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Analysis: RSS leader Suresh Joshi underscores broader Hindu unity

Suresh Joshi

Suresh Joshi  

Joshi’s statement seeks to draw in other parties

RSS second-in-command Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi in an interaction in Goa on Sunday said the BJP, referred to as the political voice of the Sangh Parivar, was not “synonymous” with the Hindu community and moves to oppose the BJP should not be automatically assumed to be opposing Hindus.

While many meanings are being read into Mr. Joshi’s words, specifically in the context of the Union government’s handling of a bitter face-off over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) but more importantly over the BJP’s break with the Shiv Sena — its only ally on the issue of Hindutva — last year, RSS insiders say the context is even larger.

The meaning of Mr. Joshi’s statement, say RSS insiders, is to draw the point that the Hindu cause is a larger issue, notwithstanding the political position taken by people of different political ideologies. It is also to underscore the point that the RSS’s voice is not confined to that of the BJP.

Insiders point to the fact that the late Nanaji Deshmukh favoured supporting the Congress in the elections called in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. At that time, say senior RSS men, the country needed to be united in the face of fissiparous forces regardless of ideology.

Many in the Sangh also feel that ideology is one thing, but the way the RSS functions organisationally is also important. That functioning, say sources, cannot be based only on political activity.

In Kerala, Bengal

Mr. Joshi’s statement in Goa (the transcript of which was made available to The Hindu) also referred to instances of Durga Pooja pandals, during the Left’s rule in West Bengal, being headed by members of the CPI(M) or even the fight for control over Devaswom Boards in Kerala by the Left again. In such situations, he says, while political ideology is the basis for the tussle, that it necessarily stems from an anti-Hindu stance is not correct.

This broad swathe drawn by Mr. Joshi is significant as the BJP is engaged in a bitter political battle in West Bengal and in Kerala, where religious polarisation is part of the political playbook and parties that seek minority votes are often accused of speaking the language of Pakistan.

It also does not mean that the RSS is backing off from its support of the CAA, with several office bearers being part of the programme for a door-to-door outreach to win over those opposing the Act.

What it does or at least seeks to do is to send a message to parties like the Shiv Sena that the RSS’s agenda still includes them. It also points to an effort to broad-base Hindutva as an ideological aspect of other parties, and to have certain causes of the Hindu society as acceptable to all and separate from politics.

In all, Mr. Joshi, considered a tough, ideologically driven man, has given much food for thought — not just to the BJP-led Central government — but also other parties and organisations on their levels of engagements with what are considered largely Hindu causes.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:05:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rss-leader-suresh-joshi-underscores-broader-hindu-unity/article30785328.ece

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