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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad
Analysis: Modi's gambit and the battles within
December 06, 2007
The target of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's [Images] high decibel communal speeches is the section of committed Bharatiya Janata Party activists/voters who have started doubting his commitment to Hindu causes.
The speech at Mangrol in South Gujarat justifying the illegal encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh has become controversial because it not only justifies encounter killings for whatever reasons by the Gujarat police but also evokes support to the violence from the ordinary public in the sleepy town. More than Modi, it is the response from the public that begs attention.
The audience in Mangrol meeting were in complete agreement with Modi when he asked, "Mane kaho Sohrabuddin nu shun karvanu?" (Tell me what to do of Sorabuddin?) "Maro! maro!" (Kill him, kill him!) screamed the crowd.
It is part of Modi's oratorical skill that enables him to provoke crowds. Modi knows the pulse of his party's supporters and cadre. He also knows that majority of leaders and workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal are upset with him for not helping Hindutva causes as much as former chief minister Keshubhai Patel did.
Rather, he is accused of dividing, humiliating and decimating them.
The RSS outfit -- Bharatiya Kisan Sangh -- had around 20 lakh membership in 2002 but Modi's policies have made the union ineffective. Now it has only 2 lakh members.
Here lies the crux of Modi's strategy. With the election less than a week away, he is trying to cover lost ground.
When Modi talks about Muslims and issues like Sohrabuddin, he is essentially addressing his party's core constituency more than anyone else -- Modi's original friends and supporters.
Since 1985, the RSS has been given the idea that the government would favour its agenda in Gujarat but now they think that the Modi government has 'failed' them in pursuing Hindutva causes.
Whether it is issue of cow slaughter or the arrest of the Hindu accused in the post-Godra riots, the RSS state leadership feels Modi has not been much help to them. So, when Modi portrays himself as a brave politician out to protect ordinary Hindu citizens from jihadi Islamic terrorists the RSS supporters like it.
Even in his first election speech in Botad Modi had spoken about the killing of Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi, his wife.
By branding the Congress as anti-Hindu or softer towards terrorists, Modi wants to renew the support of hardcore Hindutva classes, which he was losing because of his 'pro-reform' economic policy and his mission to tighten public administration.
In the nation's mainstream media Modi is 'Hindutva's poster boy' but on ground zero the nuances and shades of saffron are different.
Since the last three-four years Modi has been facing serious allegations among the Hindutva constituency that he is a fake Hindutva politician created and branded in the 'beauty parlour' of the English media. For RSS workers, who are not interested in power politics, Modi is seen as a trader of Hindutva causes -- cunningly gaining votes for himself and not for the Sangh parivar.
In the last five years he has travelled to Switzerland [Images], Hong Kong, China, Israel and Australia. Most times in chartered aircrafts provided by his industrialist friends. In last six years, he has used private planes or choppers more than 150 times to travel within Gujarat, India and abroad. His lavish lifestyle has also come under scrutiny.
Being a chief minister such expenses hardly matter and is not a big issue in these times of liberalisation and era of 8 per cent plus growth. But, conservative RSS leaders do not appreciate Modi's deviation from the Sangh's austere policies.
An Ahmedabad-based analyst and RSS supporter describes Modi as 'Raju Guide' of the cult movie Guide. (In Guide when the hero, Dev Anand [Images], is rejected by the heroine, he becomes a vagabond. Once he takes shelter in front of the temple. A few villagers think his is a poor sadhu. They cover Raju with a saffron shawl and saffron sainthood is imposed on him. Those who branded him as a sadhu refuse to believe otherwise. And Raju drifts along and plays the role of sadhu as demanded by the public). Similarly when Modi came to power, the media and the secularists branded him as a politician with a deep commitment to Hindutva and the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. Many times in the last five years he has told RSS leaders that he has his limitations as chief minister due to his Constitutional obligations.
However, the politician in Modi saw that this image helps in garnering votes and winning elections.
"Now, Modi refuses to leave the saffron shawl gifted to him by the media!" says a RSS analyst.
Last month, an anonymous RSS worker had written a letter to the editor of a Gujarati monthly describing in detail the Modi's failures as a Hindutva leader. The letter gives details of the RSS thinking and is a kind of a 'chargesheet' against Modi. However, its authenticity could not be confirmed, but many RSS workers have told rediff.com that most allegations made in letter are correct.
Some 54 grouses are listed in it. It narrates the inside story of the how the RSS, the VHP, the BJP and the Bajrang Dal worked in unison to win elections and make the BJP powerful in Gujarat.
The letter states that in last two decades, "Only because of the Sangh pariwar's combined efforts was an atmosphere of Hindutva created and the Congress party and its leaders could be established as anti-Hindu."
