Millennium Post

Has Modi tamed the Parivar?

The period when the RSS called the shots in the BJP may be nearing its end. The first setback which the RSS suffered after Narendra Modi’s rise to power was his selection of Amit Shah for the party president’s post. Since 2005, when LK Advani was evicted from the post by the RSS, following the former rath yatri’s praise of Mohammed Ali Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan, the nomination of the BJP chief had been in the hands of the Nagpur patriarchs.

First, they chose Rajnath Singh, then Nitin Gadkari, an old favourite. When the latter had to leave because of allegations against his business ventures, it was Rajnath Singh once again. The RSS might have expected, therefore, to choose Singh’s successor after he joined Modi’s cabinet. But, for someone like Modi who likes to hold onto all the levers of power, it was only to be expected that the Prime Minister would put his own man in a key position in the BJP.

The RSS probably had no option but to gulp this rebuff after nearly a decade of keeping a tab on the BJP, via its nominee in the president’s post. After all, there has been no one in the BJP, who possesses as much political authority as Modi does at present, having led the party virtually single-handedly to an unprecedented victory in the general election. There is little doubt that the party’s majority in the Lok Sabha is due entirely to Modi’s popularity. It was out of the question, therefore, for the RSS to oppose his choice for the top man in the party.

The glory days, therefore, when an RSS sarsanghchalak like KS Sudarshan could ask top-ranking leaders of the BJP like Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani to make away for GenNext were over. However, the RSS might not have expected that it would soon have to follow Modi’s diktat in another respect. Nagpur has apparently been asked to rein in the saffron hotheads, following Modi’s objections to their antics on the ‘ghar wapsi’ or reconversion issue.

It is possible that the RSS had expected the reconversions programmes to continue as a quid pro quo for its decision to put off the Ram temple issue for a year. This postponement itself was a significant retreat for the patriarchs since the temple is the first and foremost item on its Hindutva agenda, followed by the preference for a uniform civil code and the scrapping of Article 370.

However, with the temple issue on the back burner and the possibility that the BJP may not be too vocal on Article 370, when it is negotiating with the People’s Democratic Party and perhaps also the National Conference for a share in power in Jammu and Kashmir, the RSS must be in a quandary.
The situation may seem strange for the RSS, since it is unable to push its line with a BJP-led government in the centre and several key states. Also the government faces no real challenge since the Congress and the other opposition parties are in disarray. Yet, the RSS has to soft-pedal the temple issue and give up the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign as well. It is almost as if a secular government is at the helm in Delhi.

The problem with these retreats is that the saffron brotherhood will not know how to keep itself motivated. To keep its cadres in tow, the saffronities have to keep various communal issues alive. Hence, the emphasis, first, on love jehad, followed by ghar wapsi and then bahu lao-beti bachao, which is the reverse of love jehad, since the bahu lao campaign urges Hindu boys to marry Muslim girls unlike the warning to Hindu girls in the love jehad programme. These provocative agitations are interspersed with violence against an “anti-Hindu” films like PK and mysterious acts of arson against churches. In their absence, however, the saffron brigade will be at a loose end. What is more, any belief that the RSS is losing its clout is a cause of concern to the brotherhood because, in the process, other affiliates like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal will also lose their influence. For all of them, the days of Vajpayee are back again, when there were no gains for their agenda during his five years as prime minister. If another five years go by with no temple and ghar wapsi, there will be very little to differentiate between the saffron and the “sickular” – the cuss world for secular – lobbies.

What is more, any perceptible economic development during this period will create an atmosphere of  wellness, which will act as an antidote to trouble-makers since no one – least of all, the consumerist middle class – will like the social scene to be disturbed. Considering that the middle class currently constitutes one of the major support base for the BJP, the latter will be wary of the saffron camp running amok. In fact, this is exactly why Modi has sought to tame the RSS. IPA
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