Monday, January 28, 2013

Sangh is King..../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/ January 27, 2013


Sangh is king, and a BJP riven by conflict won't get anywhere alone



Nitin Gadkari has gone. Rajnath’s raj is back at 11, Ashoka Road after a gap of four years. For a 30-year-old party, it wasn’t just a change of face, or guard. The dramatic, behind the door confabulations between conspirators, saboteurs and sane and insane elements were meant to either dislodge a leader or to foist someone of their choice. Piecing together the story of the election of a new BJP president, the picture that emerges is that of a sordid saga—of a clash of egos, confrontation of corporate interests and a conflict of cultural identities. For almost two weeks, the BJP earned the title of a ‘Party With Differences’, not ‘a Difference’.


There were differences on what the RSS thought about its political wing. There was violent disagreement between those who were determined to push the BJP into a fashionable global world. The choice of the leader who would steer the party during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was between those who were connected with the rich and mighty, and the darlings of the cadres and the Sangh parivar. Rajnath Singh won the race, thanks to his persona of a dhoti-clad leader from bucolic India who was nourished in the nursery of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Undoubtedly, outgoing president Nitin Gadkari was the RSS’s first choice. But he let the mother organisation down with his flirtations with corporate India, and his failure to defend and counter vicious attacks on the RSS by its ideological adversaries. Gadkari, who was touted as the Sangh’s precious gift to the BJP, turned out to be a huge liability by the end of his tenure. It also generated an intensive, and even heated debate within the BJP over the undue intervention of the RSS in the internal matters of the party.
The visible tension between some senior BJP leaders like former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and the current RSS leadership appears to be the outcome of generational changes in both organisations. Advani is perhaps the seniormost active member of the Sangh parivar in the BJP. Some of today’s top RSS leaders have never dealt either with him or Atal Behari Vajpayee. From Guru Golwalkar to Rajendra Singh, all previous RSS chiefs could maintain the fine balance between the Sangh and its political wing (before the BJP, it was the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, which was the RSS’s political arm between 1952 and 1977). They never overruled the BJP leadership on sensitive issues. However, the new crop of leaders are guided more by their personal likes and dislikes and are unable to comprehend the larger picture.
Rajnath’s resurrection from the boondocks has once again revived the debate over the relationship between the RSS and BJP. The latter appears to be in denial mode from the day the Jan Sangh was established. The RSS has been insisting that it has nothing to do with the BJP except share a strong ideological affinity. Unfortunately, this has never carried any conviction with either the media or credible opinion building institutions in the country. This stand has damaged not only the RSS’s credibility but also undermined the BJP’s independence. The reality is that the Congress without a Gandhi is Zero, and the BJP without the RSS is like a fish out of water. None of its top leaders, including Vajpayee and Advani, have ever denied their links and the reasons for their rise to their RSS connections. In fact, it is the RSS, which created and promoted them.
Over 60 per cent of the BJP’s office bearers at the centre and the states are either former pracharaks (full time RSS workers) or are bonded with the RSS. It has deputed 50 of its whole time preachers to manage the BJP’s organisational activities in various districts. Last month, the organisational elections in various states were guided and conducted under RSS supervision. In the final round of consultations, a functionary of the RSS held dialogues with 20-odd top BJP leaders including chief ministers. Of these, 15 are actively associated with the RSS in one capacity or the other. The RSS might have asserted that it was for the BJP leadership to elect its own president. But the electoral process was structured in such a way that only an RSS activist would be chosen as the party president.
It has been established beyond doubt that Advani still enjoys the veto power when it comes to choosing any important office bearer of the party. He made it clear that he was strongly opposed to the idea of giving Gadkari a second term. He also told Sangh interlocutors that he wouldn’t like either of the two Leaders of the Opposition to be disturbed—which meant both Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were out of the reckoning. A last minute attempt by a few leaders to retain Gadkari, or install a non-RSS leader were foiled when the Sangh insisted that it would settle only for a former, politically active swayamsewak with a clean image to lead the party. Since Advani’s  negative list didn’t include Rajnath Singh, the RSS was able to evolve a consensus around his name.
Rajnath’s mandate is clear: fight for Hindutva, purge all fence sitters and restore the BJP’s image as a party with a difference. To achieve these objectives, both Rajnath and the RSS must accept that the BJP is by the RSS, for the RSS and of the RSS. Only then will the BJP earn an identity and ideology.
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Digvijay Singh/IBN7/January 26, 2013

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'I am of the opinion that Afzal Guru should be hanged at the earliest'



There should be time-bound decisions on mercy petitions sent to the President, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:

Why do the Congress and BJP make terrorism a political issue?

Our fight is about ideology and not against some organisation. But it is against any organisation which is instigating Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs. Such organisations are a threat to the social fabric.
But what was the need for the home minister to take ‘Hindu’ name while referring to terrorism? Chidambaram, as home minister, also had said something similar.
Terrorism is neither Hindu nor Islamic.
So you feel that even to use the term ‘Jihadi terror’ is wrong?
It is wrong to use the terms Jihadi terror, Islamic terror, Hindu terror and Sikh terror.
Certainly, there is no terror in the name of religion.  But the home minister, despite being a responsible person, said the same.
He committed a folly by saying Hindu terror. Chidambaram was at fault in saying saffron terror. There is no colour for terror.
The former home minister uses the term ‘saffron terror,’ and the incumbent home minister said Hindu. Do the babus draft the statements of the minister?
Our fight is against fundamentalism. And I say this because most of the people caught in terrorist activities are from the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Four or five people...
Many are from Madhya Pradesh. Sunil Joshi...
Who was murdered...
He was a Sangh Pracharak, he was murdered by the Sangh people. It is a matter of investigation at whose behest he was murdered. BJP asks us to apologise, but Advaniji takes a delegation to meet the Prime Minister demanding release people who have been arrested for their links to terror activities. Rajnath Singhji goes to jail to meet Sadhvi Pragya.
The charges against them are political...
No, she faces charges related to terrorism.
No, a full chargesheet has not been filed for three years now. In Samjhauta Express blasts, first the home minister said that the LeT had a hand in the incident. even now a FBI statement is on similar lines
I am not a representative of FBI, nor should you trust what the FBI says in this matter.
Why the government is not taking a decision on Afzal Guru case?
It should be done.
His mercy petition was rejected. You  sent it again for review.
I feel that there should be a time-bound decision on mercy petitions sent to the President.  I am of the opinion that Afzal Guru should be hanged at the earliest.
It seems that your government is slanting towards the rich, taxing the poor and not the rich. Which means party is pro-poor and government is pro-rich. Isn’t that a contradiction?
There is no such contradiction. We have collected four five times more tax than the previous government.
At the Chintan Shivir, the whole effort was to make Rahul Gandhi vice-president.
It is not so, why do you forget there is no dynastic rule in a democracy?
I saw senior leaders standing in a line before Rahul Gandhi.
A vice-president of the party has been appointed, he is above us.
Not like this by standing in a line.
We welcomed him by standing in a line.
What is Rahul Gandhi’s vision? Can you tell me in one sentence?.
Congress party’s vision is his vision. Rahul Gandhi’s vision is what the Congress party’s vision is.
Without a Gandhi, can Congress win?
This is a hypothetical question, but the Congress party’s basic strength, from Mahatma Gandhi’s time, which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took forward, is its secularism and left-of-centre policies.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chintan Check..../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 20, 2013


