Modi heading Bhagwat's Cabinet
It certainly must raise the feeling of concern in the right quarters that with the recent expansion in the Union Cabinet, the imprint of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) on Narendra Modi government is now deeper. The three main Ministries--Human Resource Development (HRD), Information & Broadcasting (I&B), and Culture--have been on the RSS' high-priority list from the day Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) came to power in May 2014. And all three are now manned by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's men.
Prakash Javadekar, the new HRD Minister is a staunch RSS man. He was also a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of BJP. I&B has been handed over to Venkaiah Naidu, who has been associated with RSS since his childhood. He also started his political career as an ABVP student leader in 1973-74 after being elected the president of the students' union of Andhra University. The Culture Ministry was already being held by an RSS man, Mahesh Sharma whose statements create flurry every other day.
At least half a dozen parliamentarians having strong links with RSS have been included in the Cabinet in the recent expansion. There are reports that BJP president Amit Shah had sought the approval of RSS on the new Cabinet list. The most prominent of RSS pracharaks included in the Cabinet recently is Anil Madhav Dave who is now the Environment Minister with independent charge. He has been roped in for the job in the Union Cabinet to ensure the disbursement of Rs. 42,00 crore Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning (CAMPA) fund. With Dave's elevation, RSS is also preparing grounds for the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh where it can project him as the next Chief Minister in 2018.
Mahendra Nath Pandey, new Minister of State (MoS) for HRD is another RSS man. He was an active participant in the movement for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and had joined RSS as a Bal Swayam Sevak in 1961. MoS Textiles Ajay Tamta also participated in Ram Jan Bhoomi temple agitation. MoS Railways Rajan Gohain was one of the founders of BJP in Assam. He was the known RSS face in the state and ran RSS training centre in Hojai of Nagaon district for long. Vijay Goel also is an RSS man and had won the election of the President of Delhi University Students' Union in 1977 as an ABVP candidate. Fagan Singh Kulaste, MoS for Health & Family Welfare is also an old guard of RSS from Madhya Pradesh. Before the recent expansion, one-third of 66 ministers (22) were from RSS. The strength has increased to around 40 percent.
It was evident in 2014 when Modi took oath as the Prime Minister that RSS will be the principal authority. He had to include nine RSS pracharaks as Cabinet Ministers and three other Pracharaks as MoS at that time. Half a dozen others, who were not former Pracharaks, but worked in affiliated outfits such as ABVP had also been included by Modi in his Cabinet two years back.
Who other than Narendra Modi, being a former RSS Pracharak himself, understand that how difficult it is for any BJP leader to loosen the grip of the parent organisation while taking care of the core issues of governance. After assuming charge at Raisina Hills Modi was having a haunting recall of what RSS chief Bhagwat had said two months before the general elections. Totally disapproving Modi's individualistic approach, Bhagwat had cautioned a delegate session of RSS volunteers at Banglore, "we must work for BJP’s victory, but it is not our job to chant NaMo-NaMo. We must not cross our limits to support BJP". Only a little more than two months after Modi took over, in the second week of August 2014, Bhagwat again warned Modi and said, "Some people are saying that the victory is because of some individuals. The fact is that BJP acquired this absolute power because the common man wanted change. The same individuals and the party existed earlier also. Why were they not voted to power?"
RSS chief again summoned the Prime Minister and his ministers and told them what to do and what not to when he held a three-day meet between Sangh Parivar and Modi government in the last week of August 2015. Modi had to personally attend the conclave and submit himself to rigorous scrutiny.
RSS' presence across the country has gained tremendously after BJP assumed office in the Centre. Only in last one year, the number of RSS daily shakhas has increased to 56859 from 51332 in 2014-15. RSS had a presence at 33233 places across the country in 2014-15, but its latest annual report of 2015-16 tells us that this number has gone to 36867. It has trained 1,12,520 new volunteers during past one year.
RSS affiliates such as Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), working for the farmers; Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), a tribal welfare organisation; Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) one of the biggest student organisation of the country; Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS) a leading workers union; Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a forum of Sadhus, Sants and Pontiffs; BharatIya Janata Party (BJP), one of the most important political party of the nation; have also widened their ground in past two years. Vidya Bharati, Vijnana Bharati, Kreeda Bharati, Sevabharati, Samskrita Bharati, Samskara Bharati, Laghu Udyoga Bharati as well as leaders from Rashtra Sevika Samithi, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Deendayal Samshodhana Samsthe, Bharat Vikas Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Shaikshik Mahasangh, Dharmajagarana and Vishwa Vibhag are working day and night to capture the space across India. Several other RSS outfits established with special focus like--Sakshama--working for the blind; Seema Suraksha Parishad, which claims to boost confidence among people of border districts and Poorva Sainik Parishad, working among retired soldiers are also busy in expanding their base.
With all this, the RSS has become too strong to be ignored by anyone. How then its one time Pracharak Modi can even think of not toeing the lines drawn by Bhagwat? The batteries of RSS remote control are not getting weak. They are getting stronger with every passing day and Modi is a willful implementer of RSS designs. He is bound to appease RSS as he will need its whole-hearted support during the next elections including upcoming Uttar Pradesh polls.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views are personal.)