RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat speaks on the last day at the event in New Delhi | PTI
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat speaks on the last day at the event in New Delhi | PTI
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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.

Alsoread: Want Ram temple at Ayodhya very soon, will remove cause of Hindu-Muslim tension: Bhagwat

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 RSS chief’s comments on NOTA are all the more noteworthy given the backdrop of upper caste ire against the Modi government, with several savarna groups on social media urging the community to opt for NOTA in 2019.
Meanwhile, the RSS chief also made all the right noises on the issue of reservations, stating the Sangh supported them and would continue to do so. Ahead of the 2015 Bihar polls, Bhagwat’s statement calling for a review of the reservation policy had cost the BJP dearly. The BJP has been trying to reach out to backward castes, including Dalits, to expand its base and the RSS head’s comments fit right into this paradigm.

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.

Also read: RSS’ vision of Hindutva is not meant to oppose anyone, says chief Mohan Bhagwat

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.

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2 Comments Share Your Views


  1. “Not only does this reassure moderate Hindus, whose votes the BJP needs – for 31% voteshare will not again yield a majority …”

    Ashok, I quote your own words above. While I fully agree with what you say, and even I find Mr Bhagwat’s words indicative of a major, and positive shift in the thinkings of RSS, a suspicion does lurk somewhere in my mind if all this talk is not just another “election ploy”. The BJP DOES need more votes for 2019, and these kinds of words would SURELY soothe some moderate Hindus, but BJP couldn’t have said them on its own because no one would believe it after all the merciless things it has condoned in the last four years. So, is this party USING Mr Bhagwat to utter these words, all with the limited objective to win the forthcoming elections SOMEHOW?

    That’s why, in another comment on this subject, I had said that Mr Bhagwat should display his sincerity in a tangible way — by PREVENTING his cadre from campaigning for the BJP towards ensuring its defeat in 2019, because this party has AMPLY displayed an attitude towards the Muslims which is absolutely the opposite of what Mr Bhagwat and therefore the RSS is advocating now! In my opinion, if the RSS does not prevent its cadre as above, and they go ahead with campaigning for the BJP as before, as if Mr Bhagwat had NEVER SUGGESTED tolerance etc towards the Muslims etc, then at least to me, it would indicate that the whole thing was nothing but a JOINT CONSPIRACY of the RSS and the BJP to somehow FOOL the voters to wangle votes out of them.

  2. To my mind, some of the important messages that came out of this conclave go beyond 2019, while that was the immediate concern. The RSS – although it claims not to be in electoral politics and governance – now feels confident enough to adopt a much higher public profile, not the reclusive, even somewhat secretive, organisation it may have been in the past. As a powerful entity, it feels the need to place its philosophy more extensively in the public domain, including debate with people and organisations who disagree strongly with its views. 2. The RSS is conveying that it continues to evolve, is not a prisoner of the past. To say that our Hindutva is not complete without Muslims is not semantics. To read out the Preamble to the Constitution and to say that we have always respected and followed it lays some misgivings to rest. There is a clear disavowal of extreme positions, including violence against minorities, which is a recent aberration, quite distinct from riots that have taken place in the past. Not only does this reassure moderate Hindus, whose votes the BJP needs – for 31% voteshare will not again yield a majority – but is something that binds the organisation to a world view that meets with domestic and international endorsement. 3. The last four and a half years have not gone according to a great script. Governance, economic development, social harmony, foreign policy / national security, nothing has measured up to the promises of the campaign or the promise of the mandate. If one thinks of the RSS as the ideological mentor, moral compass, holding company of the BJP and its government(s), this was a voice of great authority, stature and gravitas. This is also an organisation that could do well in a culture of coalitions.


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