Chintan check: Between Sonia’s left and Manmohan’s right is a confused Congress



Pious intention sans action is a certain recipe for failure. It sounds great in speeches, but falls flat when action on the ground contradicts the spirit of the intention. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, as usual, was quite explicit and assertive in her speech to the 300-odd young and old Congress leaders who assembled in Jaipur to do some ‘chintan’ (debate). Her focus was clear; her vision well defined. Her target was the middle class and her message was to woo and win India’s new generation, which expects more transparency and deliverance than just promises on paper. The shivir was meant to lay the roadmap for the future. Instead, it turned out to be a perfect platform to unleash the spirit of sycophancy and turn the entire choreographed event into an exercise in futility. Sonia wanted the party and the government to pull up their socks for Battle 2014. But most of those present were seized with Rahul mania. It is tragic that the 120-year-old party that ruled India for over five decades is simultaneously searching for a new identity and asserting its ideological superiority. The mother-son duo often speak about internal democracy and protecting the Kalawatis of the country, but the Congress-led government talks about protecting the interests of investors, preferably foreign. The Jaipur declaration is the reflection of the mind of the party’s supreme leader. But when it comes to putting it into practice, its saboteurs are mightier than the mother of the new doctrine. They have left the middle class in the middle of the highway.


Sonia was surrounded on the stage and in the hall by those who seemed totally disconnected with what she and her son stand for. For all the Union ministers, state leaders and young MPs, her address on ostentatious weddings, the vulgar display of wealth in public, and an active engagement with the urban youth was simply déjà vu: She has always been warning them on these issues since she took over in 1998. But some Congressmen either ignored her advice or thought that such sermons were routine during such ritual gatherings. There was a total mismatch between the discourse inside the four walls of the shivir and the media bytes outside the campus. Inside, the Congress and the government were the concerns of the speakers. Outside, most of them were indulging in competitive oratory to assert their unflinching faith in Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
Nevertheless, it was for the first time that the Congress party identified the new middle class as its target group for attention. It is evident that Sonia has realised that the Congress’s return to power for a third consecutive term would depend on its performance in urban areas. In 2009, the party won over 30 of the 36 seats in the major metros, which helped it cross the 200-mark after a gap of 20 years. In the previous elections, these cities had been voting for either the BJP or other regional parties. Sonia is also aware of the reality that the objective of anointing her son as the undisputed leader of the party and the future government hinges on the number of seats the Congress wins in 2014. But others in the government, including the prime minister, are losing their sleep over the rising budget deficit. For the past few months, various ministers have made the middle class their ground zero for raising revenue. Instead of taxing the rich or cutting government expenditure, the UPA has allowed the prices of essential commodities and petroleum products to soar. The price of a litre of petrol is up from Rs 35.71 in June 2004 to Rs 67.56; of diesel from Rs 22.74 per litre to Rs 47.65; the rate of an LPG cylinder from Rs 241.60 to Rs 410.50 each (with a limit of nine) and gold from Rs 7,000/10 gm to Rs 31,000 during the same period. The recent diesel price hike would impose an additional burden of Rs 2,700 crore on the Indian Railways, which would have to be recovered by raising fares for both freight and passengers. It was really a cruel joke on the middle class when Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh justified the diesel hike, saying that international crude prices were rising. On the contrary, global crude prices have fallen from over $100 a barrel a few months ago to less than $95 this month. Nowhere else in the world have gas prices risen so sharply as they have in India over the last decade. In spite of Sonia championing the middle class, the government has never taxed the rich by raising either dividend tax or the duty on luxury items. Moreover, it has been unable to boost employment, since its ministers were enamoured only with high-profile projects like new airports or dream homes for the super-rich. Ever since Sonia took over the reins of the Congress, the ideological divide between the government and the party has been widening. While she has increasingly chosen to move left, the Manmohan Singh government has pushed the nation towards the extreme right. In the process, others have captured the middle ground once held by Indira Gandhi, which has geographically shrunk the Congress.
The Congress chief is aware of the internal contradictions in her party. While indulging in the customary rite of praising the prime minister for his government’s performance, she also emphasised the need to find new allies who could bring votes from the classes and castes lost or ignored by the Congress. But in her quest for a new constituency, Sonia has taken a huge risk. With the country divided into India and Bharat, the party cannot afford to lose one to gain another. The message from Jaipur is loud and clear. The Congress has decided to open its doors to all and sundry, to simply cling to power.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Salman Khurshid/IBN7/January 19, 2013


