Ties between the RSS-BJP under duress
The fresh impetus given to the Hindutva agenda by the RSS and its combative affiliates like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal appears to have soured their relationship with the BJP. The deterioration may not be serious enough to lead to a rupture. Besides, there have been earlier occasions, when the BJP leaders haven’t seen eye to eye with the RSS, which heads the Sangh Parivar.
For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the Babri masjid demolition in 1992, then primus inter pares in the BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee, is said to have contemplated resignation. Since he was dissuaded from taking the fateful step, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia had taken pride in the fact that the party had not split as a result of the act of vandalism.
More than a decade later, when LK Advani was dragged kicking and screaming from the BJP president’s post on the orders of the RSS after he praised Mohammed Ali Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan, he had expressed dissatisfaction over the influence wielded by the RSS over the BJP. The RSS chief of the time, KS Sudarshan, had called upon Vajpayee and Advani to make way for the younger generation.
Even if the divergence of views between the two outfits is lesser this time, it still cannot be ignored. The present differences are about the ‘love jehad’ and ‘ghar wapsi’ programmes of the ‘Hindutva Gestapo’. The BJP may not have any major disagreement with their objectives, as a party functionary pointed out, but it does not want them to be carried out in a vigorous manner, considering the resultant controversy.
The Narendra Modi government feels that both campaigns directed against the minorities – to which a third, bahu lao, beti bachao has been added by the Bajrang Dal – will undermine the government’s modernistic image inside and outside the country. Besides, they have the potential of triggering communal unrest, which will deter both domestic and foreign investors.
The possibility of widening the communal gulf follows directly from the ‘love jehad’ and ‘bahu lao, beti bachao’ slogans that are complementary in nature, where stirring up trouble is concerned. While the former warns Hindu girls against Muslim boys trapping them into marriage, the ‘bahu lao’ slogan encourages Hindu boys to marry Muslim girls. At the same time, Hindu families are told to save their daughters from alleged machinations led by the Muslim community, like ‘love jehad’.
A great deal of thought must have been expended in RSS shakhas and other conclaves to conjure up these campaigns with the evident intention of sowing mistrust. The intensity and urgency with which they are being pursued are probably to compensate for the restraint being shown by the RSS and the VHP to put off the issue of constructing the Ram temple for a year. This show of moderation is presumably in response to Modi’s call for a year-long moratorium on sectarian animosity.
However, since saffron cadres may be disheartened by sitting idle for so long, considering the installation of a BJP government at the centre, the saffron brotherhood has evidently to follow other militant paths to pursue their goal of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
Although hardliners have been making absurd claims that the ‘ghar wapsi’ or ‘homecoming’ of the Muslims back into the Hindu fold will eradicate the problem of Islamic terrorism and thereby help the government’s development agenda, it is obvious that a tense atmosphere will not be conducive to economic growth.
Besides, if the hardliners persist with their provocative words and deeds, the impression of Modi as someone who brooks no nonsense will be eroded. At present, his word is law in the government and party. But, if he is seen to be unable to control the hotheads, as he was able to do in Gujarat, then his widely acclaimed magic will be on the wane.
Since politics is a matter of perception, the belief that Modi is vulnerable will be politically fatal for him, at a time when his chariot has been halted at the gates of the Kashmir Valley. Also, the BJP was able to secure only a bare majority in Jharkhand with the help of its ally, the All Jharkhand Student’s Union. Moreover, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was able to hold its own in the electoral fray, just as the Shiv Sena did in Maharashtra.
Considering that the BJP managed only win a mere 2.2 per cent of the votes in the Kashmir valley, it is clear that the Muslims have turned resolutely against the party apparently because of the antics by saffron extremists. This sign of aversion suggests that the BJP will not find it easy to secure the Muslim votes in the forthcoming assembly elections in Delhi. Since Muslims comprise 11.7 per cent of the capital’s population, the loss cannot be ignored, especially if the minorities – both Muslims and Christians - turn unitedly in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is expected to be the BJP’s main opponent in Delhi.
There is little doubt that the BJP will win, but a creditable performance by the AAP cannot but be ascribed by the moderates in the BJP to the politically immature adventurism of the RSS.