Interviews

Power has turned the head of RSS, says Shankarsinh Vaghela 

RSS evokes patriotism, Hindu nationalism, service and sacrifice to its cadres but, Veteran leader Shankarsinh Vaghela believes the organisation has outlived its justification and is corrupted by power

Shankarsinh Vaghela
Shankarsinh Vaghela

Nachiketa Desai

Shankarsinh Vaghela, 79, is said to have mentored Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political career in Gujarat. Vaghela was deputed by the RSS to organise the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh in Gujarat in 1969. He played a key role in organising and strengthening the various frontal organisations of the RSS such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He had rebelled against the BJP and became the Chief Minister in 1996, a post he held for one year. In an interview to Nachiketa Desai, Vaghela narrated what attracted him to RSS and what made him disillusioned with the Sangh Parivar

You began your political career with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. What made you join the RSS?

I was working with a college in Patan asan officer of the National Cadet Corps(NCC). My lieutenant in NCC was an RSS volunteer who introduced me to some visiting full-time organisers of the RSS. Igradually got to know about the various rituals followed by the RSS, such as ‘Guru Dakshina’ (voluntary donation to the Guru). The RSS was then inspired by theidea of service to the nation. The Hindutva ideology was not that pronounced at the time. Being born into a Kshatriya family,patriotism was in my blood and so it wasnatural for me to get attracted to the RSS.

In 1968, Bharatiya Jan Sangh leader Atal Behari Vajpayee had come to Mehsana to address a public meeting.I attended this meeting and heard his speech. Later, I left my college job andcame back to live in my village. One day,I received a letter from RSS organiser Kashinath Magol. He wrote to me saying if I was not doing anything in the village,I should come to Siddhpur where some ofthe senior leaders of Jan Sangh and the RSS such as Vasant Gajendragadkar and Laxmanrao Namdar were visiting and I could be introduced to them and get the opportunity to discuss my future course of action. I started working as a full-time organising secretary of Bharatiya JanSangh in 1969. Jan Sangh was the political wing of the RSS and I looked afterits activities in Gandhinagar and Mehsana districts.

Where were you during Emergency?

In 1974-75, during JP’s movement, being the state organising secretary of Jan Sangh, I was also invited to the party’s national working committee. The RSS had deputed Nanaji Deshmukh to work closely with JP. Even JP had attended and addressed Jan Sangh’s national executive.JP movement was in its full swing. After JP appealed to the Army not to obey unconstitutional orders against the people,some advisers of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told her to invoke the provisions of Emergency for maintenance of internal security.

Emergency was clamped down on June 25, 1975. All the leaders of the Opposition parties were arrested. However, Nanaji Deshmukh was not arrested. Since the Janata Morcha government was in power in Gujarat, the state became the centre of the anti-Emergency movement. All opposition leaders including Nanaji Deshmukh and George Fernandes used to come to Gujarat. I used to organise and facilitate the stay and movement of these opposition leaders. I was tasked by the RSS to provide security to these leaders.

Power has turned the head of  RSS, says Shankarsinh Vaghela 

Jan Sangh later merged with the JanataParty after Emergency….

Before that, Janata Morcha was formed. Morarji Desai had threatened to undertaken indefinite fast if elections were not The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) evokes patriotism to some,Hindu nationalism to others, service to many and also sacrifice to its cadres. But is it a myth? Is it relevant? Veteran political leader from Gujarat Shankarsinh Vaghela believes the organisation has outlived its justification. Power, he says, has corrupted it held in Gujarat. Mrs Gandhi decided to hold the elections in Gujarat in 1974 when the Janata Morcha was formed. There were Jan Sangh, Congress (O), Socialist Party, Praja Socialist Party and several independent groups in the Janata Morcha. There was Majoor Mahajan (Textiles Labour Association) also in the JanataMorcha. It was a successful Morcha. Chimanbhai Patel’s KIMLOP also extended support to the Janata Morcha which formed a government in Gujarat headed by Babubhai J Patel.

In the 1977 general elections, Jan Sangh had merged with the Janata Party….There was no Janata Party before the new government was formed. Janata Party was a front like the Janata Morcha of Gujarat. Those who contested the election in the name of Janata Party did so on the symbol of Chaudhary CharanSingh’s Lok Kranti Dal, its symbol being a farmer carrying a plough on his shoulder.The Janata Party was formed later with Chandra Shekhar as its president and Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister. The Janata Party was so careless that it paid tributes to its creator JP twice – once when he was still alive and later after he was declared dead.

Were you more active in the RSS or in theJanata Party?

I never held any position in RSS. I was a volunteer. I was not an RSS member since my childhood. So, I was not a blind follower of the RSS. I was in the NCC and was seriously thinking of joining the Army. It was after I came into contact with the RSS that the organisation developed trust in me and deputed me to the Jan Sangh. The RSS used my organisational capabilities in building and strengthening its various frontal organisations like Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisations which are popularly known as Sangh Parivar.

