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The Parivar and Its Favourite Son

John Dayal John Dayal
24 Jun 2024

It is not 'La Famiglia' by any stretch of the imagination. A few YouTubers seem to imply some semblance between the family battles of the 1980s between Sicilian Mafia giants vying for supremacy in the underground and what they say are tensions between the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, the most successful "pracharak" in the 99-year history of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh "parivar," and its current patriarch and general, Mr Mohan Bhagwat.

But there is a delicious irony for students or investigators who are forever seeking to penetrate the grey haze that surrounds the RSS. Subsequent to the 1984 rise of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister in the aftermath of the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi, the Sangh sought out opportunities for its innuendo against Sonia Gandhi, his Italian-born wife. This was aggravated for a while when Sonia Gandhi herself emerged as the leader of the Congress party after the exit of Rajiv's successor prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao.

Mr Modi and Mr Bhagwat are both vicious personalities with a cussed arrogance—one in his strength and that of his Praetorian guard and the second in the tested and proven jugular-piercing tusks of the organisation. But that does not mean they will go to war against each other.
Expressing his rather belated concern over the prolonged unrest in Manipur, Mr Bhagwat called for peace in the northeastern state. Somewhere in his address to a gathering of RSS leaders and trainees in Nagpur, he softly derided arrogance in governance.

The two utterances taken together are seen by YouTubers as a brutal indictment of Mr Modi. They predict his early doom.

But others would advise friends and foes of Mr N Modi and of India not to believe the myth that the RSS, a hair's breadth away from its centenary, will wilfully cut its nose to spite its face. In other words, it has never deserted him at any time in the past and will not reject him now. This time, the people rejected him and, by implication, the RSS with its hate, its violence and its distorted view of India's civilisation.

Observers, particularly in the northern states stretching from Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra, say Mr Bhagwat wants to reduce Mr Modi to size.

One reason, they say, is that in the last ten years of his government, he has not only totally overshadowed the Bhartiya Janata Party but also the Sangh. It was the RSS which created the BJP and later parachuted Mr Modi as the chief minister of his home state, Gujarat, at the turn of the century.

But targeting him would be the last thing the RSS would want to do at the moment. On the verge of completion are critical building blocks of the Hindu Rashtra its founding fathers had dreamt when they founded the group loosely modelled on similar groups that were gathering strength in Italy and Germany.

At that time, the rest of the people, Hindus, Muslims, and what were known as untouchables, were following a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He wanted a different sort of India, free of the colonial British and also free of borders of caste and creed. It was a very different template from the one Sangh had chosen.
A non-BJP government could arguably destroy everything Mr Modi had constructed in ten years—the new education policy, the new criminal code with the promise of a common civil code, the new equation between the PMO, the Supreme Court, bureaucracy, and even the election commission.

And, heaven forbid, there could be judicial and criminal enquiries into the lynching of men, murders of judges and a minister or two, and the sabotage of the Constitution. Alas, even if there was an enquiry into the billions wasted in the uglification of the New Delhi Parliament and Central Vista region, a successor government would not waste public money by demolishing these monstrosities. They would last as eternal reminders of Narendra Modi, a modern-day Tughlaq.

Mr Bhagwat heads an unregistered, thrice-banned organisation deemed by many critics to be a criminal and extra-constitutional force operating in the political, social, cultural, and religious spheres with an apparent carte blanche by the government. Mr Bhagat, as its general, has himself been given Z+ security.

Not many will take at face value his sudden concern for democratic values, decency in election campaigns, and the need to build consensus for the larger good of the nation. Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah's current campaign did not exceed the venom they spewed against the Muslim community in 2014 when the BJP made its successful bid for power at the centre. Mr Bhagwat had basked in Mr Modi's success.

Mr Bhagwat is now not likely to order Mr Modi to quit, expecting him to obey the diktat like the loyal 'Karyakarta' and 'Pracharak' he has been all the decades after he abandoned his newlywed wife and joined the Sangh.

