The year 2015 began for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) badly: it had to send one of its pracharaks on ‘leave’ for his aggressive campaign of `ghar wapsi’ in western Uttar Pradesh (UP) and its sister party, the BJP, faced a thumping electoral defeat in the national capital– once the stronghold of the RSS-BJP.
In between, there was the BJP’s equally humiliating defeat in Bihar and finally at the end of the year, on December 28, RSS pracharak Ram Madhav who works for the BJP, had to apologise, clarify his comments on the desirability Akhand Bharat.
If there is one lesson for the RSS from 2015, it is that RSS leaders must realize that they are now practically running the union government and so their views on ghar wapsi, reservation and Akhand Bharat, etc. have created difficulties for the BJP led government.
None more so, than RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments on the need to review the reservation policy which were merely a repetition of RSS’s three decade old stand on the issue. used by the opposition parties during the campaign, it is considered to be one of the main reasons for the BJP’s debacle in the Bihar asseembly elections.
However at least twice, first in 1981 at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha and again in 1985 at the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal, the RSS had passed resolutions in this regard – a stand repeated by the current sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat in his interview to Panchajanya and Organiser in September 2015. And, since then Bhagwat and other leaders have had to repeatedly clarified that they are not against the reservation.
All in all, 2015 has been a learning experience for the RSS which wields considerable power in the country as it stands firmly behind the BJP — sometimes prompting and sometimes dictating policies, programmes and appointments of the government. Unlike NDA-I led by Atal Behari Vajpayee when RSS chiefs Prof Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiya) and then KS Sudarshan did not have an effective communication mechanism with the government, Bhagwat has devised a more effective mechanism – one which tries to avoid possible clashes and conflicts within the Sangh Parivar.
The RSS has tried to maintain a good working relationship with the Modi government. It has repeatedly pulled up leaders of its frontal organizations for criticizing Modi government in public, asking them to settle such issues behind closed doors. One example: on September 2 as labour organizations prepared for a nationwide strike, the RSS affiliated Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS) — largest trade union organization of the country — decided to pull out of the strike, four days before it was to be held.
BMS leaders had openly criticized government policies and one of the senior of BMS KC Mishra had said in an interview to The Indian Express in June 2015 that “Modi does not understand gharibi. He has seen the poverty of west India… in east India, poverty means a person who lives in a jhopri and eats rice with chilli and salt”. Even then, the BMS decided to pull it off of the strike.
Unlike NDA-I, there is far more organised coordination between the Modi government and the RSS. However, clashes and conflicts are unavoidable considering that each of over 50 RSS affiliates has its own audience, agenda, ideas and programmes. When grievances from the RSS cadres and its affiliates increased, there was a three-day meeting in September where top leaders of RSS, its affiliates and several union ministers tried to iron out differences so as to make coordination between them smooth and effective. However, differences remain and will regularly come to surface in 2016.
The clear message from 2015 for the RSS is this: it’s every word is being listened to and every action is being monitored, so it needs to be far more careful in its public posturing.
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