‘India is not influenced by anyone on Pakistan’




Union Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid speaks  on India’s response to recent killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistan and India’s foreign policy, during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:


You look worried. Is it due to the Chintan Shivir or due to Pakistan?
Well, it’s because of Teekhi Baat. When you invite to the show, one has to be wary of the hot spice.
But considering what Pakistan has done and the reactions it has evoked from across India, you must be worried.
It is worrying and we have raised the issue.
You spoke with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ms. Khar...
We have spoken to Pakistan. We raised the issue of murdering two Indian soldiers and beheading one of them. We also said that no matter what, there is no need of any intermediary.
You are clear that no third-party intervention is needed.
We have maintained this stance for years. And today we have reached a stage where people say that our bilateral relations can be normal. So, there must be dialogues.
You said that till now the dialogue had a peculiar tone, tenor and style. Would you review that?
The prevailing condition has impacted the dialogue. If the condition is normal, then the dialogue will be good.
Your party spokesperson wants to snap cultural and business ties with them.
This is what some people in the party and public think. It has no connection with the decisions. People exchange ideas and the government gets a sense of it. But, it is the government’s job to decide.
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has demanded 10 heads of Pak soldiers. Was it  an appropriate statement?
We understand the pain of the family of murdered soldiers. Every party understands that. Earlier too, when defence personnel sacrificed their lives, we recognised them in whatever way we could. It is not someone else’s decision to support the bereaved families.
After this incident, Pakistani hockey players were sent back. They felt insulted. Why did you invite them in the first place?
When there is an incident, the reaction will reflect the prevailing condition.
But is it right to invite players from Pakistan to play here, earn money?
Even our people go there. It is the society’s decision, and the government accepts that.
For some time, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives have been snubbing us. Do we have weaknesses in our policies?
In the recent years, Bangladesh and Myanmar have cooperated with us in combating terrorism. Such cooperation was not there for decades. I recently went to Bhutan. The talks were from heart to heart. But, the world is changing. We must adjust our relations with the whole world accordingly.
You had said that policies will be decided under Prime Minister’s leadership. But I now see you reading statements from papers. It seems that someone else writes them.
It is not so.
The Pakistan policy is written somewhere else and read at somewhere else.
No. We are part of the same place where policy is formulated. Why shouldn’t the policy be formulated with the one who is leading us?
Do you speak about Pakistan in a soft manner under international pressure?
We have to do our duty, and carry out our responsibilities. 
What is your duty?
It is to keep the nation safe; to maintain peace around us and in the whole world. No allegation of disturbing peace should ever be levelled against us.
It seems you are influenced by America or somebody else regarding Pakistan.
We are not influenced by anyone.
There is no American pressure on you?
America is not pressurising us. But we talk to all the nations, be it Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the neighbouring nations, Canada.
But now there is no war.
We are not in war time.
When you are attacked, you would go to war...
If there is an attack, we will protect ourselves. Now we want an answer to the pain that has been inflicted upon us.
But if such incidents are frequent, then at least you would not keep quiet...
Why are you talking about the future? We will talk about what has happened today and what we are doing today.
And you are satisfied?
We are fulfilling our responsibilities. The society has to get satisfied, the public has to get satisfied.
Thank you for coming to our studio.
Thank you Prabhuji!

Monday, January 14, 2013

No More FOP talk.../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 13, 2013


No more FOP talk. A rabid Pakistan must be told to behave or...



