After Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister of India, there were extensive news reports about how the sweeping victory in the 2014 general elections was more a victory for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that had left no stone unturned in ensuring Modi’s astounding victory.
In a report in DNA, the author wrote about the symbolic presence of the RSS at his swearing-in ceremony:
“The presence of Sadhvi Rithambara and Indresh Kumar in the first row allotted for dignitaries spoke volumes. Indresh Kumar, a senior RSS member, was named in the Samjhauta blasts case as one of the accused and conspirators. Sadvi Rithambara, one must remember, was indicted for her role in the Ayodhya movement and the ensuing riots for her provocative speeches, instigating the crowd to demolish the Babri Masjid that saw nationwide polarisation between Hindus and Muslims.”
However, on Sunday, a report in the Hindustan Times said that the RSS has now decided not to interfere in the functioning of the Modi government for at least a year even if its affiliate organisations have publicly opposed key policy decisions of the government.
“All top RSS leaders believe Modi should be given space and time to deliver. All of them, including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, have told Parivar members that the Sangh will not – at least for a year – create trouble for Modi by raising issues on which he has strong opinions,” a senior RSS functionary was quoted as saying.
This is a clear departure from the repeated instances of interference from the Sangh parivar that Modi has had to tackle during his first 100 days in government.
As Firstpost reported, the first sign of the Sangh parivar’s intervention in government policy came towards the end of July when the RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh forced the government to put off field trials on genetically modified crops.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had earlier that month cleared 15 proposals for confined field trials for rice, brinjal, chickpea, mustard and cotton. But these were put off after Manch and Sangh members told Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar that it was “not advisable” to allow GM crops without proper scientific evaluation, mentioning “dangerous” introduction of a “foreign gene”.
On the government’s decision to increase the cap on Foreign Direct Investment in insurance, defence and railways also, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the BJP’s labour union, has raised red flags. In fact, in the early days of the Modi government, the Swadeshi Jagra Manch even cautioned against business with China.
The fears of the RSS interfering in policy-making were not unfounded: To begin with, the election results underwent much scrutiny, so questions of how extensive was the role of the RSS campaign, how much of a role the hardline Hindu nationalist group would therefore play in government decisions all followed in quick succession. And RSS supporters were enthusiastic in announcing their expectations.
Post the NDA win, a report on Indiatimes.com quoted a RSS worker as saying the new PM would be the RSS’ PM too:
“Since a person from RSS is going to be prime minister, we expect he will work not only for the nation, but also for RSS,” said Rajeev Varma, a 23-year-old engineering student who campaigned for Modi. “Obviously we feel proud.”
Modi has been portrayed as a strong leader in comparison to his predecessors and the Prime Minister’s speech on Independence Day where he spoke extempore, touching on many issues from the need of toilets for girls to lethargic government officials, made his plan for the country clear. But Sangh affiliates aired their views on Modi’s foreign policy thrust on Independence Day, with the Twitter handle and Facebook page of the RSS uploading a graphic of ‘Akhand Bharat’ with this quote from MS Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh:
“If Partition is a settled fact, we are here to unsettle it. There is, in fact, no such thing as a settled fact in this world. Things get settled or unsettled solely by the will of man. And man’s will is steeled by a spirit of dedication to a cause, which he knows to be righteous and glorious.”
In an analysis by DNA, the author said:
So how do we read such an assertion by the RSS on the day when the first pracharaak to become Prime Minister delivered his vision for the country? In many ways, one presumes Modi’s first Independence Day speech contains policies which are expected over the next five years. But “unsettling the settled business of partition”? What does that mean? Is it a message to India’s south Asian neighbours, with whom Modi has been trying to mend ties? Or it is a message to India’s own minorities?
The RSS stamp on the BJP’s political decisions is now amply clear. When L K Advani and M M Joshi were shunted out of the Parliamentary Committee, reports were quick to see this as an Amit Shah decision with the blessings of the RSS.
As Firstpost’s Sanjay Singh wrote: “The decision by the new BJP president sends two messages that Modi’s control over the party and the government is total and cannot be challenged. First, that his protégé Amit Shah can take tough decisions previously considered unthinkable, and second, that their coordination with the RSS over such policy matters is very smooth.”
Therefore, the RSS now announcing that it will step back from interfering in governance is a significant step, giving the government some breathing space that the Modi sarkar will be grateful for.
As the HT report said, the new BJP president Amit Shah – who has roots in the Sangh – may have been behind the induction of senior RSS members into the party, but he’s clearly also keen to ensure that it’s all smooth sailing for the government, especially while taking bold policy decisions.