The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh perceives the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to be a fight for its own existence and all that it stands for. Archis Mohan reports
The prospect of India getting a pracharak prime minister and anxiety that another decade of an unfavourable government at the Centre could further weaken its organisation have galvanised Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cadres across India to work towards ensuring a Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
An RSS pracharak in Haryana told Business Standard the Sangh had taken the lead in tuning the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election management. “This time, we will manage the elections to the booth level. What you will see is an election RSS will micromanage for BJP,” he said, requesting not to be named.
Last month, RSS sent a patrak, or a circular, to all its sympathisers. The circular described how the country was passing through difficult times, both internally with rampant corruption and the growing influence of Naxals, as also externally in its relations with China and Pakistan.
RSS Delhi media cell secretary Vagish Issar said the patrak was not an appeal to vote a particular party but to save the country. Another RSS source said the Sangh had over the past few months updated its old list of supporters and visited or written to them or their children to support the cause.
Issar said many professionals with family ties to the RSS had quit their jobs or taken sabbaticals to help in election-related work in whatever way they could, mostly on social media. Social media outfits like Modi Brigade and 272+ are run by MBAs and IIT graduates. Issar’s son, an electrical engineer, has taken two months’ leave to help in the RSS’ social media campaign.
RSS worker Sudarshan Juneja said the Sangh’s support to the BJP should not be seen as partisan. “As our Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwatji has said, we want to ensure 100 per cent voting to overthrow this corrupt government and save the country,” said Juneja, a retired private sector employee.
Issar and others of the RSS Business Standard spoke to claim to have already carried out the first round of griha sampark, or home contact, in areas like Delhi and Maharashtra, where they have a strong base.
Harsh Vardhan, BJP’s Delhi chief, acknowledged the RSS help the party’s state unit had received in the past month or so. “We are working in tandem to ensure that this anti-people government is thrown out,” he added.
RSS concluded its regional shivir, or convention, for the central region in Bhopal in mid-February and similar conventions have been organised in the past few months to motivate its cadre. RSS’s highest policy- and decision-making body, the Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha, will hold a three-day meeting in Bangalore from March 7, to be chaired by Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Sarkaryavah (general secretary) Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
Over 1,400 social workers of RSS and its affiliates, representatives of RSS shakhas from across India and national office-bearers of the Sangh Parivar organisation would attend the meeting, said an RSS press statement issued on Monday.
The meeting will review the state-wise activities of RSS, as also important national issues, and pass necessary resolutions, including one imploring countrymen to ensure an NDA victory in the election. This kind of hectic activity by RSS for BJP has not always been the case, at least not since the 1999 elections were fought in the wake of the Kargil war. RSS, for example, was half-hearted in its support to BJP in the Delhi Assembly elections. It was also cold towards BJP’s prospects both in 2004 and 2009, upset by party leaders’ arrogance, extravagant lifestyles and pushing core RSS issues like the Ram temple, uniform civil code and Article 370 on the back burner.
Relations nosedived to such an extent in 2009-10 that the RSS chief suggested BJP be dissolved and a new party launched. But BJP’s 10 years out of power have hurt RSS as well. RSS, say Sangh Parivar functionaries, believes the 2014 Lok Sabha elections would not merely be an electoral battle that its political arm, BJP, would win or lose.
“The RSS perceives the forthcoming elections to be a fight for its own existence and all that it stands for,” said a BJP functionary. Another failure by BJP to form the government at the Centre, the RSS leadership believes, could prove to be a mortal blow to the organisation and its agenda. This panic, said a BJP worker with no RSS background, was most evident on social media, where BJP trolls shouted down anyone critical of Modi or BJP.
The UPA government’s investigation into the RSS and its affiliates’ role in the so-called Hindu terror activities, the dwindling attendance at its morning shakhas and the perilous drop in its membership of upper-caste youths that used to form the backbone of its organisation have tempered the Sangh’s attitude towards Modi.
RSS believes that somehow the nectar of power may just revive its moribund shakhas. RSS sources said the number of shakhas had increased to 54,000 in the NDA years but dropped to around 40,000 since. Other estimates suggest the number could be as low as 30,000 and even here many struggle to get even half a dozen men for morning drills.
Sources concede to a linkage between the health of the organisation and whether BJP is in power in that particular state. The number of RSS shakhas in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where BJP has ruled continuously for over a decade, has increased, while elsewhere it has dropped.
RSS believes it should not only help Modi come to power in Delhi to revive itself but also democratise to include more Dalits and other backward class youths to instil new blood, given that its traditional catchment area of upper-caste youths is not as keen on the Sangh. Modi being an OBC has helped and BJP’s tie-ups with Ram Vilas Paswan and other OBC and Dalit leaders in the Hindi heartland has RSS’ blessings.
Image: RSS volunteers take their oath