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So Nehru killed Gandhi!!!

It is the blind, unquestioning devotion to an organisation and a philosophy that was born obsolete, if not sick, that has blighted the BJP as a political force.

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The return of the RSS and, more importantly, its former Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan to the headlines gives me just the right excuse to recount the untold story of my one-on-one dinner with him at Nagpur, my ‘Sudarshan moment’. This was the evening before I recorded a long, tell-all interview with him for NDTV’s Walk the Talk (April 2005) which set off tremors in the BJP that never really settled. He cursed Vajpayee and all those who mattered to him, politically and personally, ascribed Uma Bharti’s unpred-ictability to her social (caste) status and early upbringing, and generally held forth in the manner of the great, couldn’t-care-less headline hunters. But the fact is, I missed the much bigger story, maybe because I had poor news judgment, certainly by the screaming standards of some of today’s news TV.

Maybe I was just being a fuddy-duddy old print journalist. Or maybe, just maybe, because I was wise not to make myself look like a fool as well in the desperate hunger for headlines. And some headlines it would have been. As we were being wired for the recording he asked me if I wanted to talk in detail about the points he had mentioned last night. No, Sudarshanji, I said with some alarm. Having learnt my journalism in more conservative times, I did not particularly want to ruin an entire interview listening to him hold forth on Sonia’s rise in India as a Roman Catholic conspiracy controlled from Italy (whose province he thought the Vatican was), or his incredible take on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. But now that he has already gone public with his conspiracy theories on Sonia, it is better for me to share with you his even more imaginative take on who killed Gandhi and how, which he shared with me over a very spartan subzi-dal-sukhi-roti meal sitting on the floor at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. Better for me to write about this now before he decides to say it all in public the next time he appears in front of an audience.

The key to understanding India’s plight, he said, right elbow resting thoughtfully on his raised knee, is to understand the Nehru parivar, how they have conspired to take control of this country, and to systematically destroy all that should have been dear to all Hindustanis. He started the story of this conspiracy from Gandhi’s assassination for which the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were unfairly blamed.

This was the usual RSS lament I thought, until he asked me, eyes wide with genuine disbelief: So, do you also believe that Godse killed Gandhi? Is there any doubt? I asked. The courts convicted him.

You people are so gullible,  he said. You do not even look at the facts. Then he started to explain the facts.

See that picture of Godse with folded hands in front of Gandhi. If he had actually shot him, the bullet would have entered from a higher point in his body and exited from a lower point,  he said. He asked me, further, if I knew the difference between someone being shot with a revolver and a pistol.

I am not sure I do,  I said. But how is that important?

Because the entry wound of a pistol shot is smaller than the exit wound and, in Gandhi’s case, it was the other way round. Yet they claimed Godse shot him with a pistol.

And how is that important? I asked, now worried that our dinner, where we were supposed to discuss areas that our interview would explore the next morning, was going into some kind of jadoo territory.

Because, from all evidence, Godse did not kill Gandhi. And you know what,  he continued, Nehru made sure no post-mortem was conducted on Gandhi’s body. Because he did not want the truth to come out.

So then, Sudarshanji, who killed Gandhi? I asked.

Why ask me? he said, with a smile that was as conspiratorial as QED. You can see who stood to benefit from Gandhi’s assassination. Everybody knows Gandhi was going to make Patel prime minister.

But, Sudarshanji, somebody did shoot Gandhi in front of hundreds of people,  I asked.

Yes, somebody did. But not saamne se, kintu peechhe se, he explained. It was a do-dhaari ki talwar (two-edged sword),  a conspi-racy to give the Nehru parivar unfettered power and to blame the Hindus for killing Gandhi.

And how do you know this, Sudarshanji? I asked.

There was this book written by a former police officer in Andhra Pradesh. I believe he exposed all these facts,  he said. Of course, he said he had not read the book himself, did not remember its title or the name of its author and closed the argument with the finality of death, literally, by saying that the supposed cop-writer, whose name nobody could recall, had also obviously been dead for some time. But why bother re-checking or verifying when you confuse faith for facts? Now that Sudarshan has shot into the prime time from wilderness, I wonder if I had missed an opportunity by not taking his cue to resume discussions from last night. But, really, if you take yourself seriously as a journalist, or even as a reasonably literate citizen, do you give time to such illiterate rubbish? The truth is, many in the BJP would also say that. But none would have the moral courage or political imagination to raise anything that looks like a question.

Also read: Hindutva, China, Covid & agriculture — Breaking down Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech

After that Sudarshan interview rocked the party, many in the BJP and RSS told me, but Sudarshanji is like that only. That is why, they said, we keep him away from the media. But in this case, Sudarshan had himself reached out to me through his staff and set up that interview, so they were not able to hide him. But Sudarshan is just an individual. Has the BJP leadership ever wondered if the problem is with him, as an individual, or with the RSS and the type of worldview it represents or the Indian nationalism it espouses? It is this blind, unquestioning devotion to an organisation and a philosophy which was born obsolete, if not sick, that has blighted the BJP as a political force.

Indian politics has space for an ideology a little to the right of centre, but not for the minority-bashing, xenophobic, neurotic nationalism and desi-ghee-and-cow-urine economics that the RSS represents. Unless the BJP can dump that burden of its history, it will continue to decline.

Postscript: How, then, does the rise of the BJP to power in 1998-2004 square with your theory, you might ask. The difference then was Vajpayee, who protected both his party and government from its ideological uncles” whose hatred for him, in turn, came out so sensationally in that Sudarshan interview. Vajpayee, actually, was cross with me over that interview. He did not speak to me for some time, and when he did, his first question was, So, you were so happy when Sudarshanji was abusing me? You never stopped him.

But how could I? He is the Sarsanghchalak,  I said cheekily.

Theek hai, humko gaali dena to unka banta hai, hum bhi kab unki naahin sunte hain?” he said, and we made up again.

It is only because of his wisdom, stature and moral authority that the BJP was able to build a real coalition and rule India for six years. To get anywhere near power again, the party will have to either invent another Vajpayee, or make a clean break from its ideological mentors. None looks like a real prospect now when the new, young party president draws his power from the idea that he is a Sangh appointee.

Also read: How engaging with the RSS brought double benefit – for the schoolboy me, if not Pranab-da


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