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Plot thickens, the colour deepens

Plot thickens, the colour deepens
Seven months on, Narendra Modi’s politics in governance has begun to reveal itself. The umbilical chord that normally connects the BJP to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seems well in place, evident in all of the party government’s key decisions. The unimportant alliance partners of the NDA II are hardly seen disagreeing with the so-called ‘social organisation’s’ entrenching activities. 

Unlike the NDA I government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the RSS is not hobbled by alliance worries that Vajpayee could accentuate to keep the Nagpur lot at bay, and maintain a semblance of ‘independence.’ Vajpayee allowed the RSS free play in only one area of the government- the human resource development policies- especially history writing projects.

He also could enjoy a larger than life image in leading the government into sunset as the unifying man, who could bridle the RSS by the fear that the coalition partners like the Samata Party, could leave it on the contentious issue.

Narendra Modi, on the other hand, is either ideologically so wedded to the RSS philosophy that he is choosing all the state government heads, where the party has to come to power, from amongst the long-time pracharaks of the RSS.

Be it the Haryana chief ministership or the Maharashtra CM-ship, he has found old RSS proselytisers to fill the top spot in state capitals.

Those chief ministers who had been elected earlier and had been anointed earlier as CMs like in Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje are having to keep a wary watch over their shoulders for any possible RSS ire over their policies.

True to form, Modi has left the RSS the traditional areas of its permanent interests; like seeding the government institutions of the kind of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) with their die-hard believers, who could undertake tasks given to them from Nagpur. The unprecedented BJP victory at the Lok Sabha polls has in-fact made Modi cede control of areas like defence and foreign policy where the RSS has usurped control by putting various policy advisers, who are its own.     

This writer had broken a story last week in this newspaper that talked about a two-day conclave of former bureaucrats and technocrats who have come out of the wood-works, once the party got majority at the hustings in May, 2014. This conclave, chaired by the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, was a jamboree where these ‘experts’ gave a free play to their thoughts about how India should be best governed.

This was no different in how the National Advisory Council (NAC) of the UPA government, headed by Sonia Gandhi, would actively advise the Manmohan Singh government. But the RSS is not a benign policy advocate like a Aruna Roy or Jean Dreze who would, at worst, resign and leave in case they found isolated caught between the unwritten contract between the extra-constitutional authority that Gandhi enjoyed and the government.

The 2009 victory of the UPA was not quite owed to Sonia Gandhi entirely, because the Indian middle class had also voted for Manmohan Singh because he held out the promise of promulgating neo-liberal economic policies, soon after his victory in the US-India nuclear deal struggle. The fact that Gandhi out-smarted Singh is the stuff history is made off, as she pushed through the Right to Education law or the right to food law, to create a sense of a Europe-styled social democracy that engaged the lower rungs of the Indian society.

But unlike the UPA, Modi government owes greater measures of its poll victories to the RSS, whose grass-root workers that remained entwined into the society through the years of lost power, launched itself and then create a surge, resulting in the win of 2014. The RSS is not exactly a body with which Modi is fully comfortable as is evident in the fall-out of HRD ministry’s mid-year decision of replacing German language studies with Sanskrit.

The Nagpur-based oganisation still has the striking arm ready and honed, considering all the state polls that are in the offing. At those critical times, it will be the RSS grassroot soldiers who would knock on the door, and get the vote out for the party, thus can truly complete its victory in democratic terms.

Long time ago, when sections of the English-language media were beginning to convert itself to the logic of having a majority religion-based rightist party in the democratic space of India, one of its leading lights had talked of shaping the BJP in lines of the Christian democratic parties of Western Europe in countries like Germany and Spain. These parties had challenged the post-War surge towards social-democracy as a weak variant of socialism, where Marxism had spread its tentacles.
These social democracies were born after the decimation of the real communist politics during the war years and in its aftermath, like the wide spread of the French ‘resistance’ movement that was betrayed by Charles de Gaulle, in his turn.

The Nazis and Fascists in places like Germany and Italy had already done their own share of killing off Marxist socialists in millions of numbers.

That Christian democratic muddle only ceded political power, after the neo-liberal surge and finance-driven globalisation led by former Trotskyites, gave the European Right a fresh fillip. Now, when this too has been swept away by the Economic crisis of 2008, the population is swaying like a Yo-yo between the remaining Right and the Left.

This fate will also befall the upper-caste Hindu middle class voters where the RSS-BJP has its support base.

The author is a senior journalist
Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

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