M G Vaidya, who passed away on December 19, was a familiar name in the intellectual life of India, and his contribution to many prominent discourses is invaluable. In fact, his name is synonymous with RSS’s intellectualism. He worked with six RSS sarasanghachalaks, including its founder K B Hedgewar. Vaidya joined the Sangh at the age of eight in 1931 and his zeal for organisational and ideological matters remained undiminished till the last breath.
He was appointed the Sangh’s first spokesperson and interacted energetically with the media, with the objective of removing the then prevalent myths about the RSS, and confronting secularist lies.
Vaidya accorded primacy to ideas, not personalities. This is one reason for his popularity in the RSS. In a condolence meeting for Hedgewar, his successor M S Golwalkar said, “RSS is not a votary of individualism.” Vaidya remained true to this tradition all his life.
He was born in Taroda, a village in Maharashtra’s Wardha district on March 11, 1923 and received his primary education from the same school in Nagpur as Hedgewar. His academic excellence led him to be a teacher at Morris College, Nagpur. Vaidya later served as the chief editor of Tarun Bharat, a Marathi daily run by the RSS. He also served as a member of Maharashtra’s Legislative Council. He was among national leaders like Dattopant Thengadi and Nanaji Deshmukh, who returned to the RSS after years in politics, without losing any of their original ideological inclination.
Vaidya believed in inclusive intellectualism, which led him to develop friendship across ideological streams. This uniqueness kept him free from intellectual or ideological orthodoxy. He never hesitated to speak the truth. Books were his unfailing friends and his reading habits made sure that Vaidya was never obsolete in any discourse.
In 2019, I requested him to write the foreword to my book, Understanding RSS. This piece was, perhaps, his last serious contribution in the field of ideas. Succinctly summarising the objective of the RSS, he wrote, “The RSS never aimed at establishing an organised group within the society. Its mission has been to organise the entire society. And everyone knows that any society is a complex existence — it functions through various spheres of activities. Politics is one sphere but not the only one. Organising the society means organising all these spheres.” He believed that the organisation is a living instrument of harmonising groups and communities, including political classes — not a harbinger of conflicts. Vaidya unequivocally believed “politics is one sphere, not the only one” and, therefore, it was a myth that the RSS existed for political gains.
He was a voracious reader of the works of European thinkers but never submitted to the Eurocentric intellectualism which has, unfortunately, trapped a large number of our social scientists. He argued that contemporary Indian intellectuals miss the distinction between the state and the nation.
Vaidya endorsed Ernest Barker’s definition of state as “a living body of effective rules and in that sense, the state is about law”. The identity of a nation, in contrast, is much greater and older than that of the state. For a nation, the sentiments of the land in which people live for generations, a common sense of history and the adherence to a certain value system, culture, were essential. That is why the RSS’s mission is civilisational and is represented by cultural nationalism in contemporary context.
Conviction in ideological movements is mostly confined to participants. The RSS has initiated a new tradition. Its ideology is carried forward by values. Without values, ideology loses its engine of effective transmission. Many ideological movements have faced such dilemmas, and declined. The RSS emphasises that a swayamsevak’s family should understand the organisation’s functioning and ideological tradition: In other words, charity begins at home. That is why the sons of several RSS workers have become the organisation’s pracharaks. Mohan Bhagwat was inspired to become a pracharak as his father had served as one for decades. M G Vaidya’s case is unique: His two sons, Manmohan Vaidya and Ram Vaidya, are Sangh pracharaks. He would be remembered as an intellectual who never practised ideological untouchability and was never a reactionary theoretician. His life is a lesson for all those striving to uphold the Indian tradition of intellectualism, and trying to give rigour to the idea of India.
This article first appeared in the print edition on December 21, 2020 under the title “A homegrown ideologue” The writer, a Rajya Sabha Member of the BJP, is a biographer of Hedgewar
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines