It is not clear why Congress should antagonise RSS in Madhya Pradesh when its president is busy brandishing his Hindutva identity.
The Congress party in Madhya Pradesh has stoked an unnecessary controversy by pledging to check the growth of the RSS instead of providing an alternate economic agenda for the state. Pitted against a three-time winning BJP, it seems they would rather waste their political capital on trivial issues.
Re-construction of the road traversed by Hindu god Ram in Madhya Pradesh during his 14-year exile; commercial production of cow urine; providing a gaushala (cow shed) in every panchayat and a budgetary allocation for a separate fund for them; establishing temporary camps to treat injured cattle and perform their last rites if required. Do not dismiss this as a BJP manifesto, this is actually the Congress’ manifesto. The only give away is the line on the RSS. The Congress promises to rein in the RSS by prohibiting government employees from attending RSS shakhas.
The Indian government in 1966 categorised the RSS and the Jamaat-e-Islami as political organisations and issued an order saying that participation in the activities of these organisations by government servants would attract provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964. ([MHA OM No. 3/10/(S)/66-Ests.(B), dated 30.11.1966]). An office circular was reissued in 1975 and again in 1980, probably due to political exigencies. ([MHA OM No. 7/4/70-Est.(B), dated 25.07.1970] and [DP & AR OM No. 15014/3/(S)/80-Estt. (B), dated 28.10.1980]). Those years witnessed huge political turmoil and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi faced the worst kind of isolation within her own party and outside of it. The Communist party was the only one supporting her. This necessitated acceding to their demands too.
Some state governments followed up and issued circulars to this effect covering their respective states. In 2006, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan annulled the order and lifted the ban on civil servants joining the RSS and said, “As far as sub rule 1 of rule 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Civic Services (Conduct) Rules 1965 is concerned, it is not applicable on RSS”. Therefore, the Congress leaders are wrong if they say a ban still exists.
It is not clear as to why the Congress should antagonise the RSS in Madhya Pradesh especially at a time when its president is busy temple-hopping and brandishing his newly acquired Hindutva identity, janeu and vermillion mark on the forehead. The Muslim population in Madhya Pradesh is 6.57 per cent and not all of them are voters. The Congress lost the state to the BJP mainly due to internecine conflicts and ego clashes among its leaders.
In 1983, Indira Gandhi raised the bogey of Hindus being reduced to minority in Jammu region of J&K because of the Resettlement Bill seeking to allow people from Kashmir who had migrated to Pakistan between 1947 and 1954 to return and reclaim their properties. The Congress swept the Jammu region (26 seats) due to the ensuing polarisation. Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 ordered the opening of the locks of the Ayodhya Ram Temple and used this as an effective campaign issue to garner Hindu votes. The BJP launched the famous Rath Yatra beating the Congress in its own game.
If preventing the BJP from appropriating the entire Hindu vote was the poll strategy the Congress was working on, there surely could have been better ways of strategising it. For example, not all temple-going Hindus are part of the RSS. The continuous mandate for the BJP is mainly due to the economic and popular programmes rolled out by three-time chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Congress could have highlighted the flaws in these programmes and kept the RSS bashing for another day.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, although from the RSS stable, have an image that is not restricted to being just camp followers. Therefore, by demonising the RSS, the Congress is actually gaining nothing but, on the other hand, helping consolidate the RSS voter base in favour of the BJP.
As a responsible party that aspires to lead the combined opposition and dislodge the BJP at the Centre, the Congress leadership needs to show much more maturity and tolerance and work on an alternate economic agenda rather than barking up the wrong tree like demonising the RSS. This is a classic example of how to make enemies and lose elections.
The RSS has made it clear that it does not consider political power as the only and/or the ultimate panacea for the problems that the country is facing today or for that matter at any given time. Calling itself a cultural organisation, the RSS has assiduously distanced itself from electoral politics. Yet by virtue of being closely associated with an overwhelming majority of the Hindus, it is easy for some political parties, especially during elections, to create RSS-phobia as a tactic to woo the minority voters.
It would not be a bad idea to actually do a research to find out if RSS bashing really works as an incentive among minorities to vote against the BJP. Nevertheless, RSS bashing has become routine during elections although a large section of the minority voters tend to vote for a party for reasons more personal or for economic programmes rather than out of fear.
The author is former editor of ‘Organiser’.
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