The traditional Vijayadashami address by the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, to a coronavirus-restricted small audience in Nagpur underlines an admirable consonance between the organisation and the Modi government. The areas of difference, if any, were hardly noticeable in the Sunday address of Bhagat, which got top billing in the national media for obvious reasons. Be it the handling of the Chinese intrusion or the economy or the management of political strife, for that matter, the RSS chief echoed approval of the BJP governments.
Touching upon the on-going stand-off on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, Bhagwat claimed this was the first time the Chinese were surprised to find a determined and firm resistance against the aggression. Clearly, the reference was to the fact that since 1962, China had grabbed close to 40,000 square kilometres of Indian territory without successive governments doing anything to reclaim it. In fact, during the 1962 war, Nehru had gone on AIR to virtually concede Assam to the aggressor, saying his heart 'goes out to the people of Assam.’ But when they occupied a few hundred square kilometres of Indian territory this April, instead of taking it lying down, India was fighting back, determined to reclaim the lost ground.
Bhagwat’s claim is bolstered by the way India had surprised China by occupying strategically located heights in the eastern region, which put the Chinese troops at a great disadvantage. On the economic front, the RSS reiterated the controversial Swadeshi line, showing preference for local as against foreign, a stance which comes through the prime ministerial theme, 'vocal for local’. Though economic pundits have serious doubts about battening down the hatches on imports and going back to the disastrous socialist-era policy of import-substitution, under the globalised economic order of the 21st century, such an inward-looking approach does not inspire confidence.
A confident nation imports the best in goods and services until it is able to manufacture it locally. Instead of forcing the economy to make do with tariff-protected shoddy goods and services, imports, especially for local value-addition, have seen China become the second biggest economy in the world in a couple of decades. Unfortunately, the voodoo Swadeshi economy, another name for socialist-era folly, finds ardent converts in the RSS and its political wing, the BJP. Maybe the first prerequisite for opening up the economy is the opening up of the mindscape ('sochh' in Hindi) of the ruling politicians.
On the internal political competition, predictably the RSS chief echoed the familiar narrative often heard from the BJP leaders. Bhagwat came down on the 'tukdey-tukdey' gang, endorsed the farm laws and the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and patted UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the way he had put down a vicious attempt to divide the society using the tragic Hathras atrocity against a Dalit girl. Overall, the RSS chief exuded confidence in the good work being done by the BJP governments. if there was any dissonance, it did not show in his traditional Vijayadashami address.
The other Dussehra peroration
Yet another Dussehra peroration was by the Shiv Sena head and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Attendance at the traditional rally at the Shivaji Stadium on Sunday was curtailed due to Covid-19, but this did not limit the bucketfuls of vitriol and vile poured out by the speaker, with the BJP leadership as its main target. Not unlike a spurned lover, Thackeray spoke more like a Sena leader than the chief minister of a three-party alliance in Maharashtra in these pandemic times when the state ranks among its worst sufferers.
If he referred edgeways to anything constructive he had done in government we failed to notice in news reports, though his litany of charges against the Modi Government was familiar. Smarting under the belief that the Centre was out to destabilise the 'Aghadi' government, he proclaimed its durability, and called the BJP leadership opportunistic, a sense of irony having completely escaped him. He seemed to make much of the recent exit of senior Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse from the party, suggesting it was the beginning of the end of the Hindutva party. He also drew hope from the exit of the Akali Dal from the NDA.
Clearly, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut seemed to have got under his skin, with the CM claiming his and his son and minister Aditya’s clean credentials while accusing her of abusing Mumbai’s hospitality. Right from the word go, Thackeray’s was a thoroughly polemical speech, good to pep up partisan supporters than to arouse the corona-hit people of the state with a message of hope and goodwill. Hopefully, such recriminations against an erstwhile ally will not detract him from the urgent task of governance. That should be his number one priority as chief minister, not abusing the BJP in his sleep.