Monday, March 19, 2012

BJP remains in the shadow of RSS

A major part of this report has appeared in the Mumbai edition of DNA on March 19, 2012

Party a front organisation for the sangh, says an insider

New Delhi: The BJP’s RSS dilemma, or to put it in another way, the RSS’BJP dilemma, continues to puzzle BJP-watchers and poses a challenge to BJP insiders. The BJP’s leadership issue hinges crucially on the RSS, whether it is the party president or the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

A reliable party insider speaking on condition of anonymity explains the basic relationship between the two: “In the communist party system, the trade union, the cultural and the youth wings are the front organisations of the party. In our case, the BJP is the front organisation of the RSS and not the other way round.”

He traces the historical origin of this link, where the RSS is supreme and the political wing is the affiliate of the Sangh to the situation after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The RSS was banned and faced acute isolation. It realised that it is not enough to be a cultural organisation and that unless it had a political arm of its own it will not be able to survive. So, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) was created in 1951, which merged with the Janata Party in 1977 and re-emerged as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980.

The other front organisations of the RSS are the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha (BMS), Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (BKS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). It is the RSS which decides as to who will be the president of the front organisations, including the BJP. It becomes clear that the BJP belongs to RSS and it cannot shake off this dependence.

A senior leader of the party and former Union minister speaking on condition of anonymity agrees: “Even when the party decided on Venkaiah Nadu to be party president, the RSS had to approve it.” He says that the RSS has a stranglehold over the party, and he has no doubt that it is obstructing the freedom of the party to evolve the right political policies. He says Ram Lal, general secretary (organisation), is the most important among general secretaries because he has been deputed by the RSS. It is interesting to note that Govindacharya, who was forced out of the party, and Khushabhau Thakre, also held this key post.

The party insider says that the RSS delegates about 30 to 40 people to the BJP to be placed at the different levels of the organisation, and this is done every few years. Atal Bihari Vajapyee, L.K.Advani, Sundarlal Bhandari were among the earliest RSS pracharaks who had been deputed for political work. The insider argues that there is no discrimination against those in the BJP or any other front organisation because they do not belong to the RSS. BJP president Nitin Gadkari is the nominee of the RSS and he will get a second term because he enjoys the confidence of sarsanghchalak Mohan Rao Bhagwat.

Asked whether the RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP, and whether from time to time the RSS is forced to reinforce the core ideology of Hindutva, the senior leader says, “The question of Hindutva has been settled. The Supreme Court has held Hindutva to be constitutional.” He concedes that there is public space for organisations like the RSS and VHP, but he thinks that they should have no political role. “The RSS should have no role in the BJP. The RSS should keep away because politics is not its business.”

The senior leader also rues the fact that the BJP has not been able to evolve its ideas as a right-of-centre party, which should be its rightful position on the political spectrum, on the economy, on security because of the RSS shadow over the party.

The party insider admitted that there was fluctuation in the RSS-BJP power equation over the last few years. When Vajpayee was prime minister, he was able to keep the RSS at bay but not completely because he went by the majority opinion. That is why he could not act against chief minister Narendra Modi after the 2002 Gujarat riots. But the RSS leaders did defer to him and to Advani. But he says that the equation has now changed. RSS is back in the saddle, and Bhagwat, a taskmaster, will be directing the BJP on key issues. It seems that the BJP finds comfort in remaining in the shadow of RSS though a few in the party may chafe at the arrangement.

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