High and low tide is the routine of life. The right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its leaders and ideology based on Hindutva that were 'outcast' in Indian polity so far have suddenly taken the center stage. While the people and ideologies that were ruling the masses and thus the government are pushed to the backyard. In came 'Modi-Raj' that saw the ‘outcasts’ being lifted from the warehouse to the drawing room. All RSS ideologies and 'Sutra' (formulas) that were held close to the hearts by right-wingers are now out in the open and they dare to make them the ‘Law of the Day’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's I-Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort is a glaring pointer.
The thrice-banned RSS (once during British times) is the new establishment. Courtesy its acolyte, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On August 15th, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat offered a rare and generous public praise to Modi for ending Kashmir's special status via Article 370. Bhagwat, punning on the BJP's campaign slogan "Modi hai toh mumkin hain (With Modi, everything becomes possible)", said, "Article 370 iss liye gaya kyonki Modi hai toh mumkim hai (Article 370 could be scrapped only because of Modi)". Nullifying Article 370's privileges for Kashmir constitutes one of the three core articles of faith for the RSS and the wider Sangh Parivar; the other two are introducing a common civil code so different religions cannot follow their own laws for issues like marriage and owning property, and building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Modi wins confidence of RSS
After speaking informally to a number of BJP and Sangh leaders I could arrive at two important points. Modi, and his top aide and Home Minister Amit Shah, have assured Bhagwat and his number two, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, that after Article 370, the other two agenda items will be carried out in this term of the union government under Modi. The RSS, now working in total tandem with Modi, has offered unstinted electoral support through its huge network of cadre and a place for Modi in the pantheon of Sangh greats.
Here we must admit and accept that the RSS and Modi relationship was not always this smooth. As in most matters concerning Modi, it was Shah, as party president during Modi's first term, who handled the matter. He made it a practice to call Bhagwat twice a week and was always available to the Sangh's top brass. Shah would travel to Nagpur once a month to ensure that he and Bhagwat remained on the same page and no government decision came as a shock to the Sangh. With the economy heading into deep crisis, the feeling in the BJP is that delivering on the cultural and ideological agenda will keep its core voters satisfied and ensure that the headlines are not restricted to unemployment and the slowdown.
There is a separate mechanism to handle a few crucial issues outside the government and/or the party folds. A tiny group of extremely powerful people is working carefully on the next moves. A senior BJP leader who is privy to the plans admitted that Article 370 was part of the BJP manifesto, yet nobody believed that the government would actually keep the promise. But Modi-Shah managed to. They are not part of the Sangh; they are the Sangh and also very intuitive leaders. They know that the repeal of 370 will bring us political windfall. India is now not squeamish about the fact that we are a ‘Hindu majority’ country. The mood has changed. Modi runs an ideological government and this is the time for the RSS to showcase itself to India and ensure that our values reflect in the country. This is an unwritten but carefully drafted policy.
Going by the recent political developments within the BJP it appears as though the RSS is running the country, so the point about showcasing is, arguably, moot. From the house on top of Raisina Hill - Rashtrapati Bhavan - to the top government offices and ministries in North and South block, are all run by former pracharaks (RSS volunteers). The RSS has funding like never before to communicate its ideology across the spectrum. It also has luminaries such as former president Pranab Mukherjee making house calls in Nagpur. Pranab Da's visit to Nagpur's Zanda Chowk Headquarters of the RSS was not an accident but a well-strategised plan.
Many eye-brows were raised as Modi made a careful reference to the issue of population control in his speech. Not many know that it was also a part of a careful script. The Modi government is already working on a scheme to incentivise small families. So what can we expect now? Incremental moves on the economy, no reining in of what is described as "tax terrorism", an outreach to industrialists asking them to chip in and do their bit. The Government is also making big and dramatic moves on the common civil code and Ram Mandir. With the Supreme Court holding daily hearings in the Ram Mandir case, the government is hoping for a positive verdict in time for the crucial election in Uttar Pradesh next year.
Uniform civil code in the offing?
What to follow? Many believe, it would be a uniform civil code, the demand that is reaching the surface at regular intervals. However, considering the present mental situation at the nation’s level, introduction of a Common Civil Code is comparatively simpler, possibly following the Article 370 route in both houses of parliament. Modi has ensured his legacy with Kashmir. For the Sangh, he is now ahead of any other leader that the BJP has produced including Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Many senior Sangh ideologues believe this to be true.
To say the least, Modi and Amit Shah have taken the pulse of the RSS and thus chances of a serious tussle between the RSS and the BJP, particularly the Modi-Shah duo have come to a minimum. Whether this situation is good or bad, only time will tell.
The writer is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).
- BharatKumar Raut