participate to have 100% voting, so they started from 2008.

What is the equation between Modi and RSS?

They have learnt from their mistakes during the Vajpayee government. They don’t want to lose power so they have given 10 years to Modi, if necessary may be more. Former chief Sudarshan was open and upset about the choices made by AB Vajpayee and how the government behaved. He was against the appointment of Brajesh Misra as the NSA. They were most upset with LK Advani’s failure to negotiate the release of four RSS pracharaks who were abducted and killed in Bangladesh by missionaries. In West Bengal, the cadres said they would not have worked for the BJP if Advani had become a candidate (for the prime ministerial post in 2014). In 2014, they (the RSS) decided that they will allow pressure groups to say what they want to, but there will be no crossing of lines. There are no Ashok Singhals now. Today, the RSS wants a constitution based on the rule of law for (the sake of) security, stability and credibility.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 07:26 IST