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RSS AND THE BJP: The supposed ideological battle between the two is a myth

Paper No. 157

by R.Upadhyay

" The installation of a powerful political personality as the Chief Minister of UP, coming to power in Goa, heading the Government in Uttaranchal and a likely coalition Government in Jharkhand are the sure signs that the BJP is IN THE LEAD" ( ORGANISER Dated November 5)

Contrary to frequent criticism of Vajpayee Government by the RSS leaders, encouraging compliments to the BJP by the RSS weekly ORGANISER is quite significant.  It looks like the Sangh Parivar is  firing its first shot to alert its cadres and supporters for the assembly polls due next year in UP, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Manipur.  It is also a signal that despite perceptional differences between the two on certain issues, the parent body will not remain a silent spectator, if the BJP is to face an electoral challenge from its opponents. But does the RSS  have any better option than the present BJP Government under the prevailing political situation?

The RSS, after covering its journey of 75 years has reached a stage, that it is under a tactical compulsion to play the double role of supporting its political offspring on one hand and to occupy the space of the opposition.  Aware that this contradiction could create confusion among their cadres and supporters, the leaders are left with no option but to manage contradictions:  1. to embarrass their own Government by reviving the Hindutva card and 2. to see that their actions do not reach a point, that would affect the stability of Vajpayee Government.

At the same time RSS cannot throw away the ideological gains of last 75 years in the euphoria created by Vajpayee's line of governance.  Its criticism of uncontrolled globalisation and the economic policy of the Government is therefore, a part of its strategy.  It has its compulsions to keep its cadres together.  It cannot therefore compromise with the policies of the Government, which do not fit in its ideological frame. The RSS has occupied the space of opposition, and this is being interpreted in the media as "ideological battle".

The BJP leadership in the Government at centre is also in a similar 'catch 22' situation with  its own compulsions of governance in a coalition. Yet they cannot afford to have any confrontation with an organisation in which not only are they  deeply associated but also cannot survive politically without its support. The silence of Vajpayee on the controversial statements of RSS Chief Sudarshan at Nagpur on Vijaya Dashami Day( October 7) and at Agra during Rashtriya Suraksha Mahashivir (National Security Camp - October 13-15) is a part of his tactics to allow the dust to rise , which will gradually settle down. Similarly, the presence of Union Ministers like Advani, Sushama Swaraj, Rajnath Singh ( the then Union Minister and presently the Chief Minister of UP) and others in Agra conclave may not mean their open endorsement of what the conclave organisers had said, but it was a part of friendly political play with a view to send a message to the party cadres and supporters that both the RSS and the BJP are ideologically the two sides of the same coin despite their own compulsions in respective fields.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in the country. With the largest numbers from Lok Sabha and Assembly, it has to its credit of having had seven Prime ministers out of eleven so far.  It also had a major contribution in making the BJP the single largest party in Lok Sabha since 1996 elections. But ever since the decline in the strength of the party from 57 in 1998 to 29 in 1999 in this state, the BJP has not yet been able to recover. The gradual erosion of its base in this state as reflected in some of the bye elections,  followed by its poor performance in June-July Panchayat poll and overall demoralisation in party cadres due to worst- ever defeat in the Panchayat and Municipal Corporation in Gujarat has become a cause of major concern for the party. Against such a dismal picture, the forthcoming electoral battle in UP Assembly scheduled for next year is presently  the top priority of the BJP.   A  general impression  has been created in the mind  of its cadres that the BJP is headed for a defeat in this heartland of the party.  The recent poll survey also predicted that the BJP would be placed in number three position against its rivals after the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party of Ms Mayawati.

The actual political fighters in the BJP, who are to face the main challenge of aggressive Mulayam Singh Yadav, fire brand Mayawati and Muslim voters, who may repeat their tactical voting against the BJP as they did in 1999 Lok Sabha poll,  do not have anything concrete to offer to the common mass of UP, that  is  polarised  on caste lines.  These voters have nothing to gain after the creation of three new states, which the party has claimed as its achievement.

The claim of the Prime minister on his government's achievements during its one year rule, which include "corruption free governance", "transparency in Government and probity in public life", "harmonious centre-state relations", "steady improvement in the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and North East" etc. ( Vajpayee's statement issued in Mumbai on completion of one year of his government on October 13) hardly have any visible bearing on the day to day problems of the common voters of UP. Similarly, the other achievements of the government as claimed by party leaders include constitutional amendment on issue of reservation for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe, the economic policies initiated by the government and major success in its foreign policy.  These so called achievements are beyond the level of the understanding of the voters in streets, who are more interested in their minimum requirements of safe drinking water, medical facility and effort to elevate them from below poverty line.  Bangaru Laxman, National President of the BJP in a press conference (New Delhi- October 31) admitted, "Unfortunately, we still have many families in India, that cannot buy rice at BPL (Below Poverty Line) rates" and urged upon the Government " to sell more rice and wheat at cheaper rates to alleviate the hunger of the one crore most impoverished families" and " take decisive steps towards fulfilling the election promises of making India hunger-free." (Times of India dated November 1)

As a part of damage control exercise Vajpayee and Advani took a bold decision and replaced Ram Prakash Gupta by installing Rajnath Singh as Chief Minister of UP.  This may be considered as a significant achievement of the party, if Rajnath Singh, who is known as a tough, dashing and efficient administrator could turn the political tide in the state in BJP's favour.

Deferment of the decision on the date for construction of a temple at Ayodhya by the VHP in its meeting of Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal (Central Advisory Committee) at Ramnathi in Goa on October 18-19 is another significant move of the Sangh Parivar to avoid any embarrassment to the BJP in the coming election year.  This shows that the coming Assembly polls in UP are the concern of entire Sangh Parivar. Had there been any ideological battle within Sangh Parivar, the UP election was a right opportunity to teach a lesson to Vajpayee.  The Sangh family may have perceptional differences on certain issues but if it comes to a fight against common opponents, the saffron brotherhood would prevail to unite them.

Another example of the united face of the saffron family is the inter transfer of Vishnu Kant Shastri, a known ideologue of the RSS and Suraj Bhan to the governor's post in UP and Himachal Pradesh. Though, the anti-BJP media has given a different colour to this change that Suraj Bhan was very active in UP for Dalit's cause and as such he was shifted to Himachal Pradesh, but the real intention of the party may be to install Vishnu Kant Shastri in UP for better coordination with the Chief Minister, as both of them are deeply associated in the ideological philosophy of the RSS.  This may also help the BJP to motivate its cadres in the coming Assembly poll in the state.

Bangaru Laxman, President of the BJP, while allocating assignments to his new team of office bearers has placed three former Pracharaks of the RSS for strengthening the organisation.  The post of Organising Secretary in the BJP is considered to be the second most important post in the party. Narendra Modi has been given the responsibility of this post, which will also be shared by two Vice-Presidents namely Jana Krishnamurthy and Pyarelal Khandelwal.  Pyarelal Khandelwal has also been given the charge of the organisation for UP.

The RSS leaders share a general perception in political circles that even if the BJP is defeated in UP election, it may not pose an immediate threat to Vajpayee Government. However, the defeat of the party in UP may encourage the BJP's opponents to revive the third front under the leadership of Jyoti Basu, the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, who has now decided to get involved in national politics.  The Sangh leaders would not like to provide such an opportunity to their rivals and may therefore, support the BJP with full vigour.

The so called ideological battle between the RSS and the BJP is a myth created by the Press and those analysts who do not understand the deep-rooted relationship between the two organisations.