During the time the BJP-led government was giving final shape to GST, some RSS affiliates expressed their opposition in discussions with top government authorities. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh leaders questioned the possible dissolution of cess-based welfare schemes; Swadeshi Jagran Manch complained that GST discriminated against small industries and favoured “big businesses”. The government went ahead with the tax reform.
In the last several months, RSS affiliates have criticised the government on issues ranging from demonetisation to GST, and on institutions from Niti Aayog to the IB. There had been dissent during the previous NDA regime too, with Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh leader Dattopant Thengadi taking out a large rally in Delhi challenging the authority of the then PM.
The opposition of BMS led to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime shelving its planned labour reforms. In contrast, the Narendra Modi regime has appeared unmoved by the criticism of GST. On the other hand, the RSS sacked its Goa chief Subhash Velingkar when he raised his voice against the BJP last year
A look at the dissent within:
Swadeshi Jagran Manch
It criticism has been the strongest, including that the “much publicised Make in India has not delivered any impact of consequence”. On the SJM website, a headline reads, “RSS affiliate now targets NITI Aayog”; another goes, “Sangh’s body will ask the central government the secret to promoting PayTM”. It accused Niti Aayog of running a “corporate agenda”. In a resolution in May, the SJM national council said jobs are “growing only at 1%, a dismal state of affairs”. It questioned government claims on FDI, saying “about 50% is from destinations like Mauritius and Singapore notorious for round tripping of black money”, and that “FDI will lead to job reduction”. A November 2016 resolution, too, had taken “serious note of the rapidly diminishing employment opportunities”.
In May, SJM co-convener Ashwani Mahajan wrote to Modi blaming the health ministry and Niti Aayog for “colluding” with pharmaceutical companies to “sabotage the drug price control regime”. “Your departments are acting against what you have promised the people of India,” he wrote. Recently, SJM said GST works against the interests of small-scale industries.
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh
“RSS-Backed Farmers’ Body Protests in Rajasthan, Takes On BJP Government,” says a headline on the BKS website. It has held demonetisation and government apathy responsible for the agrarian crisis. It held protests in several BJP-ruled states against agriculture policies. “[The farmer] is facing losses due to poor purchase of produce by the government,” BKS vice president Prabhakar Kelkar told The Indian Express. “Due to demonetisation, there is no cash. Farmers are forced to make distress sales.” Kelkar criticised BJP governments at the Centre and the states: “They promised a loan waiver in UP, but when it was announced [by the CM], Arun Jaitley made a statement that the Centre would not help.”
Rajasthan’s BKS general secretary Kailash Gandoliya recently led a protest against the state government. “The government said it could not purchase [groundnuts] due to central guidelines. Farmers suffered a loss of Rs 4,000 crore…” he said. “Modiji had repeatedly promised us that when our government is formed, we will give extra 50% of MSP and ensure proper purchase. But they have failed us.”
He noted that Modi calls himself “pradhan sevak”. “When they come to us for votes, they promise to remain a sevak, but when they come to power they work against farmers… Farmers are committing suicide all over. Modiji is totally silent,” he said.
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh
“We have been against demonetisation,” Baij Nath Rai, BMS president until May and now senior executive, told The Indian Express. “We believe it is not an economic reform. It will only increase poverty, hurt common people. It will not help the country at all.” Accusing the government of “anti-people steps”, he said, “Niti Aayog has become the Special Body of the PM. Not one member has an understanding of ground reality.”
In its national conference in May, BMS brought out a 14-point statement against Niti Aayog. “The model it has proposed does not suit Indian conditions. It is becoming a job killer. Bureaucrats are governing the country,” said BMS president C K Sajinarayanan, who led a team that recently met government authorities and expressed their opposition to certain provisions of GST. “Cess-based welfare schemes in nine sectors for workers will be affected once the cess is withdrawn.”
Vishwa Hindu Parishad
It has repeatedly criticised the government for ignoring the interests of Hindus, its handling of Kashmir and the China borders, and the delay in building a Ram temple. Now, VHP working president Pravin Togadia has written a letter accusing the IB of “snooping” and equating the present situation with “Emergency time”. “We were saddened and shocked to hear and see the Central IB officers questioning VHP, India Health Line & Hindu Help Line volunteers at various places,” he wrote. “We demand immediate apology from the Central IB and from the Ministry under which it works.”
“Thousands of farmers” and “hundreds” of unemployed youths have been “committing suicide”, he said, adding the IB “could have saved many lives had it been working with the people getting inputs of despair and depression among the farmers and the youth”. Last year, Togadia expressed “utmost dissatisfaction and agony” with Modi’s remarks that 80 per cent gau rakshaks are anti-social, saying it was an “insult not only of Mother cow but also of Hindus and all those who gave their lives for protecting cows”.