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Personality problems

Politics within the hydra-headed Sangh parivar is difficult to understand, writes Prakash Patra.

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Politically correct | Prakash Patra
Politically correct | Prakash Patra

Politics within the hydra-headed Sangh parivar is difficult to understand. But one aspect that is becoming increasingly clear is that the parivar does not like its political leaders growing beyond its shakha (branch) and prashakha (sub-branch) politics. This is ironic since the parivar’s genesis, growth and sustenance have been dependant on its ability to promote cult figures, as also on its belief in the prowess of mythological and historical icons — starting from Lord Rama to Veer Savarkar. Yet, it would like the mother organisation, the RSS, to have the last word on everything and not let personality-oriented politics get a grip over the structure.

The RSS has been feeling uneasy with its politician members, be it former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the parivar’s yesteryear poster boy L.K. Advani, sanyasin and former MP Chief Minister Uma Bharti and now its present Chief Ministers, Narendra Modi of Gujarat, and Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan.

Parivar politics has cost Modi, who until recently, was the most successful and promising mascot of the parivar agenda, occupying a seat in the BJP’s powerful parliamentary board. In Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje is facing a virtual revolt by her cabinet colleagues at the behest of the RSS. And this is not because Modi or Raje have deviated from the saffron path. Rather, they are known for their aggressive implementation of the parivar’s Hindutva politics.

Modi, who began as a humble pracharak of the RSS, had had a meteoric rise in parivar politics. He was drafted by the RSS to liaise between the mother organisation and the BJP. From the parivar’s point of view, he did that job extremely well and he was rewarded with the chief ministership of Gujarat. But shrewd as Modi is, he ensured that he was the last word in parivar politics, and in all matters of governance.

By all accounts, today he is the undisputed leader of the saffron party in the state. ‘Moditva’ has acquired stronger connotations in post-Godhra Gujarat than the parivar’s Hindutva. If one goes by the media blitz, Modi is probably the most successful CM today. Despite the Gujarat riots and adverse publicity, he has succeeded in promoting the impression that Gujarat comes first on India’s development map. Last month, he secured thousands of crores of rupees as investment for Gujarat.

Among the BJP’s second generation leaders, he probably has the largest nationwide following. Despite his uneasy terms with the RSS, the parivar grudgingly drafted him to visit Kerala last week to be part of Golwalkar’s birth centenary celebrations. As expected, Modi drew a huge response from the parivar cadres in Left-run Kerala. Yet, the RSS is not happy with him. The man who was being projected as ‘Chhota Sardar’ has started losing his status as the parivar’s Gen-Next poster boy.

To say that in his modern image as an administrator, Modi has deviated from the path of Hindutva would be far from the truth. Look at the unofficial ban imposed on the film Parzania. The state government has not said a word against the film. Yet, Moditva has worked. Film distributors and theatre owners have refused to screen the film for fear of inviting Modi’s wrath. Has the state, i.e. Modi, come forward to defend freedom of expression? No. That’s how Moditva works.

Like Modi, Raje, too, faces problems with the parivar. She is facing a revolt from cabinet colleagues known for their proximity to the RSS in spite of the fact that she has not passed up any opportunity to saffronise the administration and governance. But a common point between Modi and Raje is that they want to leave their individual imprints on governance. The parivar perceives this as an attempt to grow beyond its politics.

When in power, one realises that populist slogans on religion, caste or partisan considerations may get you votes, but a democratic governance structure has different demands. Vajpayee knew this and successfully managed the contradictions within parivar politics because of his stature and the clout that he had among the NDA partners.

Advani, who was considered the most rabid face of parivar politics until Vajpayee became Prime Minister, fell from the RSS’s grace when he gave a ‘secular’ certificate to Mohammad Ali Jinnah to earn a liberal face and thereby position himself as an alternate leader in the parivar.

It’s much the same with Uma Bharti who, before Modi became the parivar’s mascot, was in the forefront of its campaign to demolish the Babri masjid. The sanyasin had to quit as chief minister when she appeared in a Karnataka court for leading the parivar’s communal campaign in that state. But once the court chapter was over, the RSS was unwilling to restore her as CM. Rather, she had to hear RSS chief KS Sudarshan’s uncharitable remarks about her background and upbringing. Once in office, she realised that governance is a different cup of tea and could not be done through pracharaks. Ultimately, she had to leave the saffron party to pursue her own political career.

Politics in India has revolved around personalities. Forget the Congress, the parivar should look

at its own partners — Chandrababu Naidu in AP, Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav in Bihar, Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab and Bal Thackeray in Maharashtra. They are relevant because they succeeded in ensuring that politics in their respective states revolved around them.

The parivar, however, is happy to draw sustenance only from heroes like Lord Rama, Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Veer Savarkar, Golwalkar, Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel. For the parivar, icons are okay only if they are mythical or dead.

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