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RSS doesn’t run BJP by remote, it isn’t a school principal regulating BJP leaders as students

Commentators are predicting changes in UP based on a ‘RSS-BJP meeting’ & RSS general secretary’s 4-day Lucknow trip but fact is, the RSS-BJP relationship doesn’t work this way.

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New Delhi: There has been a lot of buzz over the past few days about possible changes in Uttar Pradesh’s power structure, with assembly elections due in the state in another nine months. 

The speculation and political predictions are based on two events — a crucial meeting reportedly held between leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the four-day visit of RSS sarkaryavah (general secretary) Dattatreya Hosabale to Lucknow, which began Monday.

Several political analysts have drawn their conclusions that the meeting — which apart from the prime minister, was reportedly attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Hosabale and BJP president J.P. Nadda — was to discuss the state of affairs in Uttar Pradesh. 

The meeting was reported to have taken place due to the growing concern that the Yogi Adityanath government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic could backfire in the elections.

The fact is that whether changes take place in the UP government or not, these developments cannot be linked to the meeting and Hosabale’s visit to Lucknow.

The primary reason being that no such meeting took place and second, the RSS-BJP relationship doesn’t work this way. The dynamics are quite different unlike what has been portrayed. 

The travel itinerary of top RSS functionaries are planned months in advance and they don’t make ‘sudden’ visits to handle any political situation as  observers or troubleshooters, jobs that those of political parties do.

Also read: How Karl Marx’s grandson fought for Savarkar against British in International Court of Justice

‘Not how it works’

To say that Hosabale has visited Lucknow to handle the political situation in UP doesn’t do justice to the stature of the sarkaryavah, the senior-most executive position in the RSS.  

A sarkaryavah has to look after the huge expanse of the Sangh Parivar; he isn’t like any other political leader heading to a state to handle routine political affairs.  

The visits of the national-level RSS functionaries are planned much earlier. Their itinerary is similar. They stay at a place  for three-four days, hold meetings with RSS workers and workers of organisations that are its ideological mentees.  

The BJP is one of the over three dozen organisations that fall in this category; so the RSS functionaries often happen to meet them too.  

Discussions are held on a wide variety of issues that are related primarily to organisational work and challenges faced by the society in that particular area. One thing that is never discussed in these meetings is the “prevailing situation in politics”.

It happens many times that the visits of these functionaries take place when assembly elections are round the corner in a state or there are some important  political developments related to the BJP .

Political pundits are quick to latch on and establish the link between the two and draw juicy conclusions. If these functionaries happen to meet any senior BJP leader, the conclusions are even spicier. 

This isn’t a new phenomenon, we have seen that happen all the time. And it continues to happen as the fundamental flaw in the approach of those analysing the events and putting two and two together is that they look at the RSS from a BJP’s perspective.

This brings to the fore again, the question of dynamics between the BJP and the RSS.   

The RSS-BJP dynamic

To understand these dynamics, one has to look at certain facts with an open mind and without preconceived notions.

First, the RSS remains very particular about its mandate that it is a socio-cultural organisation and will stay away from politics. The mandate, which it has taken over itself, is to organise society cutting across political, economic, social lines. 

There was a debate about this issue within the RSS in the late 1940s, after the ban imposed on it in 1948 was lifted. 

A section of the RSS advocated for converting it into a political party as during the ban, while the organisation was at the receiving end, there was no political party that stood by it or raised its concerns. 

The debate ended, with the second RSS sarsanghchalak (chief) M.S. Golwalkar taking a clear stand that the RSS would not indulge in any political activity. The organisation has steadfastly held that stand and in fact, it is one of the key reasons for its rapid all-round growth cutting across various sections of the society.

Second, one has to understand the evolution of the BJP. When the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the erstwhile avatar of the BJP, was constituted in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who wasn’t from RSS, the latter loaned out a few of its full-time workers to help Mookerjee build the party as he had sought this help. 

This is the fundamental principle that still governs the relationship between the two. Some RSS workers are loaned out to the BJP and they work  generally as organisation secretaries and joint organisational secretaries. If BJP needs any help, it seeks it from the RSS. If the latter is in a position to help, it does.

Third, many RSS workers have risen within the BJP and they hold important positions within the party as well as BJP governments.  

Two prime ministers — Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi — happened to be pracharaks (full-time workers) when they were in the RSS and later at organisational positions in the BJP. A large number of ministers at the Centre and in the states, as well as a number of BJP chief ministers, have also been swayamsevaks (workers). 

As there are already swayamsevaks within the government and the party, they do what they have been trained to do in the RSS — take actions that help in taking the nation and society forward. 

Because the thought process of swayamsevaks, in whichever field they are, is similar, so it may appear that a certain agenda of the RSS is being implemented in a planned manner within the government when the BJP is in power, but that isn’t so. 

The RSS doesn’t run the BJP or any of its governments by remote. The RSS doesn’t act like a school principal regulating all activities of the BJP leaders as students.  

(The writer is a research director with Delhi-based think-tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS. Views expressed are personal.)

Also read: Why Bhagwat lecture wasn’t a ‘snub’ for Modi govt but had larger RSS message to fight Covid



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