The Shame of Sharm el-Sheikh is haunting India. As the blood-thirsty, trigger-happy Pakistani Army continues its bloody adventurism on our borders, the authors and architects of the spirit of Sharm el-Sheikh ridicule the martyrdom of Indian jawans in the name of glamorous diplomacy, which fetches them more air miles and seats at the head tables of international think-tanks. For the past one week, every instrument of state, corporate India, diplomacy and academia have been used to dismiss the inhuman killing of our jawans as a mere border skirmish. They even ignored the pious sermons of Hina Rabbani Khar, the glamorous Pak foreign minister. While congratulating her country’s media, she hoped the Indian media would follow its Pak counterparts and refrain from hyping the bloody border clashes. It is not because of her wish that the Indian establishment’s response has been muted on the Pakistan Army’s escalating aggression. Instead, the vociferous silence of those who shout and scream at minor incidents reflects a mindset that allows the maiming of Indian pride. These elements have systematically been capturing Indian think-tanks, infiltrating centres of power and dominating international seminar circuits. All of them plead for peace as if they have invested in the welfare of Terror Company. Strangely, all our corporate leaders, members of business fora, Bollywood icons, outspoken academics and hyper-secular NGOs have maintained a cryptic silence over Pakistan’s military transgression, as if their money taps would dry up—or fear that none of them will ever be invited to be a keynote or source speaker at various global meetings organised by the Track-II ‘peace’ enterprises for hire. The same spirit is haunting vantage points in South Block. The brutal massacre of poor jawans from the backwaters of Mathura and the sanddunes of Rajasthan have failed to rouse the anger of the elitist class who rose like a phoenix to condemn the brutal gangrape of a girl in Delhi. Corporates and political parties rightly fought for the braveheart. What makes them behave like lambs when it comes to the beheading of Indian jawans on wintry borders, while the rich and mighty lead a luxurious life in Mumbai and Monte Carlo? It is really disgusting to see some Yuppies, Puppies and others trotting out unsubstantiated incidents and rumours to underplay Pakistan’s sinister designs to resurrect the spectre of 26/11 and of the 2001 Parliament attack. These are the same messengers of that invisible spirit that has kept Afzal Guru alive. If Kasab was convicted and hanged through speedy justice, then why the delay in Guru’s case? Was the colour and quality of the blood of those who died in the Mumbai attacks any different than those who lost their lives protecting India’s rulers? Pakistan has violated ceasefire conditions more than 100 times. As a knee-jerk response, we threaten appropriate action but wait for an appropriate time, which never comes. We know that war is not an option. But meekly getting back headless bodies is a humiliating body blow to the might of Indian nationhood. Unfortunately, those who espouse the cause of nationalism also surrender to the overbearing glamour of Pakistani hospitality, music and support. Those who want to name and shame Pakistan are also the ones who support and promote sports and cultural ties with it. Rich and beautiful people from across the border are the star attractions at wine and dine parties in Indian cities. Not only do they get royal treatment, but also take back dollars for their presence and performance in the drawing rooms of India’s chattering classes. Back home, not one of them would open their mouth on handing over terrorists to India while their Indian hosts use every visible and invisible platform to restrain the government.


This class of Friends of Pakistan (FOPs) genuinely feel that a dialogue with our untrustworthy neighbour would ensure permanent peace. But they forget that the villains of peace survive and thrive in Pakistan. Why don’t they take out candlelight processions, host dharnas, organise seminars in New Delhi and New York to demand the repatriation of the 20-odd terrorists residing in Pakistan for the past 20 years? Why don’t they hold fasts at Jantar Mantar and in front of the Pakistan Embassy demanding Hafiz Saeed’s extradition to India?
Unfortunately, the FOPs refuse to recognise that Pakistan is a failed state. It has become fashionable to blame non-state players and protect the establishment from direct fire. Since the US establishment decides and dictates the tone of the Indo-Pak relationship, FOPs take the cue from the Americans. Until the 1990s, the number of FOPs was confined to academic institutions and very limited cosy nooks of the Indian government. But ever since economics replaced defence as the guiding and compulsory principle of India’s relationship with Pakistan, both governments—NDA and UPA—have been bending over backwards to accommodate American strategic philosophy as the bulwark defining India’s response to Pakistan’s offensive and humiliating conduct. In fact, it is India that is ignoring the sentiments of Bharat, which wants to teach Pakistan a permanent lesson. Some may argue that going to war should be the last option. But India can assert itself only if it isolates Pakistan internally, and chokes it economically as it did following the attack on Parliament and 26/11. Nothing hurts Pakistan more than global untouchability. While India, dominated by FOPs, wants to indulge in dinner diplomacy, Bharat wants to snap all commercial, cultural and sports relationships with Pakistan until it behaves and delivers. Ignoring your enemy with contempt is much more lethal than fire-spitting missiles.
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Pawan Kumar Bansal/IBN7/January 12, 2013

