Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most of his Cabinet colleagues appeared before the leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, last week and reported on the work they have done since his National Democratic Alliance government took office.
The occasion was a three-day meeting of the RSS-BJP Coordination Committee.
The RSS team, comprising more than 90 leaders, was headed by its supremo, Mohan Bhagwat. They evaluated the performance of the ministers, who are members of the organisation, and provided inputs for future course of action.
Modi came on the last day and gave an overview of the government’s activities. Mohan Bhagwat said later the government’s performance was “very satisfactory”.
The RSS, founded in 1925, says its mission is to carry India to the pinnacle of glory by “organising the entire society and ensuring the protection of Hindu Dharma”. Its membership is limited to Hindu males. Its definition of Hindu includes all “who live in Bharat (which the Constitution recognises as another name of India) and who subscribe to the world view of Bharat,” whatever faith they profess. However, the Muslim and Christian minorities are “others” in its scheme of things.
The BJP and its predecessor, the Jana Sangh, were formed with the blessings of the RSS. The first BJP Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, could operate without being troubled by the RSS bosses as he had to hold together a coalition of more than 20 parties. His government worked on the basis of the NDA”s common minimum programme, keeping the Hindutva agenda in abeyance.
Unlike Vajpayee, Modi owes his prime ministership entirely to the RSS. If it had not intervened on his behalf, he could not have become the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate overcoming the resistance of party veterans Lal Kishen Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The RSS, which has a network of 50,000 units across the country, pressed into service more than 100,000 volunteers to work for the BJP’s candidates during the Lok Sabha elections. It can, therefore, claim credit for the party’s electoral triumph.
Led by the Congress, the opposition came out against the BJP ministers’ meeting with the RSS leaders. They claimed that the RSS was an extra-constitutional authority holding the remote control and that the ministers had violated the oath of office by discussing government programmes with it.
Senior RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabele retorted that the Congress which ran the government by remote control had no right to question them. He said the RSS leaders had only exchanged ideas with their associates who had become ministers.
The Opposition criticism of the exercise as violation of the ministerial oath misses the real point, which is the impact of the RSS’s direct entry into governmental decision-making. Earlier the government had appointed persons handpicked by the RSS as heads of various academic and cultural bodies, opening the way for promotion of Hindutva ideology through them.
The BJP is a political party with an electoral mandate, albeit a weak one, based on a minority of votes. It is therefore entitled to run the administration in accordance with the Constitution. The RSS is a shadowy organisation which has repeatedly challenged, in word as well as deed, the ideals of democracy and secularism and the principles of equality and equal opportunity, which are the cornerstones of the constitutional edifice.
What’s more, the RSS has been implicated, directly or indirectly, in communal riots from the Partition days to the present. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Union Home Minister, had banned it after Gandhi’s assassination. He lifted the ban and allowed it to function as a cultural organisation after it disavowed political intentions and complied with his directive to adopt a written constitution.
It was banned for a while also after its activists demolished the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.
The RSS website is silent on the constitution it adopted at Patel’s instance. “Our one supreme goal,” it proclaims, “is to bring to life the all-round glory and greatness of our Hindu Rashtra (nation).”
The Hindu Rashtra concept is at variance with India’s Constitutional objective of a democratic, socialist, secular republic.
Modi has been able to please his RSS mentors. But the task of pleasing the people whom he promised good days remains. -Gulf Today, Sharjah, September 8, 2015