Pulling the Strings RSS Way by Hamid Ali Khan (October 28, 2014)
Hamid Ali Khan
Three events in the recent past are enough to suggest that the process of saffronisation of democratic institutions has begun. Some two months ago, slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” were chanted by BJP workers who were present in strength in the Raj Bhawan in Jaipur during the oath-taking ceremony of Kalyan Singh, an ex-chief minister of UP and the “hero” of the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, as Rajasthan governor. When asked by some newsmen of the propriety of chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” by over-zealous invitees, Kalyan Singh retorted “what is wrong with it?” The reply of Kalyan Singh, who had assumed the office of governor, a constitutional post, a short while ago, is indicative of the shape of things to come.
In a related event, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech was telecast on state-owned Door Darshan (DD). Nobody bothered to take care to see that speeches by RSS leaders end up promoting communal discord. Never in the history of a public broadcaster in India has a political party leader or the head of a social or cultural organisation, been allowed to go on air. The BJP government at the Centre owes a lot of explaining RSS Chief’s use of DD for airing his communal views.
In a third such incident, minister in the Vajpayee government and the present UP governor, Ram Naik, invited Mohan Bhagwat and other senior leaders from the RSS for a lunch at Lucknow Raj Bhawan. This left the ruling Samajwadi party and the state Congress party leaders fuming. They accused the governor of converting Raj Bhawan into an extension of the local RSS office. By the time the news hit headlines, Naik came out with a statement defending his action and reiterating his status as a “swayamsewak” for life. Naik minced no words in saying on October 22 in Lucknow that he would always be a thorough RSS person, irrespective of the political or administrative positions he might hold.” This is reminiscent of the question of double membership raised by the veteran socialist leader Raj Narain in 1979 that led to fall of the Janata Party government following refusal by Jan Sangh leaders, who were part of the government, to sever all ties with the RSS. Instead of resigning from the membership of RSS, the Jan Sangh group in the Janata Party preferred its parent organisation over a political party they formed to contest Lok Sabha elections against Congress in 1977.
This is a brazen and deliberate attempt of the RSS to systematically undermine the Constitution and foist a system wedded to the Brahminical Order on the people. In an interview to a newspaper recently, Ram Naik concurred with the RSS agenda. His ambivalence is confounded when he says I hold a Constitutional post. So, I will desist from making political comments. He clarifies, “Before taking up this position I even resigned from BJP membership”. Resigning from the party’s membership does not amount to quitting the saffron organisation that controls as many as 150 outfits working in almost every sphere of life. Despite denials by the RSS that it influences the policies of the BJP, the fact remains that its pracharaks are regularly drafted for party work.
Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and other top brass of the party have had long innings as RSS pracharaks. Even today, all the major policy decisions are taken at Nagpur headquarters of RSS. Thus, so long as Naik is ideologically committed to RSS, his resignation from the BJP does not carry conviction with the people. His contention that he has met a number of political leaders like Congress leader Rita Bahuguna, BSP Chief Mayawati, UP Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, etc. during his three months in office, is unacceptable as Mohan Bhagwat is neither a political leader nor a constitutional office holder. He presides over an organisation that has no written code or a list of its members and office-bearers.
Eyebrows are natural to be raised over invitation to a person who is overtly or covertly making remarks that hurt the sentiments of a large segment of people of the nation. Naik may have been appointed as governor to garner support for the BJP in the assembly elections that are due in 2017. His overreach on issues exclusively in the domain of the state government may lead to confrontation between him and the Chief Minister. The 10-day conclave of RSS workers from all over the country, including the three-day meet of the karyakari mandal (executive committee) in Lucknow from October 17 to 19 last must be seen in that context.
UP has become crucial for the BJP. As reports suggest, Prime Minister Modi, too, is taking keen interest in the state. The BJP will pull out all stops to wrest UP from the ruling Samajwadi Party. It is high time for the democratic and secular parties to read between the lines and rise above petty politics for higher gains.