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Are BJP and RSS no longer on the same page?

September 19, 2018 10:26 IST

'It is obvious that the RSS's desire to gatecrash into the gated establishment which has generally been seen as the redoubt of the liberal intelligentsia is putting it at odds with the BJP which is less tolerant of the mentor's freshly-minted open-mindedness,' argues Amulya Ganguli.

RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat, left, with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat, left, with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Photograph: PTI

It was perhaps inevitable that the BJP's rise and rise would lead to a situation where differences would crop up between its worldview and that of its mentor, the RSS.

Although both the guru and the chela -- the RSS and the BJP -- have benefited in political and material terms from the latter's acquisition of considerable political power, the guru appears to have realised that the planting of its members in various institutions cannot be the be-all and end-all of its ambitions.

To consolidate its hold and make it long-lasting, there is a need for mainstreaming the organisation, not least because it is yet to acquire the kind of social standing commensurate with its present cultural and political clout.

The position of the RSS has been like that of a nouveau riche trader who feels that despite his wealth, he lacks the legitimacy which a pedigreed aristocrat enjoys.

To gain such respectability in polite society, he feels in need of a makeover.

A change of this nature for the RSS entails a virtual turning over of a new leaf, which means that it has to shed some of its angularities which differentiate it from the Left-Liberals -- the urban Naxalites.

 

Foremost among them is the acceptance of India's composite culture, which means distancing the RSS (and the BJP) from the concept of cultural nationalism, which wants the country to represent one people, one nation and one culture.

It is still unclear whether the RSS will go so far considering that such an outlook will militate against the Hindu Rashtra concept.

But, for the present, its focus is apparently on emphasising a broad-based attitude, which has made it doff its cap to the Congress's role in the freedom movement.

To non-saffron historians, the acknowledgement from an outfit which did not participate in the struggle for Independence can seem amusing.

But its immediate political implications cannot be denied, for it goes directly against what the BJP has been saying about ushering in a Congress-mukt (free) Bharat since 2014.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's reference to the Congress leaders of the past who inspired the Hindutva camp also contradicts the BJP's view, especially about Jawaharlal Nehru.

Such critiques cannot but rile the Narendra Damodardas Modi-Amit Anilchandra Shah duo who has been harping not only of ridding Bharat altogether of the Congress, but have also been saying that 'nothing' happened when the Congress was in power unlike the present government's achievements in the last four-and-a-half years.

It is obvious that the RSS's desire to gatecrash into the gated establishment which has generally been seen as the redoubt of the liberal intelligentsia is putting it at odds with the BJP which is less tolerant of the mentor's freshly-minted open-mindedness.

The BJP is more comfortable with a minister who garlands lynch mobs or says that Hindus must have more children lest the community is outnumbered by those who marry four wives and produce 25 children, as Modi's statement (external link) when he was Gujarat chief minister, 'hum panch, hamare pachis', outlines.

Now, the BJP will have to measure its words with care, which will not be easy at a time when the party's election prospects do not seem all that bright.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

Amulya Ganguli