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‘We will increase fares whenever necessary’


Union Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal speaks on fare hike, quality of services of the Railways and a number of other issues concerning the Indian Railways during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:


Q. Congratulations on  increasing railway fares in the New Year which nobody did in the past 15 years.
A. This was inevitable
Q. I will think this as a New Year gift.
A. I will think the same if we can improve the services. Today, the people are affected even when the price of any commodity is increased. But the condition was such that it was necessary to have a nominal increase in prices. 
Q. Otherwise,  the Railways would have gone bankrupt?
A. Fare hike is to keep it going; not that it will go bankrupt. But we had to avert a situation where any further progress of the Railways would have been hindered.
Q. But an ‘aam aadmi’ government increasing the railway fares of ‘aam aadmi’, that too in the first month of the year. It seems there is some problem with your agenda.
A. No, not at all.
Q. Pawan Kumar Bansal was given the portfolio for increasing the fares.
A. If that were the case, we would have increased the prices on the first day (when I took charge). But it took me two-and-a-half months to understand the whole  Railway Ministry. It was a new department; I had to oversee each and every thing.
Q. Increasing fares is the easiest way to generate revenue. The slogan of the Congress party is that it stands by the ‘aam aadmi’. From 1995 till now, all Railway Ministers were not Congressmen. They too spoke about the ‘aam aadmi’. But despite speaking for the ‘aam aadmi’ you attack them with increase in fares by 20 per cent. 
A. It is not 20 per cent. The hike is two paise, three paise, four paise, per kilometre. People have told me that it takes Rs 20 to travel 100 km in train, earlier it used to take Rs 17 for travelling the same distance. And if the same person takes a rickshaw or scooter rickshaw to go to his residence from the railway station, it will take Rs 100.
Q. How much money will you be able to collect with the hike in railway fares?
A. With the announcement we made recently, in the next two- and-a-half months we will earn an additional Rs 1,200 cr.  
Q. Rs 1,200 cr  is chicken feed for railway works, you collect so much revenue.
A. Not much revenue is generated; on passenger fare every year, including this year, loss incurred will be Rs 25,000 cr. We will cross-subsidise this amount with freight prices.
Q. This government can spend Rs 18,000-20,000 cr on the Aadhar card, and you did not have Rs 1,800 cr to spare for the Railways.
A. Ask poor people whether this hike in prices has pinched them. Only two paise per km has been increased, hence how much more they have to pay for travelling 500 km, Rs 10.
Q. Shouldn’t transport be economical in the country?
A. Public transport should be affordable for people.
Q. If you sell half- an- acre of land near the Delhi railway station, you will generate Rs 1,800 cr.
A. Such a thing has been done for one station. We will have to think about all these things.
Q. You mean, talking rationally, railway fares should be inflation-linked?
A. To some extent that should happen, to some extent there is incremental growth in traffic. Hence the increase in fares can be kept at a minimum.
Q. Which means you will keep on reviewing, and will increase fares according to necessity.
A. Which means it should not be totally linked to inflation, but to some extent. Only then, the Railways can run in the future. Like you mentioned that there is no cleanliness in the Railways.
Q. Till you are the Railways Minister, you will keep on increasing fares whenever necessary.
A. Now, there is not much time, it has happened just one time.
Q. But why did you increase fares just before the Budget?
A. If we had increased fares in Budget, it would have been effective from April 1. Now the new fares will be effective January 21; we will get two months and 10 days till March 31. In this time we will earn an additional Rs 1,200 cr. Next year we will earn Rs 66,000 cr.
Q. Which means there would be no fare increase in this Budget
A. No fare increase in this Budget.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Sangh Parivar is divided .../Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 06, 2013


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.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla