New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is looking to create a “nationalistic fervour” in Uttar Pradesh with a month-long public campaign under the Amrit Mahotsav, or the Modi government initiative to mark 75 years of Indian Independence.
The campaign by the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes months before the state’s assembly elections in 2022, and is believed to be aimed at mobilising support for the party.
During the campaign, the RSS will hold programmes like Tiranga Yatra, renditions of Vande Mataram, remembrance of freedom fighters, and thousands of meetings and seminars in every district, according to RSS leaders. It will also take out processions in schools and colleges.
The campaign will begin on 19 November, marking the 193rd anniversary of Rani Lakshmi Bai, the warrior queen of Jhansi who participated in India’s first struggle for independence in 1857. This will coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bundelkhand, where he will blow the bugle for the BJP’s 2022 poll campaign.
Vijay Diwas (16 December), which commemorates Pakistan’s surrender to India after the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, will mark the end of the campaign.
The RSS Uttar Pradesh unit has constituted Amrit Mahotsav committees in every district, which will organise the various programmes.
In Varanasi region alone, it is learnt, the RSS is going to conduct such programmes at 155 block-level and 105 city-level units. Around 1,000-2,000 people will be involved in each of these programmes.
Varanasi falls in the state’s Purvanchal area, where the BJP is trying hard to hold on to its massive lead from the 2017 polls.
“We have formed committees at the provincial level, block level, gram panchayat level to inculcate the feeling of patriotism through this month-long campaign. Each of these committees will have 25-30 people. All the units of the RSS will be involved in these programmes,” RSS Kashi (Varanasi) province pracharak Ranveer Singh told ThePrint.
“Sanskar Bharati will organise street plays and the ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad) will conduct the Tiranga Yatra. We will reach out to 22,000 villages in Kashi prant (province) alone,” Singh said.
What the campaign will entail
During the planned Tiranga Yatra between 30 November and 15 December, RSS volunteers carrying the Tricolour will conduct road rallies at the village- and block-level.
For 16 December, the RSS has planned a collective rendition of Vande Mataram in large school and college grounds in every block across all districts of the state.
“Our main thrust is to inculcate the feeling of nationalism and patriotism among the people living in villages. Functions like Bharat Mata Pujan (worshiping Mother India) and shobha yatra (parades-cum-processions) have been planned mainly keeping in mind the village populace,” said Kaushal Kumar, the Awadh province pracharak for the RSS.
In the Awadh region, these programmes will be carried out in 177 development blocks, targeting around 19,000 villages, the Sangh said.
A senior RSS volunteer said on condition of anonymity that these programmes under the Amrit Mahotsav aren’t limited to just reminiscing about the freedom fighters.
“It also includes traveling to every village or town to pay tribute to them by visiting their houses, memorials, lighting lamps, discussing them, awakening the people by making them aware about nationalistic issues — about Ram Mandir, about Article 370, about citizenship laws etc,” the volunteer said.
The volunteer added that while every region in UP threw up one or more freedom fighters, many were relegated to obscurity.
“Our main objective is to find more about both these categories of freedom fighters and connect them to the public. Rani Lakshmi Bai was born at a place named Mandani in Kashi. This means she is related to both Kashi and Jhansi. The soil extracted from the birthplace of Rani Lakshmi Bai is being carried to Jhansi in an urn,” the volunteer said.
Even the Yogi Adityanath government is holding a two-day programme this week in Jhansi to commemorate the anniversary of Rani Lakshmi Bai.
Kaushal Mishra, a political science professor at the Banaras Hindu University, said the RSS is looking to awaken “intellectual nationalism” with this campaign, which is bigger than the collection of Ramshilas during the heyday of the Ram temple movement.
“Our Independence movement was also a movement of mass-level national awareness. The elections are also an expression of the nation’s consciousness. If something good occurs to the BJP due to this endeavour, then it’s their good fortune. However, this is part of a bigger movement to rekindle the spirit of intellectual nationalism,” Mishra added.
Eyes on Bundelkhand and Purvanchal
Regions like Bundelkhand and Purvanchal, which are the focal point of the RSS campaign, are critical to BJP’s return to power in 2022, according to the party’s own electoral calculations.
In the previous election, the BJP had won a massive 47 out of 52 seats in the Bundelkhand-Kanpur region. In Bundelkhand alone, the BJP won all 20 seats in 2017, up from its 2012 tally of three. The party also won all four parliamentary seats from the region in both 2014 and 2019.
The BJP wants to retain its hold on the area, considered among the most backward in the country, with the help of a myriad programmes including drinking water schemes, establishing a defence corridor and an airport in Lalitpur, and construction of the Bundelkhand Expressway.
In every UP election, Purvanchal often decides the path to power. This time, the BJP is strategising to offset its prospective losses in western UP — on account of the farmers’ protests — by winning more seats in Purvanchal.
From Home Minister Amit Shah’s tour of Azamgarh for the foundation-laying ceremony of a university to the inauguration of Purvanchal Expressway by PM Modi Tuesday and establishing five out of nine medical colleges meant for UP in Purvanchal, all these are part of the BJP’s strategy to maintain its hold.
In 2017, the BJP had won 115 seats out of the total 164 seats in this area. The state assembly altogether has 403 seats.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)