The Sangh could wait until Mr Modi decides to retire, or until the reaper calls, or until his coalition partners abandon him.

The Sangh will, however, be more circumspect in the choice of the next man it would want to lead the BJP. No longer for it, a person with a split personality or an egoist, narcissistic, warped psyche seeking validation for his deistic hallucinations. The next leader they choose will be a lesser mortal.

Narendrabhai was a natural choice for the Sangh to consider for high office at the turn of the century. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also a thoroughbred RSS man, was the prime minister. He and Mr Lal Krishna Advani, his deputy, had strengthened the party by dint of hard politics and much bloodshed in the Babri Masjid campaign. But he had alcohol every evening and lived with a family not his own.

Karnataka-based political analyst Oliver D'Souza, who has studied the BJP-RSS connect for a couple of decades, says, "The primary reason Modi was parachuted as Gujarat CM is because RSS knew he was extreme in his pursuit of Hindutva and would do what was needed to the extent that he presided over the murder of thousands of Muslims and called it all 'a dog getting accidentally run over by a car.'"
It was also in Gujarat that, through Modi, RSS learned to infiltrate and manipulate government, fine-tuned strategies for communal and caste engineering, along with economic experiments of concentrating wealth in the hands of a few allied to it. Without money, RSS can achieve nothing, D'Souza adds.
Professor Shamsul Islam of Delhi University, after examining the Sangh attacks on the Christian community in Gujarat, leading to the destruction of some three dozen village churches in the forested Dangs district, wrote a booklet calling Gujarat the Laboratory of the Sangh.
In this 'laboratory', the former RSS instructor and mentor of cadres learnt on the job how not to be held accountable by the law through saffronising the courts, including the High Court. "Gujarat eventually became a state ruled by a cartel of Hindutva criminals and businessmen, its administration communal and the population brain-washed into believing Hindutva and Hinduism are interchangeable. This is what RSS wanted," D'Souza says.
Once it succeeded in suppressing Gujarat into its idea of India, the RSS sought to replicate it nationally. This was done by making Modi PM. Modi intensely pursued RSS's core ideology—trying to turn India into a majoritarian state through any possible means.
Gujarat also became the conduit for transferring funds from the private and corporate sector to the RSS, sources say. Funds are needed for expansion and penetration, with the target being 600,000 villages in the country—one 'shakha' per village. They will achieve the target in the not-too-distant future.

Those singing praises of Mr Bhagwat, without deriding Mr Modi, include the illustrious Mr Ashok Lavasa, a retired IAS officer promoted to Election Commissioner who resigned within months without citing concrete reasons, without criticising Mr Modi, who immediately nominated him to a lucrative assignment in the Asian Development Bank.

Mr Lavasa says Mr Bhagwat has virtually laid out a road map for the new (old) government and prescribed a model code of conduct, something that people expected the Election Commission of India (ECI) to enforce during the 2024 general election. "Mr Bhagwat's message is loud and clear whereas the ECI's was muted and manicured."

Trinamool Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, Ms Sagarika Ghosh, put a different perspective on the words of the leader of the "secretive parent organisation of the BJP." She reminds that for a decade, the RSS has worked closely with the BJP, infiltrated a range of government bodies and lapped up as much as it could of state power and privileges. For it to now lament about "arrogant leaders" is nothing but hypocrisy and double-speak. The RSS is very much part of the same arrogance. Ms Ghosh, a TV and print journalist and a biographer of Indira Gandhi, is the daughter of former Information and broadcasting secretary Mr Bhaskar. She is married to fellow TV anchor Mr Rajdeep Sardesai, of India Today TV.

"Modi is still prancing about in a delusional alternate reality. He barely won his own seat (Varanasi) and his party survives on the oxygen supplied by allies such as TDP and JDU. The fact is that the RSS, for a decade, has been entirely embedded with the Modi government. It played a not-so-secret role throughout the 2024 campaign, mobilising support for BJP candidates, and using its vast networks to devise politically geared controversies and whip up rumour campaigns to benefit the BJP."

That is a good thing to remember.

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