Why is the RSS so exasperated with Rahul Gandhi and why it is desperate to mock and malign him

One senses that the RSS is at its wit’s end. It has tried to ignore him, mock and malign him, harass him but it still finds it has to deal with him

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi

Sujata Anandan

It is no secret that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Rahul Gandhi do not see eye to eye. They are on opposite poles and make no secret of their mutual dislike.

But the RSS of late finds itself a peculiar bind. Notwithstanding the vicious propaganda by the RSS against him and his family, Rahul Gandhi refuses to go away. He stoically bears the brunt of the malicious campaigns by the RSS and the onslaught of BJP’s troll army, refuses to take their bait and engage with them.

And yet every time he returns with a barb of his own, which forces BJP leaders and Union Ministers nod their head and repeat that Rahul Gandhi knows nothing about economics, about budgeting, about politics, about religion, about elections, about caste, about international relations…. The more strenuously they try to mock RG, the more comical they look. Exasperated RSS ideologues, not surprisingly, would like to grind him to dust. But he refuses to oblige.

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi increasingly makes sense to many people. World leaders seem to seek him out. Foreign universities and think tanks invite him to address their students and faculty. Unlike the Prime Minister he is not afraid of addressing press conferences and answer unscripted questions from journalists, students and academics besides engaging with Nobel Laureates.

Little wonder then that the RSS has been left scratching its head in dismay while the BJP IT cell has been reduced to doctor video clips of Rahul Gandhi in desperate attempts to make fun of the Congress leader. One has lost count of the number of such doctored videos put out by BJP leaders and the IT Cell, which have been swiftly checked, countered and corrected by fact checkers.

In my various conversations with RSS ideologues, what comes out quite clearly is that they are miffed with Rahul Gandhi because he refuses to engage or deal with them; that Rahul Gandhi does not trust the RSS is an understatement. The Congress MP is quite clearly unwilling to give any quarter to Nagpur.

Unlike several other opposition leaders, he is not conciliatory to the RSS, has shown no interest in inviting or meeting the Sangh leaders either. His relentless comparison of the RSS with fascists also irks the outfit no end.

Every time a Congress leader quits the party, the RSS can scarcely hide its glee. This is one more proof that Rahul Gandhi is not cut out to be a leader, they gloat. But Rahul Gandhi remains unfazed. Those who wanted to leave the Congress were welcome to do so, he has said on more than one occasion. He has also thrown the gauntlet, declaring that he has not taken a paisa from anyone illegally and is not afraid of central agencies.

Insiders confirm that both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have tried very hard to pin a corruption charge on Rahul Gandhi and the family. One has lost count of the number of stories planted in the media but despite eight years in power they are nowhere close to pinning anything on him. A former CBI director confided how much pressure was put on him to ‘arrest Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and put them in prison for at least 24 hours’. Although late Arun Jaitley had clarified that there was no evidence of corruption against them, neither Modi nor Shah or the RSS would give up trying to frame them.

An RSS ideologue recently admitted reluctantly that Rahul's statement in London-- that the only battle in India was now between two ideologies - - was correct. The RSS had not expected this level of resistance and opposition from one solitary man and particularly not one who has been under sustained attack by a battery of their propagandists.

They recognise that despite their best efforts to dislodge Rahul Gandhi from the Congress, foment dissent against him and to question his leadership, he remains the popular choice of Congressmen for party presidentship.

The RSS has seemingly tried out everything, questioning even his faith. “For all his show of Shiv bhakti, a gotra and a janeu, he is a Roman Catholic,” they declare in all seriousness, as if being a Christian somehow makes one a lesser human being. The RSS has of course bent over backwards to spread the fake ‘news’ that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Feroze Gandhi were Muslims. It is galling to them to accept that though being Kashmiri Brahmins, the Gandhis scorn the RSS so much.

An exasperated RSS ideologue had blurted out, “But he could be a better businessman than a politician. If you ever have a conversation with him, why don't you tell him to give up politics and become a business tycoon, instead."

The RSS is unable to challenge Rahul Gandhi's commitment to secularism. They cannot dismiss him as an Ambedkarite or a Communist. Nor can they dismiss him as anti-Brahmin or anti-upper caste. They are frustrated because he wears all the identities with ease.

Destroying Rahul Gandhi's personal reputation, the Sangh once believed, would automatically lead to the collapse of the Congress. They had not reckoned with his complete lack of ambition to gain power for himself. They had also not expected his fierce opposition to convert the nation into a Hindu Rashtra.

So, the RSS has tried dubbing him a reluctant politician, a politician without a killer instinct, as someone who does not have hunger for power, who does not know how to divide other parties or rig elections.

But Rahul Gandhi is clearly not going anywhere--not out of politics, not out of the country and certainly not out of the party as the RSS wants. That is why the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its offshoots, in their heart of hearts, fear Rahul Gandhi.

(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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