In the middle of the General Election, Mohan Bhagwat reiterated that RSS is a cultural organisation and irrespective of the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, RSS would continue with its ‘social work’.
The statement did not come as a surprise. The RSS is known to ebb and flow, claim proximity to the BJP or a distant relationship as and when it suits the organisation. It works relentlessly for the BJP and when the party acquires power, the RSS uses state power and patronage to the hilt to advance its agenda. When the BJP starts losing popular appeal, it coyly distances itself and says it has nothing to do with the BJP.
This has been a long-term strategy of the RSS, part of its Chanakya Neeti. It is constantly evaluating others but never allows its own work to be scrutinised by the public. In true old-age Brahaminical fashion, it considers itself above society`s collective gaze.
It does not maintain any registered list of its Swayamsevaks, keeps its accounts a secret and argues that a cultural organisation is open to all. It continues to play an active political role, especially during elections. It has also successfully perpetuated the myth that whenever BJP wins, it is because of the groundwork done by the RSS. When it loses, the RSS claims privately that it did not take any interest in the BJP’s election campaign.
None of their pracharaks, who write comments in newspapers, ever identify themselves. They believe or rather would have us believe that they don’t crave for recognition and therefore wish to remain anonymous.
Perhaps, for the first time on television news channels, Desh Ratan Nigam, RK Sinha, Raghav Awasthi and Sandeep Mahapatra identified themselves as RSS ideologues or spokespersons. But as the elections are drawing to a close, they are no longer presented on TV as RSS ideologues but as political analysts.
Ram Madhav, a full-time RSS Pracharak, is now the general secretary and a key election-strategist for the BJP. It wouldn`t come as a surprise if he gradually disappears from public eye or returns to the fold of the RSS. This is a strategy to enjoy power without taking responsibility for their actions.
The RSS affiliates maintain a distance with the BJP when it doesn’t suit them but continue the affiliation and tacit support. This has been a routine practice that the RSS has brought into its relationship with the BJP. Incendiary and irresponsible statements by spokespersons of the Sangh Parivar are often condemned by BJP leaders. But of course they are disowned as having nothing to do with the BJP. It saves the BJP the trouble of owning up the RSS’s worldview and inflammatory language.
Among many other standard practices of the Sangh is its ability to shoot and scoot. It routinely blames the opposition of exactly what it itself is guilty of. It blames the opposition of being violent, communal, vulgar, conspiratorial, of speaking lies, indulging in backroom machinations, intolerance and hatred.
This allows them to both neutralise the critique against them as well as create confusion about who is doing what. It creates a sense of detachment, disgust, and cynicism in the minds of the ordinary citizen. This disempowerment through detachment from everyday politics and large-scale cynicism is deemed to be a precondition by the RSS for its authoritarian agenda to fructify. This
is also the reason why the RSS has actively worked against the institutions of higher education.
Informed citizenry that has self-confidence, especially from the lower-rungs of the society is a hurdle in creating a hierarchical social order. JNU came in for special battering precisely because of the role it played in creating elites out of the subaltern castes and classes. JNU is disliked by the RSS not merely for its ideological proclivities but this social role of creating elite from subaltern groups that the RSS perceives as a major threat to its centralised state structure.
RSS, and the Hindu Mahasabha began essentially as social reform movements to transform practices such as untouchability within the Hindu fold. Madan Mohan Malviya championed the cause of Hindu unity through social reform and social inclusion of the depressed classes. However, with Golwalkar, and the rise of the RSS after the 1930s, it became paranoid about threats to the nation-state, which were essentially anxieties over the possible liberation of lower castes, and the weakening of Hindu hierarchical order.
The RSS perceives its strategy as that of those wrongly displaced from positions of social superiority, first by Muslim rule and then by colonial modernity and ‘western’ liberalism.
The RSS and its love of the ancient past and `Indian culture` are synonymous of its Brahminical anxiety, led by Chitpawan Brahmins of Nagpur. In course of time, the paranoia got institutionalised as a deep sense of inferiority and an unfulfilled ego to achieve the old kind of supremacy.
Colonial modernity in many societies across the world creates a sense of perennial inferiority. However, in the Indian context, Brahmanism adds a dimension of exalted ego combined with an idea of natural superiority. This inferiority-superiority dialectic finds itself articulated through criminal subversion of all egalitarian principles and disdain for democratic practices. Inferiority and diffidence then become part of the personality-structure of not just the so-called lower castes but also of caste Hindus.
It is therefore difficult to generate alternative politics, and what the RSS is succeeding is in generating a politics that is drawing equivalence between various kinds of inferiorities that eventually translate into a mass phenomenon of self-hatred that is on the lookout for a target and Muslims becomes the vulnerable other.
(The author is a member of the faculty at Centre for Political Studies, JNU and author of ‘India After Modi: Populism and the Right’)