banner-51
lefthomeaboutpastarchiveright

BJP-RSS Equation

'RSS : A View to the Inside'

Mala Jay

Days before it is to be formally released on August 17, an authoritative new book on the RSS is already stirring up a storm within the extended Sangh Parivar, both in India and abroad.

The co-author of the book is Walter Anderson, a distinguished American scholar and political scientist who has been closely monitoring the growth of the RSS for more than 40 years and whose first book 'The Brotherhood In Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism' published as far back as 1987 is widely regarded as the most detailed examination of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) tracing its early growth in the pre-Independence period, its organisational structure and the evolution of its ideology.

Even before that, Anderson who at one time was the head of the US State Department's South Asia Division had made his mark as an RSS watcher by writing an in-depth four-part series of articles on the Sangh in the 'Economic and Political Weekly in 1972.

With such credentials, his forthcoming book is bound to be taken seriously. He and his co-author, Shridhar Damle (who also jointly wrote the 1987 book) are currently on a pre-release book tour in India and are giving a series of interviews and talks to promote 'RSS: A View to the Inside'.

True to its name the new book, published by Penguins, provides a deep insight into the thinking of the RSS in the current situation—an insight which is already causing a great deal of consternation and churning in political, academic and social circles. Many of the revelations are startling and brutally frank, indicating that the Sangh leadership is currently wrestling with a deep dilemma, about whether the RSS should continue to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

The authors have come out with several other eye-opening assertions in the course of their deep dive into the inner workings arid compulsions of the Sangh, which has rapidly grown into a mammoth organisation in recent years and is driven by priorities that are often in conflict with the political ambitions of the BJP and the socio-economic policies of the Modi government.

The new book categorically asserts that the RSS cadres will not be involved in the 2019 election campaign with the same intensity as in 2014. As Shridhar Damle said in a recent book promotion discussion: "RSS leaders feel deeply hurt by the high-handedness of the political leadership of the BJP. They have typically been suspicious of single-personality cults. Mohan Bhagwat himself has on several occasions hinted that there is a growing cult for Narendra Modi and it's not a good thing. It's not that he's against Modi but he's against the idea of a cult. These are things one could keep in mind".

According to Walter Anderson; "RSS also has suspicion about the 'deep state' or the bureaucracy. The 'deep state' has in many ways been a danger to it. I met someone from the RSS whom I have known for a long time. He was deeply suspicious of all governments, including this one. There is in the RSS a strain of skepticism of any government, including this one".

The authors say: "We were told by senior BJP-RSS leaders that the RSS has participated in the elections only twice in history first time after 1977 and then in 2014. In 2014 it was not for Modi, he is a by-product of the 2014 election''.

According to the authors, the RSS top leadership has "learnt from their mistakes during the Vajpayee government. Now again there is disquiet about Modi. Former sarsanghchalak Sudarshan was open and upset about the choices made by Vajpayee and how that government behaved. For instance, he was against the appointment of Brajesh Misra as the NSA. He was most upset with the failure of Advani to negotiate the release of four RSS pracharaks who were abducted and killed in Bangladesh. In West Bengal, RSS cadres openly state they would not have worked for the BJP if Advani had become a candidate for the prime ministerial post in 2014. That is how Modi came into the picture.

What the RSS wants above all is a government which can maintain the rule of law—this is necessary for security, stability, growth and credibility. The current atmosphere is not conducive for that.

Currently, within the RSS there it is an ongoing debate—about how much should they rely on the BJP for the growth and expansion of the Sangh's multifaceted activities. For instance, on the issue of foreign investment, the government wants FDI because it hopes to create more jobs and more jobs will help the BJP party remain in power. But there is a strong sentiment against the idea of FDI because it ultimately undermines Indian culture, values, morality and the traditional indigenous economy.

Mohan Bhagwat has been quite critical especially in his major public statements, including the Vijayadashami speeches. The criticism is against personality cult and it is also about economic issues. The RSS feels that the Modi government has become too attracted to power and is pursuing various 'isms' that are contrary to RSS thinking.

The replacement of the Planning Commission with Niti Aayog is a case in point. There is a feeling in the Sangh that the Aayog economists are too enamoured with theories that have been developed and are applicable only to the West, but are not suitable to the Indian conditions and requirements.

In regard to the next elections, Shridhar Damle has come to the conclusion that the RSS is unlikely to repeat its cadre mobilisation on the same scale as in 2014. However, pracharaks will not be prevented from helping the BJP if they want to in various regions and States.

Walter Anderson feels the RSS is worried about becoming too aligned with the BJP and losing its own credibility. It also has mixed views of the Modi government's performance so far. The dilemma it faces is whether the Sangh should throw its full weight behind the saffron political party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The new book elaborates on these core issues. Because of their reputation, the co-authors were able to gain unprecedented access into the innermost zones of the Sangh. With academic research and with the help of case studies, the book explores the evolution of the Sangh into its present form, its relationship with the ruling party, the BIP, their overseas affiliates and so much more.

  [email protected]

Frontier
Vol. 51, No.8, Aug 26 - Sep 1, 2018