When did you get disillusioned with the Sangh Parivar?

It was when I was the Gujarat president of the BJP in 1986 that I started seeing the backbiting games of what is known as dirty politics within the party. I had whole-heartedly supported the name of Keshubhai Patel for the post of Chief Minister of Gujarat and had expressed my loyalty to him before Atal Behari Vajpayee. But there were some BJP and RSS leaders in Gujarat, who did not want me to continue as state party president, they started poisoning the mind of Keshubhai that I was plotting to oust him.

I was traveling with Mrs Sonia Gandhi in plane once when she asked me, “How did you manage to remain with the BJP for such a long time?” I said, “People in the BJP are good till they are not in power.But power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. They are good people when not in power”. They do not have anything to share or distribute when they are not in power. After they come to power,they want to grab more power.

During the chief minister ship of Keshubhai Patel, as many as 105 of the total 120 BJP MLAs came to me. They said they were willing to leave the BJP to support me. Among those who came to me included Babubhai Bokhiriya and Jaspal Singh. Thereafter, I decided to quit BJP where only conspiracy thrived.

BJP leaders expect the workers to pay obeisance to them and view those with suspicion who do not bow to them and say the mandatory “Namastey”. Woe betide those who fail to say “Namastey”to the leader. It is such leaders who have destroyed the BJP.

Do you mean that the RSS no moreinfluences the culture of BJP?

RSS was known for its discipline, culture,nationalism. Whereas, according to you, BJP is riven with conspiracy,backstabbing, politicking…I was attracted to the RSS because of its idealism. But after I joined the organisation, I realised that an individual has an important role to play in any organisation whether it be the RSS,Communist Party or the Congress.There have been individual leaders who have played very crucial role in the development of all political organisations.JP had played a role in the formation of  Janata Party. He is no more with us. The Communist parties are nearly finished.Today, the RSS is a non-entity.

Today, RSS leaders can be bought. RSS people have become “His Master’s Voice”. RSS people are following five-star culture. They no more lead a simple austere lifestyle.They have families and relations to look after. I know several RSS pracharaks(organisers), who are supposed to be maintain celibacy but have clandestine relationships and some have married.The RSS is finished under the influence of the BJP.

Tell me how in the last five years, the RSS has followed the path of its founding fathers. We were taught that power is just the means and not the goal. Who are they trying to fool? Now for them power has become the goal. Do whatever to gain power. Sell Sanskar Dham (a residential school of which Narendra Modi is the chief promoter) to Reliance. This is their culture. Anyhow grab power. Join hands with Mehbooba Mufti. Join hands with anyone to grab power. There is no ideology.It is just to make fool of the people.

The organisation is running on money. They have amassed money which they are using to buy votes.

There is a feeling of fear among people since last five years. Dalits, women, adivasis, Muslims are living in fear.Had the Sangh Parivar ever thought of creating such a nation?

There is no Sangh Parivar. The Sangh Parivar follows the chief of the BJP, nothing else. Members of the Sangh Parivar have become dwarfs. Earlier, the Sarsangh chalak(RSS chief) used to command respect. Not anymore. Pracharaks used to be respected,not anymore. There is no idealism in the RSS today. They only want power, by hook or by crook.

By promoting one individual, the BJP has encouraged dictatorship. The media too helped in projecting one individual as the supreme leader. This is the root cause of fear among people. BJP leaders have suppressed the Dalits, the minorities and the downtrodden. Those Dalit and minority leaders who lend support to the BJP are welcomed and become respectable.But those who do not are treated like untouchables. One need not fear anyone,provided his public life is clean, aboveboard. The weaker sections of the society have been suppressed. Even journalists have been suppressed under the BJP rule.The owners of media houses have sold their soul to the BJP just as they had sold to the British.

What has been the contribution of the RSS in post-Independence India?

The RSS played a key role in saving the Hindus from being killed during the communal violence that happened at the time of Partition of India in 1947. I would say, the RSS played a positive role helped by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the then Union Home Minister, in saving hundreds of Hindu lives. It is wrong to say the RSS took active part in violence against Muslims at the time

What future do you see for the RSS?

The organisation will continue just as Arya Samaj has continued to exist, Hindu Mahasabha has continued and even Subramaniam Swamy has ensured that his one-man Janata Party has continued. But,the RSS has become ineffective. In public eye, the RSS has lost respect. It makes no difference for an organisation which has lost respect if it exists or vanishes.There is stark difference between their(RSS) words and deeds. Their actions are just opposed to what the RSS has been preaching to its followers.

What is the future of the country?

The country’s future is safe and it will progress. Governments may come and go, parties may come and go, they would make no difference to the country’s future.It is the strength of the country’s culture that will help it survive and thrive. We will make strides in development, science,technology and in humanity

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