New Delhi: It is payback time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In exchange for the volunteer services the RSS provided him during the Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi offered the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat the forum of the public broadcaster Doordarshan for a live telecast of his annual Vijaya Dashmi oration from Nagpur.
The RSS was founded on this day in 1925 and the event has been on for 89 years, and this is the first time it has been found ‘newsworthy’ by the government-owned public broadcaster. Even during the six-year rule of the Vajpayee-led NDA government, the RSS, normally described as a remote control of the BJP, could not get this facility. Clearly, now the remote control has taken charge of the television itself. Both Modi and Vajpayee are members of the RSS and refer to themselves as proud swayamsewaks.
The move, perhaps calculated, invited the ire of the opposition Congress, the left Parties and secular intellectuals. Senior leaders, including former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, party spokespersons Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Sandeep Dikshit, all hit out at the government for misusing public funds to propagate an ideology that is not acceptable to all. Dikshit said, ‘‘It is a dangerous tradition. This is not an organisation which is completely neutral. It is a controversial organisation.”
Khurshid added: “We do not accept the record of RSS as being above board in terms of our national aspirations”.
But Bhagwat does wield the power behind the throne with a lot of alacrity. In the aftermath of the BJP’s massive victory, as Modi was conferring the man of the match title on his confidant Amit Shah and naming Rajnath Singh as the skipper of the winning team, the Sangh chief made a sharp observation that quickly dispelled all doubts. He said: “Some are giving credit to the party while others are giving credit to some individuals for the victory. But the organization and the party were there earlier too and so were the individuals. What happened then? It is the people, who wanted change during the elections, who brought the party to power.”
Interestingly, Bhagwat’s hour long speech, during which he referred to his notes as well, did not name Prime Minister Modi though there were positives references to the ‘new government.’ He saw positive signs emanating from time to time that give hope about emergence of the country on the international horizon and expressed the hope that the people’s desire of a life, secure and progressing in all its aspects, would soon start reflecting in the governance. He also wanted the government to now ensure that its policies maintain their momentum in a determined and well organized manner.
But it was his ‘swadeshi’ chant that struck the wrong note, as Modi tries to go global with his plans for the economy. Bhagwat said: ‘‘It is necessary that policies of the government should take the nation towards self reliance and should encourage entrepreneurship among the people, but it is equally important for the people to encourage consumption of Swadeshi products. Our tendency of buying daily need goods, even buying foreign made statues of our Gods and Goddesses, simply because they are cheaper in price, needs to be abandoned”.
Irrespective of the content of the speech, and the reactions to the decision, this is a major step forward for the RSS in its outreach programme. Long accustomed to shunning the media and describing itself as ‘prasiddhi paramukh’– averse to publicity — the idiosyncratic organisation is now out to control the limbs of government and party.
Two of its pracharaks — Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash — have already taken positions in the BJP after it came to power. Now the RSS diktat would run without any hitch in Doordarshan as well.