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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/Ram Madhav

'Anti-incumbency vote is showing a merciless trend'

May 28, 2007

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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Ram Madhav speaks to Nistula Hebbar on the Bharatiya Janata Party and why the RSS can't be blamed for its poor showing in the UP elections.

The first question is obviously on the mandate in Uttar Pradesh. Do you think this mandate is socially transforming?

Well, first of all, I am not a politician, and therefore, not an expert in election analysis. But I do feel that we cannot see electoral politics as ultimately socially transforming. The Dalit-Brahmin combination worked for the Bahujan Samaj Party. Some formulae worked, some didn't. We will, of course, be happy if such a mandate means that some forces of cohesion have been released in society.

But don't you think this mandate has raised some very important questions? Did the Brahmins desert the Bharatiya Janata Party in favour of the BSP?

Every mandate has questions and issues that it raises. There is nothing new in that. Every one has the right to choose who they want to vote for. Obviously, this time they felt they had a better chance of beating the incumbent Samajwadi Party through the BSP. Whether this will remain the case for a long period is still to be tested.

Don't you think the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh should take some of the blame for the BJP's performance in Uttar Pradesh?

I am amazed at this conclusion. We are an organisation devoted to social and cultural activities, far removed from politics. How can we be responsible for the BJP's performance in Uttar Pradesh?

What about the unprecedented number of pracharaks who were loaned to the BJP this time, like Ram Lal, Shyam Lal, Makkhan Singh, Saudan Singh?

All the names you have mentioned had been sent to Uttar Pradesh as members of the BJP, not the the RSS. Ram Lalji is a general secretary and Saudan Singhji is a joint general secretary. They have proper positions in the BJP hierarchy despite being pracharaks. This old practice was there even when the BJP was not such a big party.

Therefore, following your argument, is the RSS to be commended every time the BJP wins an election, just as you are blaming the RSS for the loss in UP?

But you must have some thoughts on why the BJP lost so badly when it was actually dreaming of crossing three figures in the UP assembly.

It is true that lessons can be learned from the Uttar Pradesh elections.

One very important message is that if people are not happy with a particular dispensation, they will be quite ruthless in voting it out.

The anti-incumbency vote is showing a merciless trend. This is particularly important for the BJP to know since many states ruled by it, like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, will go to polls in a year.

The BJP should also realise that it is judged by different standards and the party should keep up its uniqueness. The 'party with a difference' image that it has should be kept up. Every election has any number of lessons for you, it is important to learn and move on. There is always another election in a democracy. UP is an important state but there are always many other elections that are happening.

Why do you think the BJP predicted such huge numbers for itself and then ended up badly miscalculating?

First of all, I must say that in India, psephology is a fantasy, a nightmare. You cannot depend on it for accuracy, no political party should. Somehow, political parties are losing touch with the ground realities in favour of number-crunching and statistics churned out by psephologists. This is a little surprising. I think all political parties should question whether they have their ear to the ground.

The UP elections were also a test for BJP President Rajnath Singh, who is seen as a Sangh nominee. How do you assess his performance?

Let me make it very clear that Rajnath Singh has been duly elected by the BJP, through the legitimate process of elections. The RSS had nothing to do with his election. The RSS's role in the BJP is restricted to nominating a pracharak as general secretary (organisation), nothing more.

He was also entrusted with the Sangh's project of bringing the BJP back on the ideological track. How do you think that is going?

This aspect, of sticking to the ideology, is incumbent on not just the BJP but all constituents of the Sangh Parivar. We have these expectations from all our sister organisations. On the ideological front, there are not many complaints. The issue of ideological deviation is not there anymore. There are other issues which have claimed attention.

These other issues are?

Issues related with day-to-day politicking. With alliances, caste equations, matters that the party has to deal with internally, matters with which the RSS has little to do.

Deviating a bit, but not completely, has the RSS finally forgiven LK Advani for the Jinnah episode?

The word 'forgive' that you have used is hurtful to us because he is a part and parcel of our ideological movement and a senior leader, who is much respected. Such words have no place in a family, even an ideology-based family.

Do I take this to mean that the Jinnah episode is finally over after more than two years?

The Jinnah episode has been over for a long time. That chapter is closed.

A final question. The last couple of years have seen the RSS enrolment numbers fall and the BJP's rise. Why do you think that is so? Are people turning away from the RSS?

The numbers have not been falling steadily as a trend, it is just this year's enrolment that is a little low compared with previous years. The reasons are very simple and were elaborated at the RSS's pratinidhi sabha as well. Last year, the organisation had been busy with the centenary year celebrations of Guruji Golwalkar and thus enrolments were a little slow. Also, we have established several new shakhas, and new shakhas always take time to be established and show an increase in enrolments.

This will be borne out when the next report will be tabled at the pratinidhi sabha.

The Rediff Interviews