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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Mask upon mask in the BJP

No wonder it is confused now.The BJPs’s multiple personality disorder stems from its very origins.

Written by Kumar Ketkar |
May 21, 2009 2:17:20 am

The Sangh Parivar is too broad a term. It incorporates the Bharatiya Janata Party,the Vishwa Hindu Parishad,the Bajrang Dal,Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad,Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh,Sri Ram Sene,Stree Shakti,Vyapari Sangh,Vanvasi Kalyan outfits and several other front organisations. It is a vast network of dedicated activists,stretching from Arunachal to Andhra Pradesh,Tamil Nadu to Tripura and Gujarat to Kashmir.

In the past 30 years however,these outfits,and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh,the original gene,have ceased to attract the young. The shakhas have either disappeared or are virtually deserted. The top leadership is all above 70,the second rank is in the age group of 50-65. The third rank is thin and hovers around the age of 40. Then it gets emptier and emptier except in organisations like Bajrang Dal or Sri Ram Sene,where the lumpen join,because they get some kind of activity and identity. At one level,it is a reflection of rural and urban unemployment; at another,it is a manifestation of cultural frustration.

Apart from these organisations,their activists and fellow travellers,there is a huge urban middle class constituency. It is interesting to note that the BJP with its abstract Hindu cause has attracted a large corporate class in the last two decades.The BJP or the Jan Sangh before 1980 had a following in the lower middle class,primarily among Brahminical communities. This was understandable because the RSS,when founded by Dr. Hedgewar in 1925,had its origins in this social mileu.

Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was a Congressman and had been a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. After his death in 1940,he handed the organisation over to Guru Golwalkar. Organisation was of supreme importance for the Guruji and under him,the network spread all over India,including in Karachi. The ideology of the Sangh was Hindu cultural nationalism as distinct from the inclusive,pluralistic nationalism of the Congress. Among the first three Congress presidents,one was Christian,one Muslim and one Parsi. But the Congress was a political organisation and the RSS proclaimed that it intended to keep away from politics and ‘culturally’ consolidate the Hindu masses.

It is necessary to remember that the Hindu Mahasabha was founded in 1915,a decade before the RSS,when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was undergoing life imprisonment. If the objective was the same,then Dr. Hedgewar and his colleagues would have joined the HMS,or Veer Savarkar would have joined the RSS. But the fact is that RSS and the HMS had distinct identities. The HMS was an upfront political organisation,which believed in armed struggle to achieve independence from the British. It sought to establish a Hindu Rashtra politically,almost on the same lines of what later became Pakistan. Indeed,the Savarkarites used to ridicule the RSS swayamsevaks for their ‘political timidity’. It was much later that the RSS began to appropriate Savarkar’s ideology. Savarkar died in 1966,never having ‘officially’ endorsed the RSS. Even after the Jan Sangh was formed in 1950 as a political wing of the RSS,the HMS fought elections in several constituencies against the Jan Sangh candidates.

All this while,the base of the RSS,Jan Sangh and the HMS was essentially upper caste,urban and middle-class. When the Jan Sangh merged with the Janata Party,it began to spread out under the cover of the JP movement. Inevitably,the socialists and old Congressmen who had been the major partners of the Janata Party,were alarmed. The party split vertically on the issue of ‘dual membership’,which meant that the Jan Sangh was expected to totally dissociate from the RSS. The BJP emerged out of the wreckage of the Janata Party. It is since then that the Sangh Parivar began to suffer from a ‘multiple personality syndrome’.

In the coming decades,the BJP which was reduced to just two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1985 and declared virtually dead,expanded along with the the new middle class and Mandir politics,just as the rural elite consolidated itself with the help of Mandal. Under the stewardship of Lal Krishna Advani,the BJP spread its tentacles all over a new urban middle class. In less than a decade,from 1990 when the Rath Yatra began,to 1998,the BJP-led 18-party front came to power with 182 seats.

The newly emerging middle class,which was the product of economic liberalisation,was the exact opposite of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch,another Parivar outfit,which opposed globalisation and Americanisation. But for militant Hinduism,the BJP-led front could not have come to power. But to seek power through such militancy and to run a country like India,whose distinguishing characteristic is pluralism,are not easily reconciliable. That is why Vajpayee became the mask and Advani the face behind the mask. The moderates in the BJP became Vajpayee followers,the hardliners joined the Advani camp and the far right in the Parivar promoted the Togadias and Modis.

The BJP thus became a hybrid organisation,which is now looking for a stable personality. Vajpayee and Advani could not agree on Modi. Now,the BJP cannot recognise the ‘real face’ from the several masks that it has acquired for electoral persuasion. Once it had a strong urban base. Now it has lost all the major cities. Till a few months ago,Modi was promoted as a corporate as well as militant icon.

In Manmohan Singh,Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,the vast majority across classes and castes,has found the real plural India. Today,along with the markets,most Indian people have introspected and recognised the the folly of militant Mandir and Mandal politics. That is why we saw the decimation of Mulayam and Mayawati,the marginalisation of Pawar and Paswan,and the discomfiture of Advani and Modi. Plural India has triumphed.

kumar.ketkar@expressindia.com

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