Why has the RSS fallen silent? The last one heard from it was an advice to the BJP to focus on local issues instead of harping all the time on national security. After that brief intervention, the Nagpur patriarchs have chosen to keep their own counsel, ignoring the hurly-burly of the electoral scene.
However, before the RSS lapsed into its present maun vrat (vow of silence), it had been blowing hot and cold by playing a prominent role in public life as rarely before. For a start, it invited stalwarts like former president Pranab Mukherjee and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi to address the RSS cadres, suggesting that it was willing to listen to what Arun Jaitley would call “compulsive contrarians”.
The putative votary of a Hindu Rashtra also wanted to show that the RSS was not a closed shop of upper caste Hindus, oblivious of what was happening in the outside world.
But, if the observations of an important RSS functionary like Indresh Kumar are taken into account, it does not appear that the paeans in praise of pluralism and inclusivity by the two guest speakers had any effect on the organization.
Indresh Kumar, for instance, has called upon Indian Muslims to forsake beef and adopt cows, presumably in preparation for 2025 when he expects Pakistan to become a part of India.
The distinction made by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath between Bajrang Balis and Alis also suggests that inclusivity is not uppermost in the minds of followers of the Sangh Parivar. The same view was expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he said that Rahul Gandhi has chosen a constituency in south India where the Alis, and not the Bajrang Balis, are in a majority.
However, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, did echo Mukherjee and Satyarthi when he told a conclave, “Bhavishya ka Bharat – an RSS perspective” in New Delhi last year that “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean that there is no place for Muslims. If we don’t accept Muslims, it’s not Hindutva”. Hindutva, according to him, is “Indianness and inclusivity”.
But, not long after this mellow declaration, came the phase of blowing hot when Bhagwat wanted that work should start immediately on the construction of the Ram temple, even via an ordinance, to circumvent the judiciary which is hearing the case.
The RSS chief also told a Jan Hunkar (voice of the people) rally in Nagpur that since it has been “proved” that a temple was there in ancient times, the apex court should deliver its verdict quickly since “justice delayed is justice denied”. This is palpably the speech of a politician and not of the head of a “cultural” organization (which is the BJP’s usual description of the RSS), who does not care what the Muslims may say about the matter.
This hardline phase was obviously aimed at boosting the BJP’s electoral prospects since at the time the party was not seen as faring too well in the aftermath of the electoral setbacks in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
In the wake of the Pulwama massacre and the subsequent surgical strikes, however, the RSS no longer raised the temple issue because the BJP apparently did not need its help since the party’s electoral position was seen to have improved because of its display of muscular nationalism.
After a while, however, the RSS made its views known again when it felt that the BJP was overplaying the jingoistic card at the expense of local issues.
The BJP must be grateful that it has a fraternal organization with an extensive network which keeps a tab on popular sentiments and regularly transmits its feedback. Almost no other party has such a friend in the field, neither Indira Gandhi who hadn’t a clue how the people had turned against her in 1977 or the communists who thought that they could outwit the Manmohan Singh government on the nuclear deal in 2008.
It is possible that the latest feedback which the RSS has given to the BJP about the neglect of local issues is based on the belief articulated by the BJP M.P., Subramanian Swamy, that the BJP may not get more than 220/230 seats in which case Modi may not be the prime minister again since some of the party’s new, non-NDA partners in a “hung” Parliament – Swamy mentioned Naveen Patnaik – may not approve of the “strong” man.
What will be the next move of the RSS? By backing the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Pragya, it has shown what kind of a “bhavishya” (future) it has in mind for the country. Evidently, the advice it received from the two outsiders has been forgotten. The RSS has no use for them.
Lenin would have called the two “useful idiots”, as the Bolshevik leader described those Russian liberals who supported the communists without knowing that their autocratic preferences were no different from those of the Czar. Will the RSS return to the temple plank?