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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019: RSS to set aside thorny issues, throw weight behind BJP fully

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat criticised some economic policies of the government in 2017, nudging the government to come out with policies to help small businesses.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 13, 2019 07:33 IST
RSS workers participate in a foot march in Jammu.
RSS workers participate in a foot march in Jammu.(PTI File Photo)

As elections approach, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has decided to set aside some thorny differences with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government - on issues such as the speedy construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution - and highlight steps such as the February 26 air strike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan.

The Sangh will also emphasise the enduring impact of measures taken for public good by the government and reach out to the masses with the message that “the intention of a government that did not resort to populist measures to accrue political benefit should be appreciated,” an RSS functionary said.

As an example, the functionary, who requested anonymity, cited the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’’s decision to offer a ₹6,000 cash transfer each year to marginal farmers instead of the one-time sop of a farm-loan waiver.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat criticised some economic policies of the government in 2017, nudging the government to come out with policies to help small businesses. After the November 2016 invalidation of high-value banknotes, cash-dependent small scale units reported suffering losses and a downturn in business that was also flagged by Sangh affiliates working in the sector.

For now, ahead of the April-May elections, the organisation has decided to set aside differences with the BJP on issues such as the construction of the Ram temple and Articles 370 (which assures autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir) and 35A (which allows the state assembly to define its permanent residents eligible for certain privileges).

To ensure that the Ramjanmabhoomi -Babri Masjid dispute does not upset the core constituency of the Sangh and the BJP, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi last week said, “We believe that those in power are not opposed to Ram mandir.”

Similarly, on demonetisation, a subject on which the Congress has demanded a white paper, the Sangh will counter the Opposition’s narrative by focussing on how the intervention dealt a blow to terror networks by cutting off their access to finance and stopped the circulation of counterfeit currency.

“There are many steps on the economic front that will strengthen the system and help the country. Some of these steps might seem unpopular now, but their advantage will unfold over the coming years,” said the first functionary cited above.

At the recently concluded Akhil Bharatiya Pratibnidhi Sabha, the highest-decision making body of the Sangh, the BJP’s performance in the handling of the economy, national security and foreign policy was praised.

While the government has been accused by its political opponents of using the February air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp in Pakistan’s Balakot to fan ultra-nationalist sentiment and to divert attention from the absence of a sufficient number of jobs and lack of robust economic growth, the Sangh praised the government for “taking the decision to conduct the strikes and giving the forces a free hand.”

The Sangh asserts that it only encourages voters to exercise their franchise and “choose wisely”, but over the years, the BJP has come to rely on volunteers of the RSS to canvass for it through door-to-door contacts with the electorate.

Foot soldiers of the Sangh will spread out across constituencies and will be on the internet to press the party’s claim for a second term in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Given that the Sangh’s strength, in terms of volunteers, has gone up, it will pull out all the stops to ensure a win for the BJP, said Dilip Deodhar, a commentator on the RSS ,said. “They will make all the efforts to reach out to the people as they have done in the past .”

First Published: Mar 13, 2019 07:16 IST