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RSS-BJP RELATIONSHIP- What is new and Why this war cry?

Paper No. 153

By R.Upadhyay

The recently concluded two important gatherings of the RSS- one at Nagpur on its 75th birth anniversary (Vijaya Dashami Day- October 7) and other at Agra in three-day (October 13-15) Rashtriya Suraksha Mahashivir (National Security Camp) have once again provided the opposition parties an opportunity to attack  the BJP on the issue of its relations with the RSS.

K.S.Sudarshan, the fifth Sarsanghchalak of the RSS in his first customary Vijaya Dashami Day (Foundation Day) message on October 7 gave a call to Indian Christians to set up their Swadeshi (indigenous) Churches on the pattern prevailing in China and to Muslims of the country for Indianisation of Islam.  He urged upon both the communities to join the mainstream of the country.

Re-iterating his appeal to the Muslims during his speech in the concluding session of Agra conclave on October 15, Sudarshan reminded them that "they had the blood of Rama and Krishna in their veins."  He further asked them, "why are you linking yourselves with the invader, Babur, whose mausoleum stands neglected even in Islamic Afghanistan." Union Home Minister L.K.Advani and UP Chief Minister R.P.Gupta were also present along with over 50,000 Swayamsevaks, when the RSS Chief addressed the gathering.

As expected, the political adversaries of the BJP were agitated over the presence of Union Home Minister in one of the two gatherings of the RSS, where its Chief openly proclaimed the 'Hindu agenda' of the organisation. They allege that Advani's presence in the Agra conclave of the RSS, would mean an endorsement of the Union Minister to the views expressed by Sudarshan.

Undeterred by the wide-range reaction against his presence in Agra meet of the RSS, Advani categorically asserted before the press that the "historical bond" between the RSS and  BJP is such that the latter cannot dissociate itself from the former.  The unbreakable bond between the BJP led coalition and the RSS is based on moral principles.  Reminding his opponents about the roots of his party, he said, " We walked out of the Janata Party Government because we were told to dissociate ourselves from the RSS.  The forces, which are bent on raising the issue once again should be reminded that the BJP was born after that very experiment."  Equating the ties between the RSS and the BJP somewhat akin to that of Nehru led Congress Government, with Gandhian philosophy, he asked his opponents, "did anyone question the Nehru Government on Gandhian philosophy - on issues relating to cow slaughter?"

The CPI(M) urged the non-BJP constituents of the NDA "to re-think about their continuance in the alliance as the BJP was pursuing anti-people economic policies and had a hidden agenda of establishing a Hindu Rashtra".

The CPI General Secretary A.B.Bardhan in a statement said, "The RSS, which is wedded to fascist ideology is using the communal card again as it did in 1991-92 to take political mileage out of Ram temple movement".  In a reference to the presence of Advani in Agra meet of the RSS he said, "he subscribed to the rabid communal ideology".

The Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh asked the NDA allies to sever their ties with the BJP in the wake of Sudarshan’s statements. The Nationalist Congress Party also joined the band wagon in condemning Sudarshan for his statements.

Reacting sharply against the Advani's stand on the RSS, the Congress spokesman Anand Sharma asked the Prime Minister to clarify whether the stand of his Government was similar to that of his Home Minister.  He said, "This is the first time that the country was divided between those, who accept Gandhi as the father of the nation and those who accept the authority of the RSS."

In view of the shrill opposition raised against Sudarshan and Advani by the political adversaries of the BJP, its president Bangaru Laxman in a press statement (Gurdaspur-Punjab October 19) maintained that the views expressed by the RSS Chief at Agra do not represent the views of the BJP.

The relationship between the RSS and the BJP is well known. It has been a subject of controversy right from the days of Jana Sangh. But the issue became a focal point for the opposition parties, when the BJP led NDA came to power in 1998.  The allies of the BJP were fully aware with this reality when they joined the NDA and contested last Lok-Sabha poll with a joint manifesto and an agenda of governance.

The, presence of Union Home Minister in the RSS meeting is not in violation of any provisions of the National Agenda of Governance formulated by the partners of the NDA. Even the Prime Minister had visited the RSS headquarters in August last, where he had addressed the RSS Swayamsevaks and made no secret of his emotional attachment to the organisation. He also shared a common platform with the working president of the VHP Ashok Singhal in USA. The opposition leaders besides making allegations that the BJP leaders in the Government are working under the dictation of the RSS have not provided the logical proof .  How do they explain  L.K.Advani’s rejection of trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir which RSS is demanding?

The opposition is currently found demoralised.  The Congress party is in a state of confusion due to its internal tussle on the leadership issue. Similarly, the CPI(M) is in a state of demoralisation following its de-recognition as a national party. It is also not sure of retaining its power in West Bengal after the Assembly polls due next year in the state.  In its three-day (October 20-22) special conference, the whole exercise was to rescue the party from its present state. The decision of the party in 1996 against its participation in the Government at centre was viewed as a "historical blunder" by a section within the party.  It has now decided to revive the third front and make itself politically relevant as a national player. The other opposition parties do not have any significant issue to raise against the Government.  They have therefore, joined the issue with the sole aim to embarrass the NDA Government.

If we look back at  the priorities of the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, there is nothing new in his statements. After taking over as RSS Chief on March 10 this year,  Sudarshan said, "Besides the metamorphosis of RSS, the new millennium will see the explosion of Hindutva" (Organiser dated March 19,2000).  In his first open address to the Swayamsevaks he said, "the new age would see the positive expression of Hindutva to every segment of socio cultural life and Hindutva would dawn upon the world as supreme philosophy and way of life".

The present designs of the opposition parties may remind the people of their behaviour ever since the BJP led NDA came to power at centre in 1998. They have wasted more time and energy both within and outside the parliament in dragging the Government into the controversy of its relationship with the RSS than in the discussion on real issues of public interest. The relationship between the RSS and the BJP, is a non issue and there is no secrecy.

The RSS is also to blame to some extent . Knowing the propensity of the opposition to embarrass the government on this sensitive issue it is not clear why the RSS Chief in his series of statements at Nagpur and Agra repeatedly highlighted the well known Hindu agenda of his organisation. The only plausible answer is as informally debated within the BJP, to contain the likely erosion of pro Hindutva base of the party following the minority friendly approach of party president Bangaru Laxman.

One section in the party feels that the statements of Sudarshan and presence of Advani in Agra conclave of the RSS are to thwart the attempt of Bangaru Laxman to woo the minorities.  Another section with deeper roots in RSS are convinced that the Muslims will never vote for the BJP so long the Ram Temple issue is alive. According to them BJP might have surrendered its Hindu agenda for the time being but the people of the country including the Muslims will not differentiate between the RSS and the BJP in this matter.

Another interpretation is that the whole exercise behind Sudarshan episode is that, it is a tactical move of the Sangh Parivar for electoral gains to the BJP in UP Assembly elections, which is due next year.  The message of the RSS Chief and presence of Advani in the Agra gathering of the organisation may indirectly consolidate the Hindu voters, who are now divided on caste lines.

The leaders of the Sangh Parivar are quite realistic in their understanding that they cannot transform the mindset of the Indian Muslims to the pre-Islamic era of Indian history.  But they have been raising this issue right from the day the RSS was formed with a view to uniting the Hindu society. On the other hand their political opponents continue to launch an active and aggressive campaign to counter them. This may go on, whatever be the merits or demerits of the issue.

The country has gone through enough of the negative game played by the political parties. People expect responsible behaviour from their political guardians, whether they are in opposition or in the government.  Is it too much to expect from them?