Is Mohan Bhagwat the weakest RSS chief ever?

Modi’s politics has reduced Bhagwat to a mere figurehead and for the first time in its almost 100 years history, the RSS doesn’t know how to tame one of its ‘karyakartas’

RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat
RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat

Sujata Anandan / Mumbai

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat once had permanent lookouts posted at the Nagpur airport. As soon as a top BJP functionary would land at the airport to see the Sarsanghchalak, the latter would get into his car and drive away to Hyderabad or some other place. The guests would seldom find him at Reshim Bagh. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief was often inaccessible to even the likes of L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Gone are those days.

Since 2014, when Narendra Modi stormed his way to New Delhi, it’s Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak, who has been waiting for Modi to pay him an obeisant visit in the way BJP ministers and presidents used to do.

Over a year after Modi had established himself into India’s most powerful office in New Delhi, veteran Maharashtra politician Jambuwantrao Dhote had divined that no opposition party would be able to defeat Modi in the near future and that it’s only the RSS that could send him packing after he had served his purpose for the Sangh.

Dhote argued that the organisation never allowed anyone to become larger than life and held out the example of L.K. Advani who was put in his place long before Modi had decided to relegate him to the now defunct margdarshak mandal. 

Although Dhote had great insights into national politics having worked closely with Indira Gandhi and other tall national leaders, he could not foresee that the RSS would never be able to get better of Modi. And that it would be the other way around in fact.

He was taken aback when someone from the RSS in an off the record interaction told him that why as long as Mohan Bhagwat was the Sarsanghchalak, Modi would always have the upper hand.

When reasons for that premise were sought, the RSS man pointed Dhote and the others to the testimonies of Swami Aseemanand in a court in Panchkula where the so-called ascetic was then undergoing trial for his complicity in the bombings of Mecca masjid, the Ajmer dargah and the Samjhauta Express.

This man said with certainty that those bombings had the sanction of the RSS under Bhagwat's watch—and that is why Bhagwat had initially not wanted to project someone uncontrollable like Modi as their prime ministerial candidate (Bhagwat did realise that Modi was difficult to handle). Because if he were to win, then he would have the complete access to the classified intelligence reports pertaining to the bombings and the RSS would have to live in constant fear of exposure that could result in alienating a considerable chunk of its supporters save the hardcore Hindutvawadis.

So what if Modi belonged to the same party? That report would become a blackmailing tool in his hands against his own mother organisation.

Later, as the court heard the proceedings against Aseemanand, one noted he had indeed made statements about how top RSS leaders had travelled to Gujarat to give him the green signal for the bombings. Aseemanand should have been convicted but despite his confession, he was acquitted. It only became apparent later how court decisions have been going in favour of the Modi regime since 2014.

But now more than five years later, there can be no doubt that Bhagwat appears to be the weakest Sarsanghchalak of all times, for whatever reasons. Sources in Nagpur state that Bhagwat's bizarre statements from time to time that go in all directions and seem to contradict each other on different occasions are a clear attempt to feel on top of things and show to the world as though the RSS is giving directives to the government when, in fact, Modi is his own man and does not give a farthing about either Bhagwat or the RSS.


Although their agendas are common,  from time to time the RSS pretends to differ from Modi, say RSS ideologues in Nagpur. According to them, ideally Bhagwat would like Modi to be displaced by someone more friendly to Reshim Bagh, someone like Nitin Gadkari, but Modi is slowly succeeding in side-lining everybody in the BJP not owing personal allegiance to him, including Gadkari.

“He does not care because his powers are absolute and rather more than that of the RSS which is still in the nature of an NGO without any government authority. How many times has the top leadership complained about him to us?

“Since he became PM he has come to Nagpur four times. Lekin ek baar bhi woh maatha tekne nahin gaye Reshim Bagh. That’s a sore point with the RSS. It’s a far cry when Murli Manohar Joshi and Advani used to frequent Nagpur to seek RSS intervention. Today, he waits and Modi never comes.”

Fantastic as all this might seem, it explains why sometimes the RSS and Bhagwat particularly seem so contradictory and in some instances in a different position from each other. Like when he contradicted Modi's claim of seeking a Congress-mukt Bharat or first claimed women should exist only to serve their husbands, then made a bid for their equality. Or even the bizarre claim that rapes happen only in India and not Bharat even as most rape reports in the Modi regime come from rural North India and not so much from cities or South India.

Through it all, Modi makes no comment, allowing Bhagwat to become a figure of ridicule—it makes his ultimate goal of seeing the RSS belittled so much easier.

Bhagwat's latest comment that Muslims should shed their feeling of supremacy and then will be allowed to live in this country is in the same vein. While liberals and others have outraged at this latest missive, sources say it is once again aimed more at one upmanship against Modi whose trusted men are challenging the Constitution that gives every citizen equal rights than it is against Muslims per se. So that if the Constitution is amended to give Hindus an upper hand, Modi should not get the entire credit.

So, unlike what Dhote believed, neither the RSS nor the BJP can defeat Modi. That task is now left to the 67 per cent of the people of India who never wanted Modi as the prime minister.

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