Each statement by Mohan Bhagwat carried a well-thought out implication for the BJP, which will help it fine-tune its image and campaign.
New Delhi: The exhaustive — and unusual — three-day conclave of the RSS was intended to spell out a nuanced understanding of the Sangh and its core beliefs, while portraying it to be above the political fray. But it ended up brimming with meaning for the BJP; the timing of the conclave will ensure that it will only help its politics ahead of this year’s state assembly elections and next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Not only were sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s calibrated and modulated words meant to ensure the BJP-Sangh combine endears itself to the moderate Hindu, they were also aimed at sending out all the right signals to its core vote-bank.
At the lecture series that ended Wednesday, Bhagwat went to great lengths to detach the organisation from party loyalties, and show it was devoid of electoral politics. But the organic link between the RSS and BJP can hardly be denied. With both the BJP and its ideological parent well aware of how they are perceived as one family, each statement by the Sangh chief carried a well-thought out implication for the BJP, helping it fine-tune its image and campaign.
Appealing to the moderate Hindu
In an attempt to expand its legitimacy, especially among sections of urban intelligentsia and moderate Hindus, the RSS put forth a more nuanced interpretation of its Hindutva, claiming it did not exclude Muslims.
A more benevolent form of Hindutva, which is gracious enough to accept the ‘other’, will re-affirm the BJP among the moderate Hindu voter, who may have been worried about extremism rearing its head, especially given the several violent instances associated with cow vigilantism.
To this effect, Bhagwat also condemned violence on any pretext, including for cow protection.
Catering to core base
Bhagwat, however, made sure the Sangh Parivar and BJP’s fundamental beliefs and positions were articulately spelt out, providing a perfect platform to get them across to the electorate in time for the key state elections due at the end of this year and the Lok Sabha polls next year. And even while doing so, he kept a measured position, so as not to frighten away the moderate voter.
The RSS chief made all the right noises on Ram Mandir, saying it must be constructed at the earliest since it was a question of faith, but also claiming the Sangh believed it would help remove a major cause of Hindu-Muslim tension.
On the Uniform Civil Code as well, Bhagwat attempted a more pragmatic stance when he said this wasn’t a Hindu-Muslim issue and would alter the practices of Hindus as well.
BJP’s constant refrain — scrapping Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir that give special privileges to the state — was reiterated effectively, at a time when the issue of removing 35A is in the Supreme Court.
In yet another subtle, but unmistakable push for the BJP, the Sangh chief urged people not to choose NOTA (none of the above) while voting. Pick the “available best”, he said, else it gives an advantage to the “available worst”, in an oblique reference to the debate around a weak opposition with no credible face versus the incumbent Narendra Modi.
The BJP, in recent times, has on loop talked about ‘ghuspaithiye’ (infiltrators) and how, through the National Register of Citizens, it will ensure they are identified and deported. Bhagwat mentioned ‘ghuspaithiye’ as well, claiming they cause “demographic imbalance” in the country.
The questions the Sangh chief chose to answer on the last day of the conclave were carefully picked, to ensure each issue the parivar needs to convey to its core base is covered.
Equally important for the BJP, however, was the message that the Sangh will not dilute its position on key issues like Ram Mandir, Kashmir and UCC, and expects the BJP government to deliver.