RSS approach and discernment of the elections, particularly the Lok Sabha polls, has undergone significant paradigm shift after the Modi-led BJP government coming back to power in 2019. While the BJP win in 2014 Lok Sabha elections primarily owed to the failures of the Congress party to keep neoliberal policies of the Manmohan Singh government going and fulfil the aspirations of the urban middle class, the credit for 2019 electoral victory should be attributed to RSS’s manoeuvrings.
In the earlier elections, the BJP would depend on RSS and sit at its feet for its electoral victory. The 2024 pre-election exercises make it abundantly clear that RSS has been leading the electoral battle and acting as the vanguard. This time the BJP has become a tool for RSS to rule the country. For Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah, winning the elections to the five assemblies may be the issue of their political survival, but RSS is focusing on the Lok Sabha polls to ensure a hat-trick for the Modi government.
RSS has alerted its state units, particularly to the units in the five state which would be going to polls next month, not to bother about these elections. The leadership has issued the instruction notwithstanding large-scale averseness towards Modi government, and more importantly against him as a person, prevailing amongst the ground-level RSS cadres. RSS efforts to help Narendra Modi score a hat-trick has more ideological and strategic importance than handing over the power to him for the third consecutive time.
The primary reason for RSS not involving its cadres in the state elections is it does want to fritter away their energies in the local elections. They want to preserve and utilise it better for the Lok Sabha elections. It is an open secret that winning the Lok Sabha election is more imperative and precious for RSS. The future of the RSS is umbilically tied with the 2024 Lok Sabha election. If the BJP loses the 2024 election, the RSS will be finished. RSS is confronted with the situation of do or die.
Senior BJP leaders confide that for RSS it is insignificant who heads the BJP new government which would come to power after the 2024 elections. The RSS leaders have already zeroed on some probable replacements. For it what is most important is the BJP must win the elections. The RSS does not nurse any illusion about Modi. It has made its stand clear in June this year. Its mouthpiece Organiser had already carried a harsh edit entitled ‘Modi magic, Hindutva not enough to win 2024 Lok Sabha polls’.
The campaigning for the five state assembly elections has made it obvious that Modi is not the poster-boy, though some state units have preferred to use his pictures in the publicity materials. Just a week back the BJP has started entrusting the task for campaigning to the party’s regional satraps. This is being construed as denial of Modi’s electoral importance. It is worth mentioning that Organiser had mentioned: “BJP needs strong regional leadership and effective delivery at the regional level. Without strong leadership and effective delivery at the regional level, PM Modi’s charisma and Hindutva as ideological glue would not be sufficient”.
By replacing him from office at this juncture the RSS does not intend to create any wrong impression and aggravate the internal crisis in the party. RSS is already busy preparing a roadmap for BJP before the Lok Sabha elections. As a basic ingredient to the strategy, the RSS come out with the suggestion to prepone the Lok Sabha elections and hold it just after consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
By the time the elections would be held, the dedication of the temple would have aroused the religious passion of the Hindus. This would be the finest occasion to win over the Hindu through the politics of Ram and the slogan of Hindutva. Yet another factor which RSS believes would help the BJP candidates is after voting against the BJP in the assembly elections, the anger and anguish that gripped the people against the misdemeanour of Modi government, would have lost much of its impact and sense of retribution.
In the changed situation, it would be much easier for RSS cadres, who by then would have taken the command of campaigning at the ground level, to reach out to them and seek their support. The RSS leaders feel that by that time the situation would have become affable for the BJP. The RSS leaders also nurse the view that defeat in these states would have further eclipsed the image of Modi, which would eventually make it convenient and easier to approach the voters with the plea that have taken the revenge on Modi, now they should come back and the BJP for the Lok Sabha.
The RSS leadership is confident that Rahul Gandhi’s attack on Adani would not have much impact on the Lok Sabha elections if the elections are held just after dedication of the temple. In case the elections are held in May 2024, then in that scenario Rahul will have sufficient time and space to reach out to the people and galvanise his mission. Apprehensions are quite gripping that he would be more effective and lethal. For the assembly elections he has been maintaining a low profile, but he may launch a severe assault on BJP and RSS just after the state elections. In the wake of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, the RSS features prominently on his radar.
He would prove to be a major threat to the RSS mission of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra, which the organisations intend to give a shape after the BJP comes to power for the third time. The main reason for RSS taking the charge of electoral campaigning is, it does not desire to provide space to Congress. It holds if the Congress wrests the power, in that backdrop it would turn impossible to adopt a motion turning India into a Hindu Rashtra.
Yet another reason for preponing the election is to deny time and space to Rahul to launch his second phase of his Bharat Jodo Yatra. The Congress is planning to launch the Yatra after the assembly elections, after the winters. RSS leaders fear that once Rahul succeeds in his mission, he would completely erode the base of the RSS and BJP in Hindi heartland, the main base stay of RSS. In that situation it would an arduous task for the RSS leadership to entice the Hindu voters and make them rally behind BJP.
It is also expected that by this time Rahul will make the caste-based census a major political issue causing damage to the BJP. RSS has been persistently working behind the scenes to help the BJP overcome caste-based polarisation that posed a challenge, especially in the Hindi heartland states that contribute a sizeable number of seats to the Lok Sabha.
Even the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has confessed at his several cadre meetings that the 2024 Lok Sabha election is crucial for RSS as it comes just before the 100th anniversary of the Sangh. A defeat would cast its unpleasant shadow on the anniversary celebration. Sticking to the May dateline would not augur well for RSS. Its plan to expand and enroll new sections of people would receive a major setback. RSS sources reveal that Sangh wants to reach out to more and more people from white-collar class.
“These should be such people who place the nation above all else,” said Bhagwat addressing a meeting of the cadres. The organisation will also identify opportunities for outreach and strengthening its presence and influence among all sections of Hindus.
For the past ten years, the RSS cadres and leaders have enjoyed untrammelled state power. Now they are desperate to protect these gains. Some senior RSS leaders say that the life style of these people has completely transformed. They are quite different from the original cadres who built the organisation during the last ninety years. These leaders confide that the RSS leadership is gripped with the fear and danger of perception. It is the thrust of Rahul on the ideological aspect of the RSS and setting his own counter narrative with maximum clarity to fight the RSS and BJP hegemony that has shaken the confidence of RSS leaders, least to speak of the BJP leaders. His repeated thrust on Bharat Jodo Yatra and projecting it as the symbol of Gandhian struggle against misgovernance and divisive politics has become the focal point of the ideological combat in prospect. (IPA Service)