RSS has backed Modi against farmers and a loss in Bengal will not just be a loss of face
RSS failed to expand as much in West Bengal as in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where it has grown 12 times in the last seven years. If BJP fails to win in Bengal, it will be a setback to its grand design
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has been ruthless in using Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Hindutva face of the country, to accomplish his mission of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra. Neither the RSS bosses nor the top BJP leaders would concede to the fact that L K Advani could not occupy the prime minister’s seat as RSS was against him. The RSS leadership strongly believed that RSS under the rule of Advani would not prosper. His remarks about Jinnah was being cited in inner circles to justify their apprehension.
The RSS leadership was desperate to use the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Well before the elections, the RSS leaders threw their weight behind Narendra Modi. The Goa meet of the national executive of the BJP was the proper setting. The task for presenting Modi as the prime ministerial candidate was performed by Manohar Parrikar. RSS took a giant stride for accomplishing its mission.
RSS this time planned a massive campaign in Bengal. But it is not succeeding. The reason is the strong cultural ethos of the Bengalis. RSS made a gigantic spread in the Hindi states, but it could not succeed in Bengal. The Bengalis preferred to stick to liberal values, Marxism and nationalism. They never subscribed to Hindutva politics, offered in the garb of religion. The RSS has been active in Bengal for years, but could not make its presence felt. The brutal onslaught of the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is at the centre of the strategy now to spread Hindutva in the state.
During the last seven year rule of Modi, the RSS has expanded 12 times in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The number of its Sarswati Shishu Vidyalaya has multiplied many times. In Bengal it could make some inroads in Malda, Cooch Behar and in some north Bengal districts. But not elsewhere.
The country is facing the worst covid and economic crisis but Prime Minister Modi preferred to neglect his national responsibilities and campaign for the BJP. He is already the prime minister. Winning Bengal will add to his credibility. But it would on the other side open new vista and space for the RSS to expand.
One ought not to forget that even today the Maharashtrian Brahmins call the shots in the RSS. It is true that in recent years a number of leaders belonging to north India have surfaced in the organisation and occupied powerful positions. But Maharashtrian Brahmins continue to have a firm grip on it. The rivalry between the people of Bengal and Maharashtra has a historical backdrop.
Maharashtrian Brahmins have been acting on a well planned design. They not only encourage Hindu-Muslim divide, they are also for split in the upper caste Hindus and backward castes. The Maharashtrian Brahmins did not coin the Jai Sri Ram slogan. It was the brain child of the north Indian saffron leaders. In the interest of the organisation, the Maharashtrian Brahmins accepted it.
In this backdrop one recent development ought to be mentioned. Till two months back Bhaiyyaji Joshi was the general secretary and used to guide its functioning. But he was replaced by Dattatreya Hosabale as the new Sarkaryavah (general secretary). Though no clarification was sought by anyone about the compulsion behind this change, speaking about the flexible nature of the Sangh in a lecture series at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, Mohan Bhagwat came out with a clarification that cannot be described as democratic. “We are not required to take permission from anyone to make timely changes in the Sangh. We have this from the Sangh founder Dr Hedgewar, who mandated such changes.” It is really intriguing what made him to make the statement and why.
There is no denying the fact that the changes at the organisational level within the Sangh have drawn wide public attention. Removing Bhayyaji has caused consternation in the saffron circles. No clarification was offered. In RSS the sarsanghchalak is supreme and his authority could not be questioned. The word of the sarsanghchalak is followed down the line.
The current election has witnessed a new generation of Sangh activists taking charge. Hosabale has had a long innings in the ABVP since 1972. Hosabale’s team also has two new sah-sarkaryavahs; Arun Kumar and Ram Dutt.
It is widely perceived that Hosabale has taken over as Sarkaryavah of the Sangh at a crucial time. While the general election would be held in 2024, the RSS ought to prepare the people psychologically to accept the change of India from a secular state to Hindu Rashtra. RSS is not in the mood to wait till 2029. With Modi still in command, enjoying a comfortable majority, RSS intends to give shape to this programme by 2024.
Hosabale has been close to Modi, who had tried to get him elected to the post since assuming power in 2014. He had even tried in 2015 and 2018. With Hosabale’s elevation Modi has moved closer to the ideological parent. Since the stakes are quite high, the RSS is not willing to disturb the balance of power. RSS is also not sure that the new leader of the party would identify himself as closely as Modi has done. In fact, to keep Modi in good humour, the RSS had also removed his fierce critic Praveen Togadia, as international president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in an election in 2018.
Hosabale is also regarded as a staunch backer of the government’s policies under Modi, such as the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act, and has strong views on religious conversions. As the new Sarkaryavah, Hosabale will be in charge when Modi seeks re-election in 2024.
So far RSS lobbies had succeeded in thwarting Modi’s efforts to get Hosabale elected but his efforts to protect the corporate and capitalist sections have pleased the RSS bosses. By fulfilling the Sangh’s longstanding ideological commitments, such as those on the Ram temple and Article 370, Modi has entered into the good books of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. It is interesting to see that RSS has refrained from creating pressure on Modi to accede to the demands of the farmers. RSS holds that accepting the demands of farmers would fundamentally alter the political character and scenario of the country.
Winning Bengal assembly election is also important for the reason that it would provide the opportunity to evolve fresh strategy to counter the emergence of Muslims as the most potent force. The RSS has come to realise that post enactment of the CAA, it has provided motivation to the Muslims to change their outlook on issues, including elections. They have become more assertive. This has emerged as a major deterrent to implement the divisive policy of the RSS. The manner in which the Muslims of Bengal have rallied behind Mamata Banerjee is a grim warning to the RSS.
Views are personal