Everybody is talking of whether or not Congress and the rest of the Opposition made a mistake not accepting the invitation to attend the RSS meet. But ask about the timing of the meet, why now? Therein, probably, lies a story, or maybe two. One of them linked to the Opposition’s decision to spurn the invite.
Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh assembly elections are just weeks away. General election 2019 is less than a year away. Opposition parties sense victory if they stick together. It will be political hara-kiri for the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to be seen shaking hands with the RSS, a Hindu organisation aiming to turn ‘secular India’ into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, at this point of time.
The Muslim vote-bank, which is the Opposition’s weapon to dethrone Modi, will not forgive any party striking a rapport with the RSS, even remotely. Especially not when, according to NCP’s Majid Memon, every “secular opposition party” is engaged in convincing Muslims in 200 Lok Sabha constituencies, where they have a sizeable presence, to vote to overthrow the “hated RSS-BJP” government.
Memon says the drive is on in earnest and it is imperative that it succeeds. “Muslims can make a difference in 200 constituencies. We are in a position to ensure the defeat of the BJP in all of them,” he told a television channel. “Modi’s outreach to Muslim sects will not change that.” And, most likely, the RSS’s move to ‘engage’ also will not. But it can also be because Modi might be succeeding to a degree in his mission impossible.
Maybe, a similar invite in 2016 or 2017 would have elicited a “suitable response” but an invite close to 2019 general election was destined to be spurned, rejected outright. So, why did the RSS go to the trouble getting spurned? That, too, could be political. The RSS has with the invite taken the high moral ground: It is “democratic”; it is “ready to be understood”; it is not out to “convince”, only to set the record straight.
And coming not long after Rahul Gandhi hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi – keen to spread the milk of kindness and “love” on even the most reviled adversary – the RSS’s invitation to political parties to engage with a “most unique” organisation laid bare the Congress party and its “inclusive” boast.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, in his speech on Monday, said at the outset that the 3-day meet was not to “convince” those who did not want to be convinced. That it was to state the “reality of the RSS,” its raison d’etre to exist. A message has gone that the RSS is, contrary to allegations, a unifying force and broadminded enough to listen to all voices, understand them and accommodate them.
Bhagwat went to the extent of giving the Congress credit for playing a “big role” in India’s freedom struggle. “In the form of Congress, a big freedom movement had started in the country which gave many great personalities,” the 68-year-old born after Independence said, probably making historian Romila Thapar to gag on the studiously-placed understatement.
There was no mention of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru or for that matter Sardar Patel. But one “freedom-fighter” who Bhagwat spoke of in detail was KB Hegdewar, whose life-story he linked with the freedom struggle so inextricably that it will stick like superglue in impressionable minds.
Bhagwat told the history of the RSS at a time when it’s the turn of the fourth post-Independence generation to pick up the baton. The timing of the meet is crucial to the BJP. One, to consolidate Hindu votes behind the BJP. Two, it links the young Hindu with “Bharat Ka future”, which is the theme of the three-day meet.
A message has gone to this generation and the generation-next at a time when the RSS is growing in “leaps and bounds.” Simply told, the three-day RSS meet is win-win for RSS/BJP. Mohan Bhagwat in his understated way drummed into heads that the RSS is “unique”, “democratic” and “inclusive”.
It was a given fact that none of the opposition parties making up the grand alliance would take up the invitation. That response was factored in. It’s unthinkable that a father will leave his son in the lurch. One more election-win under the RSS/BJP belt and there will be no more invitations going to anyone anywhere.
Aditya Aamir is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.