Mentors and agendas

September 07, 2015 01:15 am | Updated March 28, 2016 03:50 pm IST

That the Bharatiya Janata Party is >organically tied to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is no secret. Senior BJP leaders constantly reiterate their links with the Sangh Parivar, and RSS sanghchalaks never tire of offering ‘advice’ and ‘guidance’ to the BJP top brass. A private meeting between leaders of the two organisations should not ordinarily have caused concern. After all, political, cultural or social organisations must be free to hold closed-door discussions on policies and programmes. But what took place at the samanvay baithak , or coordination meeting, between the BJP and the RSS was much more than an interaction between the party and its ideological mentor. It was not just senior BJP leaders who were in attendance: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most of his ministerial colleagues from the BJP lined up for the meeting that seemed more like an inquisition than an interaction. Why an elected BJP government feels it is accountable to the secretive RSS is not difficult to fathom, given the history of Hindutva politics that is sometimes micro-managed through remote-control by the sanghchalaks. But the meeting is invested with a meaning that goes beyond the political interests of the RSS or the BJP, and relates to the accountability of an elected government to democratic institutions and processes.

The samanvay baithak is surely an indication of the sense of ownership that RSS sanghchalaks feel over this government, the first BJP-led government that does not depend on the support of allies. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, RSS volunteers, in numbers greater than ever before, were involved in the campaign and fieldwork for the BJP. After the BJP secured a majority, many among them seemed to believe the government ought to have followed a core Hindutva agenda. But if the BJP managed to extend its support base beyond its traditional strongholds, it was on account of the party adopting a more inclusive programme of growth and development. While he did not always rein in Ministers and leaders speaking the language of religious hatred and communal divisiveness, Mr. Modi was himself all political correctness. But his participation in the meeting, and his speech — its contents unpublicised — in which he described himself as an RSS swayamsevak, have again raised doubts about the direction his government is taking. It is not as if A.B. Vajpayee, the only other Prime Minister from the BJP, did not have discussions or meetings with RSS leaders while in power. However, a meeting of this kind, with almost all the Union Ministers from the BJP present with report cards, is unprecedented. Clearly, the RSS is seeking to appropriate for itself the role of an extra-constitutional super-parliament, accountable to none but its own sanghchalaks. A coordination meeting of this kind, by whatever name it is called, raises serious questions about the functioning of the government, about hidden agendas and opaque decision-making .

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