As the NDA government completes one year in power on May 26, it’s not just a united Opposition that’s mounting pressure on it — RSS affiliates, too, are turning on the heat over several issues.
On Tuesday, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the RSS, held a protest at Jantar Mantar against the proposed Land Acquisition Bill, the government’s moves on genetically modified (GM) crops, foreign e-commerce sites and proposed changes in intellectual property laws.
While RSS’s trade union wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), has said it would join a convention of other trade unions to decide on a possible strike on May 26, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has warned the government of “consequences” if it does not take steps to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
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On Tuesday, the SJM demanded that the government incorporate clauses on farmers’ consent and social impact assessment to the proposed Land Acquisition Bill. Ekta Parishad founder P V Rajagopal also joined the protest. Union Minister Sanjeev Baliyan addressed the protesters and assured them the government would give them a favourable hearing.
At a time when the Opposition has labelled the government “pro-corporate”, protests by RSS affiliates would “certainly affect the government’s image”, admitted a senior BJP leader. “The Congress-led campaign that this government is apparently anti-poor has gained traction. Protests and statements by RSS affiliates would worsen the situation,” the leader added.
“Though the government has incorporated some changes following our protests, there are certain concerns, such as farmers’ consent, social impact assessment , food security and the clause on return of land to farmers, that remain. These have to be incorporated before going ahead with the bill,” SJM national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said.
On GM crops, Mahajan said, “Despite objections from the technical committee and parliamentary panel, why is the government hurrying with the trials?” He also asked why the government was not imposing a ban on e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart when “they are evading taxes”.
Meanwhile, BMS president Baij Nath Rai said his organisation, along with other trade unions, will hit the streets against the government’s anti-labour policies. “The government…is taking anti-labour measures. We will launch a nationwide protest against the government’s move to dilute labour laws and will decide to go on strike in the convention on May 26,” Rai said.
The BMS also has strong reservations on issues such as price rise, unemployment, universal social security cover for workers and disinvestment of public sector undertakings.
The VHP, which had reportedly decided to give a year to the government to focus on people-friendly measures, could also turn on the heat soon. “Ram Mandir is an issue that has been promised in the BJP manifesto. We are confident this government will take steps towards fulfilling it. Otherwise, options are open before us,” VHP joint general secretary Surendrakumar Jain said.
“Modi government must be aware of the consequences if it doesn’t keep its promise. The Vajpayee government did not do anything for Ram temple and people taught them a lesson. It will be the same for this government too,” he added.