Before the swearing-in ceremony of his new ministerial colleagues last Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed out to Vigyan Bhawan to pay homage to one of his earliest teachers in the Sangh.
There, Mr. Modi revealed his old association with Eknath Ranade, whose birth centenary falls on November 19, leaving many wondering who the Prime Minister’s long forgotten guide was.
“I am fortunate to be here to pay my respects to the great man… I learnt from him. I spent valuable years of my life working with him,” Mr. Modi revealed.
Observers say a close look at Ranade’s life and ideals also offers glimpses into Mr. Modi’s own understanding of politics. Mr. Modi had recalled how he once accompanied Ranade to Mount Abu and spent three days with him observing his perseverance for his “life mission” and picking up lessons. “He was such a perfectionist that at times those who worked with him found it difficult to get to his level,” Mr. Modi said.
The life mission was setting up the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Tamil Nadu and Ranade shared Mr. Modi’s admiration for the Hindu icon.
While he held the RSS general secretary’s position from 1956 to 1962, he reached the top much earlier. After the RSS was banned following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, he continued to organise the Sangh’s cadres and came to be known as the “Underground Sarsanghchalak,” M.G. Chitkara, a swayamsewak, writes in his book ‘RSS: National Upsurge.’
He also played a key role in the negotiations with the government and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for lifting the ban on the RSS. “He was among [Keshav Baliram] Hedgewar’s earliest team members,” Dilip Deodhar, Nagpur-based RSS observer and former swayamsewak, told The Hindu .
“He was instrumental in drafting the RSS constitution. The management style of organising the cadres in the Sangh, the drills and the officers’ training camps are all Ranade’s contribution,” he said.
The RSS constitution was a pre-requisite laid down by the government for lifting the ban. Ranade was ousted from the RSS during M.S. Golwalkar’s time and brought back later by Balasaheb Deoras, he added.
“In the Sangh, Swami Vivekananda is the role model for Golwalkar, Ranade and Mr. Modi,” Mr. Deodhar said.
Mr. Modi’s admiration for Vivekananda (born Narendra Nath in a family of aristocrats) is no secret. In April 2013, he had gone to the Belur Math near Howrah and meditated in Vivekananda’s room for nearly half an hour. He said there that he had wanted to live a monk’s life when he first visited Belur as a teenager.
“Vivekananda’s is the idea of the activist sanyasi. He talks of a national unity based on a common Hindu nationalism,” said Pradip Datta, Professor of Political Science at Delhi University.