New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has more reasons to worry: Bengalis are showing a great interest in the BJP’s ideological patron, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
According to RSS functionaries, people in West Bengal are second only to those from Uttar Pradesh in applying online to be members of the organisation.
Sample this: On the ‘Join RSS’ initiative, started by the organisation on its official website, West Bengal stood at sixth position in 2017 with 7,400 requests for the entire year. This increased to around 9,000 in 2018 but until 15 June this year, the online applications from the state have crossed 7,700 already.
Only those from Uttar Pradesh have shown more interest — their number stands at 9,392 for the same period.
According to an RSS functionary, the numbers from West Bengal are all the more impressive as the state has only two RSS units as compared to Uttar Pradesh where the RSS has divided itself into six units.
Another RSS functionary said there has been a surge in online applications to join the organisation this year. The total number of requests received from across the country has already crossed 62,000; it was a lakh in 2017 and 1,100,00 in 2018.
The maximum number of applications are received from Uttar Pradesh followed by West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi, according to the RSS functionary.
“People from across the country are showing an enthusiasm to become part of the RSS. There is a facility in the Sangh website for those who are desirous of joining the Sangh and we have got a good response,” said Narendra Thakur, the RSS’ All India co-convener for media relations. “As far as West Bengal is concerned, in the past few years, the number of requests are going up steadily.”
The ‘surge’ in West Bengal
The RSS has been present in North Bengal for the last two decades but it is only in the last few years, especially post-2014, that it has become really active across the region. The total number of RSS shakhas in North Bengal has grown to approximately 500, an almost three-fold increase since 2010, a senior RSS functionary of Siliguri district, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint. With the growth in shakhas, the number of swayamsevaks has also increased.
Although RSS maintains that it does not indulge in any political activity, a number of senior BJP leaders point out that it is the RSS’ work on the ground that made the party increase its footprint in the state, especially in North Bengal.
The BJP won 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, giving a big jolt to the ruling Trinamool Congress headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The party is now gearing up for the municipal and assembly elections.
According to another RSS functionary, West Bengal is witnessing a “surge” in applications due to the “atrocities” being meted out to the Hindu community.
“The way Hindus are being treated in West Bengal is not hidden from anyone. The state is witnessing rampant violence because of it,” said the functionary. “People have seen the work being done by the RSS and they want to connect with us. This online membership facilitates that.”
According to the same functionary, of the total applications, 70 per cent are from those in the 20-35 age group and 60 per cent are from those looking to join the shakhas. “The rest, who are unable to take out time to join a shakha still want to be connected in some way or the other and they do social work by getting associated with our other organisations,” he added.