The letter further that how Keshubhai Patel nominated a co-ordination committee between the RSS members and ministers. It says that Keshubhai helped in the appointment of scores of RSS supporters in boards and corporations of the government.
RSS-backed organisations and unions were fully involved in government. Patel also nominated Bajrang Dal presidents as home guard commanders.
The writer also acknowledges Modi's contribution in the formation of the BJP government in 1995 along with Shankersinh Vaghela, Amrit Kadiwala, Nathalal Jhagda and Sanjaya Joshi.
In 2000-2001 while in New Delhi Modi became ambitious. Then things changed rapidly. Modi managed to convince the central leadership about his qualifications and Keshubhai's weaknesses to lead the government.
Once in power with the backing of central leadership he took revenge against the RSS leaders behind his ouster from Gujarat.
The letter alleges that nothing helped Modi as much the Godhra massacre. Acharya Dharmendra [Images], Sadhu Achavichaldas, Sadhvi Ritimbhara and Togadia also worked hard and helped Modi to victory. But Modi forgot to invite Togadia, Maniyar, Dharmendra, Kulkarni or Damle to his swearing-in-ceremony.
The victory in the 2002 election made Modi arrogant, claims the letter. Modi stopped talking to RSS leaders.
The writer is so dejected that he says, 'Now, Narendra Modi does not need anyone. He has been able to establish his image as a nationalist, honest Hindutva leader. After 25 years of cultivation by the RSS pariwar when the fruits arrived Modi claims that fruits are due to his leadership only.'
RSS supporters also say that Modi did not allow anybody to campaign in the local corporation, taluka and panchayat elections. Modi's "no repeat" (of elected politicians) helped him weed out all RSS supporters from local self-government all over Gujarat. There is not a single experienced RSS supporter or leader is in the elected wing of the state BJP -- it is filled by Modi's loyalists.
It is alleged that Modi has cut the RSS to size and divided it. How did Modi do this?
The letter claims that, 'The co-ordination committee was disbanded, Madhu Kulkarni was shunted out of the state. Maniyar was not given any work. Modi stopped talking to prant pracharak Manmohan Vaidya and Mukundrao Deobhankar. At mega functions he spent public money build to his image and kept RSS or party people away from it.'
The RSS's main grouse is about the police cases in the post-Godhra riots.
The letter asks how Modi be termed a Hindutva hero when 35,000 Hindus are facing police cases? Every month RSS workers are going to jail after 2,500 riots cases were reopened? Why is Modi not helping Bajrang Dal leaders who are engaged in stopping illegal cow slaughter? Modi has allowed demolition of 20 temples in Ahmedabad to make roads or develop properties.
Not surprisingly, the letter writer asks Modi why he has put police official D G Vanzara -- an accused in the Soharbuddin case -- in jail?
The following are the major grouses of the RSS as listed in the letter.
Modi claims he has not allowed the corruption of elected MLAs and other leaders, but the bureaucracy is now more corrupt than before. In name of development, the biggest industrial houses in Gujarat have got land at throwaway prices.
Modi has allowed alcohol in Special Economic Zones.
More than 10,000 Sangh workers and leaders could have been nominated in government or semi-government corporations, but Modi did not allow it.
Twenty sadhus have been murdered in last five years but the police have not been able to nab the culprits. Modi gives step-motherly treatment to members of the Sangh Pariwar. He simply, does not need them anymore.
He asked to close down the office of RSS leader Damle in Gandhinagar.
He successfully divided the Kisan Sangh, an RSS outfit, which was engaged in opposing the government's policy of reforms.
Vidyabharati, a RSS outfit in field of education, is being discriminated and not granted government land because it opposes Modi's policy of introduction of English at the primary level.
VHP and Bajrang Dal workers are arrested if they protest against any issue. All key men of Shankarsinh Vaghela, who rebelled against the BJP, are now with Modi.
Modi managed to get a stay against the housing scheme of Dineshbhai, brother of Pravin Togadia.
Modi government has taken away the land 'gifted' by previous governments to Asaram Bapu.
Swaminarayan temples were raided for non-payment of electricity bills in Vadtal.
Swadhyaya Pariwar of Gujarat founded by the late Pandurang Athawale is displeased with Modi government because of the controversial murder of its active member.
If read carefully, the letter reveals that the fight is about conservative RSS thinking versus Modi's marketing of his Hindutva image. Puritans in the RSS do not want Modi to gain weight at cost of weakening saffron ideology and institutions.
Modi has been successful in his endeavor so far. But during elections, every vote is important and in spite of his dislike of the RSS old-timers, Modi is returning to his favourite rhetoric. Modi needs Sohrabuddin to take the hardliners to the polling booths.
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