New Delhi: The essence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s stand on the coronavirus crisis that has gripped the country right now is to focus on a collective effort, instead of indulging in a blame game.
In his address on the fifth and final day of the lecture series ‘Positively Unlimited’ Saturday, sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said: “Both the society and the administration were caught off guard after the first wave (of Covid-19).”
This statement was spun as a snub for the Narendra Modi government. But before delving into why this misinterpretation took place and what’s wrong with the conceptual framework that commentators tend to apply to Sangh functionaries’ statements, it is important to highlight some of the key points Bhagwat mentioned in the context of challenges posed by the pandemic.
* This isn’t time for a blame game. Everyone should work as part of a team to overcome this crisis.
* Children’s education has been affected, and learning gaps need to be filled.
* There is an urgent need to support local artisans, craftsmen and daily wagers who are struggling with their businesses and employment.
* Unauthenticated information shouldn’t be shared and people should consult medical doctors to deal with the coronavirus.
* Allopathic and Ayurvedic systems of medicine aren’t competing with each other. All systems of medicine, Indian or Western, need to be used collectively, depending on the health parameters of an individual.
* Creating a positive atmosphere within families by strengthening the bonds between family members is important. It is important to directly communicate with each other regularly. This would help reduce negativity and create an atmosphere of positivity.
Why the RSS’ view is often misinterpreted
Coming back to Bhagwat’s statement about the society and the administration being caught off-guard by the second wave of Covid-19, one has to read it along with another statement — that this isn’t the time for a blame game.
Read together, these two statements convey that people and governments have to be alert and work together at all levels to deal with this crisis.
The question is why this statement was misinterpreted and why does it happen regularly? One of the key reasons is that political pundits interpreting these statements appear to have a made some flawed assumptions.
One of their basic assumptions is that the RSS functions like a typical political party, and another is that there is consistent power struggle between the RSS and the BJP, where the RSS is trying to maintain control. A third assumption is that the RSS drives the BJP and its governments by a ‘remote control’. All these assumptions are flawed, and hence the misinterpretation.
Here is the correct picture that could provide an appropriate conceptual framework when it comes to interpreting RSS’ views and actions.
First, the RSS is not a political party, and hence, Sangh functionaries do not make statements for public posturing. They are not going to contest polls, and they don’t get new cadres through these statements. The RSS gets new volunteers through its daily ‘shakhas’ (a one-hour daily get-together of volunteers) and other programmes and activities, which focus on ‘individual contact’.
The core of the functioning of RSS can be summed up in two words, informal relations. RSS swayamsevaks back each other and stand by each other through good and bad times. Most of the communication through which the RSS functions is informal.
So, if the Sangh has a viewpoint to share with any BJP government, it would do so informally through swayamsevaks who are part of the government. The RSS doesn’t need to make a statement in any public forum. These views are consistently shared, not along the lines of the ‘RSS leadership is conveying to the BJP leadership’, but more like ‘swayamsevaks outside the government sharing views with swayamsevaks within the government’.
Don’t look at it from BJP perspective
One is bound to misinterpret the RSS’s stand if this is looked at from the BJP’s perspective.
The RSS has always believed that politics or any government cannot bring permanent transformation in the country, so it has limited expectations from any government. Hence, it focuses on organising the society, which it believes will ultimately transform itself.
That is why Mohan Bhagwat emphasised that it is time for the society to come together and overcome this Covid-19 crisis again. Indian society has done it in the past and will do it again, he said.
(The writer is research director with Delhi-based think-tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS. Views expressed are personal.)
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)