By Amulya Ganguli
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh says that one unfortuate fallout of the Emergency was to bring the RSS into the national mainstream via its fraternal outfit, the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s predecessor, which resisted Indira Gandhi’s draconian rule and later merged into the ruling Janata Party.
It is known that the entry of these Right-wing groups into the main current of politics and administration facilitated the planting of their loyalists and fellow-travellers in the corridors of power and the academe, which earlier used to be the preserve of the Congress and the Left.
The process of the Hindu Right establishing its hold on the levers of power and in the academic institutions has accelerated under the present saffron dispensation. Neither in the 1977-79 period of the Janata Party’s tenure, nor during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s rule (1998-2004), was the saffron influence greater than it is now when not only the social media trolls, but even several television channels vociferously peddle the views of the ruling party at the centre and dub its opponents as anti-nationals.
But notwithstanding the present extensive reach and political clout of the BJP and the RSS, these Hindutva groups still seem to suffer from an inferiority complex about their place in the establishment. For all their posturing, they seem to regard themselves as outsiders in the so-called Lutyens Delhi, the hallowed power hub in the national capital, where the offices and homes of the present-day movers and shakers are located.
Their sense of inadequacy obviously springs from the decades when they were on the margins of politics, which probably also makes the Hindu Right apprehensive about their tenuous toehold in the Lutyens zone. Their fears may be enhanced by several other factors – the lack of fluency in English, which is the language of the cocktail circuit, the disdain and amusement which the saffronites arouse because of their bizarre ideas about India’s past when the country, in their view, had everything from aeroplanes to Internet, the antics of the violent “fringe” such as the gau rakshaks, and so on.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS headquarters has been greeted with unconcealed delight by the Hindutva camp. To the Right-wingers, the visit has bestowed a legitimacy on the organization which an earlier trip to the Nagpur headquarters by another former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, could not do because the latter was something of an outsider himself as he neither belonged to any political party, nor was associated with the secular lobby.
Mukherjee’s credentials are entirely different. First, his long career in the Bangla Congress and the Congress (if the brief period when he formed his own party is left out of reckoning) shows him as a true-blue politician of the secular camp and, secondly, his holding of top ministerial positions culminating in becoming the President marks him out as one of the most prominent figures in public life at present.
Not only that. His background in the Congress places him in the opposite end from the Jan Sangh-BJP-RSS in the ideological spectrum. For him, therefore, to reach out to the RSS cannot but be considered by the latter as a rare gesture of bonhomie, which erases the stain of untouchability, which has long been the bane of the Hindu Right because of its refusal to accept the minorities as true sons of the soil because, as V.D. Savarkar said, their punyabhumi (holy land) is in Mecca or Rome.
If the legitimization of the RSS was the unintended consequence of the Emergency, there was nothing unrehearsed about Mukherjee’s interaction with the organization. Starting from his description of K.B. Hegdewar as a “great son of Mother India” to the speeches delivered by both him and the RSS sarsangchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, all the details of the visit appeared to have been carefully planned.
As much is clear from his extravagant praise of Hegdwar, which is on a par with vice-president Venkaiah Naidu’s categorization of Narendra Modi as “God’s gift to the nation”. To describe as “great” the founder of an organization which has been indicted by several judicial commissions for inciting communal riots is odd, to say the least.
The speeches, too, reflected the meticulous preparation for the event. While Mukherjee left out all topics which the saffron camp might find unacceptable, except the use of the phrase, “Muslim invaders”, which must have warmed the cockles of the Hindutva heart, Bhagwat made no mention of either a Hindu rashtra or of ghar wapsi – two defining objectives of the RSS relating to the establishment of a nation by, of and for Hindus and reconverting Muslims back to their original “home” of Hinduism.
Instead, both stuck to the homilies of “unity in diversity”, the hoary of theme of Indian nationhood which is taught in the schools. While Mukherjee’s acceptance of the concept may be unambiguous, it is doubtful to what extent the RSS believes in an inclusive nationhood, notwithstanding Modi’s development mantra of sabka saath, sabka vikas.
If the vile abuses which are routinely hurled by the saffron trolls at the Muslims are taken into account, it will take a long time for Bhagwat to convince his followers that no one is a dushman (enemy) in the country, as he said. (IPA Service)