Like the 80s, the theme of Muslim ‘appeasement’ will dominate Sangh narrative

At the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Mahal, the second floor is home to a museum. Images of past Sarsanghchalaks, photos of pracharaks who set up Sangh units in various States, and the various gifts and citations received by the organisation in its 88-year history adorn the walls.

Sadanand Shirdale is looking around, absorbing the past of his organisation. As we sit for a cup of tea on the ground floor of the HQ, the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pune district, secretary says Narendra Modi will “change the system.”

When asked to elaborate, he says the current system is geared to benefit the “so-called minorities.” “Appeasement will end when we come to power. In Gujarat, there is no Muslim MLA. That is how it should be.”

And how would Muslims react if such a system was replicated?

Mr. Shirdale replied, “They can’t all go to Pakistan. They should also develop. But the key question is they should be loyal to India, not another country.”

The direct insinuation that the primary loyalty of minorities is not to India; the suggestion that the government works only for them to protect ‘vote-banks’; and the subtle hint that Hindus, despite being a majority, suffer in India, is the overwhelming strain in the RSS narrative at present. From the Sarsanghchalak in his Dussehra speech, to workers in and around Muzaffarnagar as riots spread, the refrain is the same.

Manmohan Vaidya is the RSS media relations in-charge. He narrates a list of policies and actions of the Centre, which are categorised as instances of “appeasement.”

“Why did the Home Minister write a letter on innocent Muslims? Look at the reactions of Congress leaders to Batla House and Azamgarh. Despite the Constitution prohibiting reservations on religious lines, they are trying to introduce it. They are giving salaries to Imams. In Kerala, Islamic banks are being opened. The Communal Violence Bill is anti-Hindu. How can it be said that they have first rights over national resources?”

Mr. Vaidya continues his complaints, and claims that schemes introduced after the Sachar committee recommendations are “dividing people.” He then narrates a story. “Imagine two girls in a village. A Muslim girl gets a cycle, but the Hindu girl does not get it. She asks her mother, who explains that she is not entitled to it because she is not a Muslim.” After a dramatic pause, he continues, “The daughter asks her mother if that is the case, why they cannot become Muslims? The mother is shocked, and sells her jewellery to buy a cycle.”

Campaign

It is with stories like these, and grievances articulated to project a narrative of how Hindus are getting a raw deal, that Sangh pracharaks and BJP workers will set out to convince voters in the run-up to 2014. Party workers say candidly that it does not matter whether Mr. Modi raises it from a public platform — the message on the ground is spreading.

A senior BJP leader in the city told The Hindu, “Look we know we won’t get Muslim votes. The calculation is Muslims will consolidate by an additional two or three percent to counter Modi. But there will be Hindu consolidation with upper castes and OBCs coming together.” This will happen, he said, because they will be united by the anger and “suffocation” against “government policies towards minorities.”

It is precisely to create and channel this anger that the Sangh has returned to the plank which helped spread the Hindutva political project in the 80s and early 90s — the theme of “pseudo-secularism” and “appeasement.”

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