Standing in line
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is today the most prominent member of the family of organisations known as the “Sangh Parivar”. The party’s origins lie in the Jana Sangh, founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951 in response to the politics of the then dominant Congress party. The party was founded in collaboration with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist ‘social’ organisation. Although it was considered by many to be the political arm of the RSS, the BJP has, according to certain political commentators affiliated to the party, risen beyond the purview of its ideological partner. Recent events, however, may suggest otherwise. On Wednesday, Union ministers and top BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, participated in a meeting of the RSS and its affiliate organizations to discuss key issues.
This included the row over the land bill, the findings of the religion census education policy, labour reforms and the one rank-one pension demand, among others. Although such meetings occur quite regularly, news reports suggest that it has gained more importance this time around, especially in light of the Modi government’s one year in office. More importantly, the RSS and its affiliates have conveyed to the party that there a need for more “coordination” between their organizations and the party.
At this juncture, it is slightly difficult to ascertain what the term “coordination” entails. However, if we go by recent news reports, the implications of such “coordination” do not inspire much confidence in the democratic structure of this country. Union ministers are being asked to give presentations to what ostensibly is a “social organisation”, not elected by the people of India. On Thursday, reports emerged that Union Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani will give a presentation to the RSS and its affiliates over the education policy of this government. Good advice notwithstanding, why should an elected government, be answerable to a mere social organisation. Essentially, it is the only social organisation in India that can summon the entire top brass of the BJP, whose government is currently running this country, for a three-day summit to spell out what it is doing. The Modi government is not answerable to the RSS. It is answerable to the people of India.
This is not to suggest that some of the “suggestions” given to the party are not good. For example, the RSS has suggested that the government should make a concrete announcement on the One Rank One Pension demand. Moreover, the RSS has suggested that it would like six <g data-gr-id="37" style="color: #3b3b3b; font-size: 11px;">per cent</g> of the country’s GDP to be focused on education. These are wise suggestions. It is not an unusual sight to have elected politicians fall in obeisance to special interests that brought them to power. Most political parties do it anyway. However, it is slightly disconcerting to witness ministers being trotted out for questioning on their <g data-gr-id="40" style="color: #3b3b3b; font-size: 11px;">policies,</g> when the job description suggests otherwise. The obvious response to such criticism is that policy decisions under the previous UPA government were taken at the residence of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, who held no cabinet portfolio. Taking decisions for an elected government, without assuming direct responsibility, cannot be condoned. Nonetheless, the party president was elected to the Lok Sabha, by the people of her constituency.