Modi clips RSS’ influence; less than 10 new inductees have direct links with ultra-nationalist organization
All four powerful ministers who have made an exit from Union Cabinet either had a direct link with the RSS or were inheritors of RSS’ legacy in the Modi-led government
The biggest political message coming out from Wednesday’s Cabinet rejig is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who started his career as a RSS pracharak, has clipped RSS’ influence over his Council of Ministers.
All four powerful ministers who resigned (or as Babul Supriyo put - were asked to resign) either had a direct link with the RSS or were inheritors of RSS’ legacy in the Modi-led government.
On the contrary, most of those who were inducted for the first time in Modi Cabinet 2.0 do not have any connection with the BJP’s parent organization.
A background check by NH reveals that out of 43 new inductees, less than 10 have direct links with the RSS. More importantly, none of them represent hardcore Hindutva ideology of the ultra-nationalist organization.
Of the 16 cabinet ministers who took oath on Wednesday, only six have prior links with the RSS.
Among Cabinet ministers, other than Anurag Thakur, Bhupendra Yadav, Dharmendra Pradhan, Kiren Rijiju and former Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, no one is from the RSS family. While Jyotiraditya Scindia is a former Congress member, Narayan Rane joined BJP via NCP. RK Singh, Ashwani Vaishnaw, RP Singh and Hardeep Puri served as bureaucrats before joining BJP.
Of 28 state ministers who were inducted, only four had a prior link with the RSS-BJP. Rest of them either come from socialist backgrounds or from independent political parties, like Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal.
Among bigwigs with a ‘direct hotline’ to RSS’ headquarters at Nagpur who were dropped on Wednesday are Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javdekar, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’. Have a look:
Ravi Shankar Prasad belongs to a family whose links with the RSS date back to the 1970s. His father Thakur Prasad was one of the founding members of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and was its state president for 10 years.
Prakash Javadekar, who defended right wing ideology in TV debates, is an RSS activist from his college days. He inherited right-wing ideology from his father who worked with a newspaper founded by Tilak. Javadekar started his political career as a member of ABVP, the student wing of RSS.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was considered an able administrator until the Coronavirus pandemic hit the country, has had old ties with the RSS.
Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ started his career as a teacher in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Saraswati Shishu Mandir.
“RSS’ equation with the BJP has gone through a complete overhaul over the years. Modi’s message is that I am the boss, not RSS. And it is true also. In the changed scenario, RSS needs Modi more than Modi needs RSS,” said a journalist who covered RSS-BJP for decades on condition of anonymity.
“Nitin Gadkari is the only exception. He survived despite being projected as a challenger to Modi by his detractors partly because of RSS’ unconditional backing and partly because of his image of an able administrator who completes his projects in time. His connection with the people is better than that of Prasad and Javadekar,” said a political observer.
The move has surprised many in the ruling dispensation and in the RSS fraternity also.
An RSS pracharak tasked to look after cases of conversion to Christianity in tribal areas of Jharkhand said that “if RSS is losing its influence, only RSS has to be blamed” because, in the eyes of the RSS pracharak, “to save PM Modi from international criticism, RSS issued such statement which stands in contradiction of its core values”.
The RSS prachrak, who completed his graduation in engineering, pointed out changes that he noticed in the Hindutva organization. “Rampant corruption among RSS activists and decline in their character and integrity is responsible for it losing the upper hand in its relationship with the BJP,” he said.
Former Delhi University professor and political scientist Shamsul Islam who has penned seven books on RSS, however, thinks otherwise.
Islam says, “This is all for media consumption. RSS is the master and will remain so. This organization is so clever that it changes strategy every now and then to divert attention and to create confusion.”
“PM Modi is the supreme pracharak. He attributed his political success to Golwalkar’s communal philosophy. Can Modi or RSS abandon Golwalkar’s ideology?” asked Islam.
Views are personal