The theory that the Bharatiya Janata has been doing well in polls of late due to return to its RSS roots was turned on its head when RSS Sarkaryawah Mohan Bhagwat presented the organisation's annual report.
The report shows that the number of its cadres has come down.
According to the report, this year, 44,417 shakhas were held at 30,988 places. Around 7,851saptahik (weekly) meetings and 7,300 monthly sangh mandalis were held. This is significantly lower in comparison with the figures for the last year, when 61,201 shakhas were held at 35, 719 places.
Interestingly, no deep thought seems to have gone into analysing the reasons for this drop. Looking at the last year's report, Mohan Bhagwat had said that the RSS would use the yearlong celebration of the centenary of Guru Golwalkar to recruit more members.
In this year's annual report, he says that the drop in membership was "anticipated as we are fully engrossed in the Sri Guruji birth centenary programmes."
He, however, feels worried enough to say that after the centenary celebrations end, the organisation needs a "massive campaign to contact new people to get membership up again."
The drop in the number of members must be particularly galling for the RSS since the BJP's numbers have been rising steadily. In 1999, the BJP had nearly 10 million members. This rose three-fold by 2005. The present figure is 45 million.
There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this, according to RSS members. "The point about return to the roots being the reason for BJP's electoral successes cannot be true. Inflation and its attendant problems were the main reasons" said an RSS member, who is also an academic.
He said the RSS shared the fate of other cadre-based parties. "For people now, politics is purely about power, not ideology. For example, Delhi used to be home to a hardcore RSS constituency of anti-Nehru Punjabi migrant community. Now, the RSS is nowhere in Delhi since the younger generation would rather join the BJP than go to an RSS shakha in khakhi shorts in the morning, and that also to ensure somebody else's electoral victory," he added.
It seems the joke is on the RSS now, which instead of asking the BJP to go back to Hindutva finds itself in a position where it will have to reinvent itself.