Some time between 7.30 am and 8 am on Thursday, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat walked out of the Sangh’s headquarters to exercise his franchise at the polling station at the Bhauji Daftari Prathmik Shala nearby.
All officebearers of the Sangh residing at the organisation’s headquarters in the heart of Nagpur followed him. The building, which has faced a terror threat in the past, had been put under heavy security. A hundred police personnel guarded the building, besides 15 commandos of a quick response team.
Inside the headquarters, there was no indication that an election deemed important to the Sangh was under way.
Pracharaks went about routine organizational work seemingly disconnected entirely from the world outside.
“The role of the RSS was confined to promoting and participating in the citizen’s right to vote campaign. The idea was to create awareness, and encourage citizens to exercise their franchise. It was an initiative taken by the RSS chief to convey to people that they should vote to make a difference in public life. Beyond that we are nowhere in the picture,” a senior RSS functionary said.
Through the day on the first major day of polling, Bhagwat remained confined to headquarters. But no politician came calling, nor was there any meeting to discuss the elections. Bhagwat appeared completely uninterested in the way voting was proceeding.
An RSS pracharak who had just returned after voting said he had not switched on the TV to check how things were. “Each one of us is assigned an organisational duty which takes precedence over events outside. Mohanji’s routine is no different,” he said.
Another senior functionary said, “The emphasis of the RSS is on the organisation and its agenda of character-building. Elections are just one aspect, we cannot be occupied entirely by it.”
Asked how the RSS philosophy of putting the organisation above the individual tied in with the Modi-centric campaign of the BJP, the functionary said, “If political parties have to adopt a Modi-centric campaign as part of strategy, there is nothing wrong. Why should it undermine the organisation’s strength or its relevance? Anyway, this is an issue
that the BJP has to tackle, not the RSS.”