The Sangh Parivar is hopelessly divided between RSS Bharat and BJP India
The Sangh Parivar is not just going through a crisis of credibility. It is also suffering from a crisis of identity and ideology. This was quite evident this week from the statements made by both RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Kailash Vijayvargiya, a Madhya Pradesh BJP minister, on women-related issues. Both invited the ire of the media and numerous political parties. Neither could garner the support of any formidable BJP leader to defend their assertions. Instead, Vijayvargiya was directed to withdraw his obnoxious invocation of an episode from the Ramayana. Instead of articulating the dominant Hindutava philosophy of worshipping the primacy and power of women, some BJP leaders continue to treat them as unequal and inferior partners in life.
On the face of it, both Bhagawat and Vijayvargiya were reflecting their ideological and cultural convictions. They had forgotten that they are under much more public scrutiny for their conduct and discourse than any other political party or NGO in the country. But the fact that both had to be either defended or reprimanded reflects the confusion in the rank and file of the Sangh Parivar. While Bhagwat was talking about India and Bharat, he conveniently forgot that most of the RSS’s 400-odd frontal organisations are also divided along the same lines.
Its political offspring, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is the most glaring example of the great divide. Its footsoldiers are drawn from Bharat, but its top generals belong to India. As its cadres in small towns and villages struggle to retain their core identity which has strong roots in Indian culture and Hindutava, the leaders at the Centre and in the states are leaving nothing to chance to win the hearts and minds of those who control, manage and finance India. They have taken the cadres for granted. Just look at the party’s pathetic and fatal disconnect with its ideological moorings. When middle class India was horrified with the communally inflammatory speech of Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MIM MLA from Hyderabad, the BJP instead slipped into a coma. With its president Nitin Gadkari struggling to retain his presidency, other party leaders were more obsessed with the adverse judicial verdict on the appointment of the Gujarat Lokayukta, but had no words of wisdom to take up an issue which would have gone well with its cadres. Barring a few obscure party functionaries, none of the national or state-level officebearers were even aware of the incident. They don’t fear their selfless followers, but they do crawl in front of small-screen anchors, Bollywood and industry icons.
The BJP’s reluctance to take up issues like Owaisi’s speech aggressively reflects the de-saffronisation of its political ideology. Its new leadership is afraid of talking about Article 351, the Uniform Civil Code, Ayodhya, the hanging of Afzal Guru, the de-Indianisation of the Indian education system and the growing influence of Western economic models on our system. While the RSS still lives and survives in its own version of Bharat, the BJP is looking for a glamorous and affluent abode in urban India. It helps the UPA government on economic reform, and to boost the dominance of corporate culture. The BJP is more plugged in to materialistic India than Bharat. The top leadership of the RSS criss-crosses small towns, addressing annual camps attended by over 50,000 persons drawn mostly from lower- and middle-class families. Its full-time pracharaks are spread over remote areas and small villages propagating RSS ideology among tribals, scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, school and college students, farmers’ cooperatives, labour unions and religious and cultural organisations. All of them speak in the same tone and context as they have been doing for the past 80 years since they feel Bharat has to be protected from a Westernised India.
But the BJP seems to be changing its goalposts. In its desperate bid for power, its leaders have lost their core constituency. They shamelessly chase and woo regional leaders like Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, the Thackereys and the Badals as well as corporate nabobs. However, it refuses to learn lessons from state satraps like Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik and the Abdullahs who are able to retain their core constituencies and also keep pace with changing India. They don’t deviate from their ideology, losing no opportunity to promote it on every platform through committed spokespersons.
On the other hand, the BJP, instead of fielding persons connected with Bharat, encourages its establishment to promote self-appointed defenders who carry saffron badges on their sleeves, but are actually opportunistically secular at heart. The party has, in fact, forged a powerful alliance with India and its rich, foreign-educated, culturally connected and economically globalised Indians. The RSS has failed to recognise that its political wing has fallen into the hands of those who want to convert the BJP into a poor mirror image of the Congress.
The Congress, at least, has a strong leader, a core constituency, and has perfected the art of governance. The BJP lacks any of the above. Even after remaining out of power for nine years, it is still in search of a chaal (method), chalan (ideology) and chehra (face). Bhagwat faces the formidable challenge of bringing back the BJP, which has strayed into the glittering world of India, to its own and unique version of Bharat. Ideological charity must begin at home.
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