Though the RSS steers clear of politics or avoids association with any political party, it is strange that it draws maximum attention whenever there is a BJP government at the Centre.
By Seshadri Chari
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded on Vijayadashami Day in 1925. It was not officially declared as an organisation on that day nor was its name plate hung outside its office. There was no office then. Just a small group of children gathered with Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder, and played games. It was called “shakha”.
This daily gathering, running into a few thousands in numbers, continues to be the lifeline of the organisation even today, 93 years later. The tradition of the RSS chief, the Sarsanghalak, addressing the gathering at Nagpur on Vijayadashami Day has now become routine, eagerly awaited by friends and foes alike as it signals the future road map of the organisation.
Though the RSS steers clear of politics or avoids association with any political party, it is strange that it draws maximum attention whenever there is a BJP government at the Centre. In a way, its pronouncements also set the tone and tenor of the political agenda of the BJP. Little wonder that the speech of the RSS chief is heard with rapt attention by those in power in New Delhi.
The RSS since its foundation has believed that electoral politics and related political activities are not the be all and end all of the society. The RSS, according to its Constitution adopted on August 1, 1949, after the ban on the organisation was lifted unconditionally, is aloof from politics and is avowedly devoted only to activities pertaining to social and cultural fields. However, the Swayamsevaks of the RSS are free to join any political party or work with any institution or front ‘except those which subscribe to extra-national loyalties or resort to violent and/or secret means to achieve their ends’.
This year, Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat nearly repeated the speeches he made during his three day outreach meetings in Delhi last month. But the highlight of the Nagpur speech was the mention of the contentious Ram Janmabhoomi issue which catapulted the two member BJP into a ruling party at the Centre. Though the subsequent elections were not fought on this issue, the Ayodhya temple remains a potent issue during elections. The 2004 election was centred around BJP’s claim of ‘India Shining’ slogan, the 2009 election hinged on Indo-US nuclear deal and the 2014 elections made corruption and “achche din” (happy days) as the main plank. Yet, the importance of Ayodhya in 2019 election cannot be dismissed easily.
The Sarsanghachalak’s warning of an obvious game plan of few elements to stall the judgment and his suggestion to expedite the decision on title suit and enacting a law to facilitate the construction of the temple in Ayodhya has raised a new political storm. It is a matter of time before it assumes greater importance forcing all political parties to take appropriate stands vis-à-vis their respective vote banks.
Another important issue that the RSS chief has flagged is regarding the ineffectiveness of None of The Above (NOTA) provision in the electoral laws. While his call for hundred percent voting will be pleasing to the ears of the Election Commission, political parties may not want it that way. His call for voting without petty and parochial considerations after ‘pondering over dispassionately upon the sincerity and capability of the candidates and commitment of the party’, should be well received by the voters, but would no doubt give jitters to parties. It would have been better if he had also raised the issue of “right to recall” as a sequel to his lament that ‘we are left with nothing else in our hands after that single day (of voting)’.
Referring to the challenges of internal security, the RSS chief has very rightly pointed at the root cause of Maoist-Naxal menace (without naming, of course) as the injustice, exploitation and discrimination of the marginalised communities in tribal areas. His call for greater efficiency and sensitivity in the implementation of several plans and sub-plans for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes is a timely warning to the central and state governments.
The RSS is known for its candid views, but in a quick glance the speech of Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur appears to be more outspoken, sounding almost like a warning to political parties, especially those whose stakes are high in the coming election in 2019.
(The author, a veteran of RSS for over five decades, is a regular commentator on political, security and strategic issues. He is former editor of English weekly ORGANISER).