BJP can’t allow RSS to set its agenda

SS DhawanUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2019, 03:16 AM IST
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THIS EXTRANEOUS ‘authority’ may masquerade as a cultural society — or it may indeed be one; it may be an ideological parent or just a mentor; or it may be a purely symbiotic relationship; whatever the innate nature of the quid pro quo, it has no divine right to control the business of the nation.

How can a legitimate BJP government allow an extraneous ‘influence’ like the RSS — which has neither the popular mandate nor the sanction of the constitution — the latitude to leave its imprint on public policy and national agenda? For that matter, how can elected representatives of any party, who are the repositories of our trust, allow, without our knowledge or consent,  any ‘outsourcing’ of matters of public policy?

Will it not be a clear breach of the fiduciary relationship — one of implicit trust — that the elected representatives share with the voters? Such matters are to be decided by the ruling dispensation and in all probability that is the case; but why should there even be a perception that certain contentious matters are being decided not in the government or the party but in public domain by the extraneous ‘authority’?

So, if the public perception is not correct, but merely a corollary of convergence of ideological views, the onus is clearly on the ruling dispensation to dispel the misgivings and put the matter in perspective? Let the nation breathe easy! Because what really creates confusion and hurts the system is the perception that the political party is willingly putting itself in a position of ‘compliance’, even though it has an overwhelming mandate.

This extraneous ‘authority’ may masquerade as a cultural society — or it may indeed be one; it may be an ideological parent or just a mentor; or it may be a purely symbiotic relationship; whatever the innate nature of the quid pro quo, it has no divine right to control the business of the nation. Because any political trespass, with or without the intent of accessing levers of power, raises a simple question in public mind: Who is running this country? What happened to our mandate?

These assumptions were generally not made about leaders like Vajpayee because they were successful in adopting a political posture that they were not obliged to adhere to the ‘wishes’ of the RSS. Possibly this had a lot to do with their own relationship with the parent party, which was one of parity. As has been documented by several journalists, their seniority and personality made all the difference and, most important, their desire to be perceived as ‘independent minded.’

Since most BJP elected representatives are rookies who feel indebted to the RSS cadres for their electoral upswing, one tends to make the ‘wrong’ assumption that they must be bending backwards to accommodate the mentor. Often the analogy gets stretched further: the inference is that a ‘tacit understanding’ is at work which stems from a Faustian pact between the two; not easily discernible, the sentiment often gets camouflaged in an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the party may feel towards the mentor.

 If at all the influence is acknowledged, it is euphemistically described as an effort to ”explain, counsel and make the party understand.” But by making such assertions that it does not give unsolicited advice, the mentor is merely adding to the ideological confusion. Just because any one has a special cozy relationship with the political party, which affords him a ring side view of the government, does not mean you can give any ‘Aadesh’ from the back room; infiltrate into pockets of influence; or draw the red lines for babus not aligned with your ideology; or chaperone the ministers, often leading them by the hand; and play the political nanny to the government!

By doing so, you reinforce the impression that this extraneous ‘authority’ can whimsically interfere with the freedom of citizens; it can control the eating habits of people, tamper with the school and college curricula; change heads of institutions; declare an open season for maligning ‘others’; in short, ride roughshod over the nation!

This is a deadly solvent and the results are immediately apparent: One, there is a vicious assault on citizen’s democratic rights; two, a subtle message goes to the media that If you mess with us, there will be heavy costs to pay. Result: other institutions take the cue and allow themselves to be co-opted; even the right thinking citizens feels intimidated enough to keep their own counsel; and the rest go with the flow.

Thus the business of governance is not merely thrown off course but the entire nation is pushed to the fringe — the outer limits of sanity; the gulf between the conservative and the liberal widens; the ‘secular’ ambience gets vitiated. Only then one realises that the real intruder in our lives is this extraneous ‘authority’, which is neither accountable to Parliament nor to the people.  Hypothetically speaking, one would readily make an allowance for such transgressions if some special expertise was on offer; but what indeed is their professional or academic merit that one allows these amateurs to sit on the nation’s head like an incubus and chart out are national course?

Honestly, years from now I don’t wish to tell my grandchildren that we had a prime minister who had a great development agenda and an overweening confidence in the long-term, especially the watershed year 2022 when only good things are destined to happen to an entity called New India, but squandered the grand opportunity.

Just because he allowed an extra-constitutional authority to ride roughshod over him and impose its foolish and irresponsible agenda on the nation. The Prime Minister, too, should have similar misgivings about saffron goals, which are clearly incompatible with his development objectives; in fact, he should be feeling marginalised and persecuted like the rest of us. Almost like a hapless swayamsevak who must stick to the RSS template and respond to the diktat from his feudal overlords.

Ironically, this malaise afflicts most parties — some kind of an  overbearing influence is often at work — it could be a political mentor, a coterie of big interest groups, a religious and temporal head, or a power centre within the party which usurps the authority of the government but without accountability. Perhaps, all such political parties need to come out with a disclaimer at the time of election: that they are tied to somebody else’s apron strings; that the party is just a “front office and that it has no pretence about being independent”.

But there is one political party that also needs to put out a statutory warning during elections — that it’s heady mix of ideology might be dangerous for the health of the polity. Let us put the genie back in the bottle!

The author is editor of The Free Press Journal.

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