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RSS now more assertive about its influence over BJP

By Anita Katyal
August 14, 2014 23:47 IST
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The rakshasutra programme organised by the RSS at BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu’s residence shows how the Sangh and BJP leaders are no longer afraid to proclaim their identity with each other, says contributor Anita Katyal

Having kept a low profile all these years, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is gradually shedding its inhibitions.

The crucial contribution made by the RSS to the BJP’s impressive victory in the Lok Sabha elections has emboldened the Sangh to become more assertive and unapologetic about its influence over the party.

This was evident at the special rakshabandhan or the rakshasutra programme organised by the Sangh at Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s residence on Thursday morning.

The programme, where all those present tied rakhis to each other and pledged to protect the nation, was attended by virtually all party MPs. It also became an occasion to hold a traditional RSS shakha and introduce the newcomers to the Sangh’s ideology. The participants were instructed to wear white kurta pyjama and also sport the RSS black cap.  

RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi who was the chief guest unfurled the Sangh’s saffron flag and tied a rakhi to it to underline its commitment to its tenets.

Surprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who began his political career as an RSS pracharak and was picked by the Sangh for the prime minister’s post, was not present.

But this did not stop the RSS general secretary from taking pride that “for the first time, the county is being led by somebody who has been trained by the RSS and will continue to do so for many more years to come.”

While Joshi’s comment was seen as a clear endorsement of Modi’s leadership by the RSS, it also raised questions about former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s commitment to the Sangh’s philosophy.

The RSS general secretary’s words must be particularly comforting for Modi as his statement comes a few days after Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat at a meeting in Odisha said the BJP owed its win in the Lok Sabha elections to the people who were yearning for change. He added that it should not be construed as an achievement of a couple of leaders.

Bhagwat’s observations were a response to Modi’s address at the BJP’s national council meeting on Sunday when he gave all credit for the victory to former  party president Rajnath Singh and his successor Amit Shah.

After the flag hoisting, Joshi delivered a speech to the gathering about the contribution made by the RSS in preserving the country’s unity and integrity, and the success it has achieved in spreading its message of nation and character building in far flung areas like the North-East.  He also referred to the Sangh’s struggle during the Dravadian movement and in Kerala.

Joshi was especially pleased that the Sangh’s persistent efforts in spreading its ideology of Hindu nationalism had borne fruit as people no longer hesitated to call themselves Hindus.

Coming a day ahead of Narendra Modi’s first Independence Day address from the ramparts of Red Fort, the RSS leader’s talk was also a hint to the new prime minister that the Sangh’s agenda should find place in his speech.

Although it is well-known that the RSS wields a lot of influence in the BJP, it had preferred to remain backstage, insisting it is only a social and cultural organisation.

However, there is a distinct change now. Not only did the RSS play a proactive role in the Lok Sabha elections, it did not hesitate to acknowledge it publicly. RSS leaders have been speaking openly about their involvement in the BJPs affairs and their expectations from the party.

The rakshasutra programme organised by the RSS at Venkaiah Naidu’s residence is the latest example of how the Sangh and BJP leaders are no longer afraid to proclaim their identity with each other.

Although the programme is held every year, Thursday’s celebration was particularly important as the BJP has now formed the government at the Centre and the RSS wants to use such occasions to underline the bond between the party and its ideological mentor.

Venkaiah Naidu, however, maintained this was a routine function and was apolitical in nature, as all those gathered pledged to protect the country and maintain communal harmony.

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Anita Katyal in New Delhi
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