Here’s why RSS does not want Congress-mukt Bharat

By Rasheed Kidwai | 03 Apr 2018 10:17 AM

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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that slogans like 'Congress-mukt Bharat' are mere political phrases is being seen as a subtle political message for both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress.
Bhagwat was speaking at a book launch in Pune recently where he has been quoted as saying, “These are political slogans. It is not the language of the RSS. The word 'mukt' (free or liberated) is used in politics. We never use the language of excluding anyone.”

Bhagwat’s remarks have generated considerable interest in political circles. In the context of growing unrest among Dalits and farmers and speculation that Narendra Modi-led NDA coalition may not muster a majority of its own in 2019 Lok Sabha, old timers point at occasional cosy relations between the Congress and Sangh. The question that remains unanswered is whether the Bhagwat-led RSS is getting disillusioned with the NDA’s functioning or sending a veiled signal to temple-hopping Rahul Gandhi.

Though the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was generally unsparing in criticising the RSS, he occasionally praised the Sangh Parivar, particularly when Pakistan attacked Jammu & Kashmir soon after independence and Sangh volunteers had gone there to help. During the Chinese aggression, too, Nehru had acknowledged the services rendered by the RSS and even invited the RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade.

After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi reportedly had a secret meeting with the RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras, resulting in the RSS cadre supporting the Congress in 1984 Lok Sabha elections despite the presence of the BJP on the political scene. Rajiv had met Bhaurau Deoras, younger brother of Balasaheb Deoras, at least half a dozen times at different locations, including at 46, Pusa Road, New Delhi, the residence of family friend and alcohol baron Kapil Mohan who died recently. Close Rajiv associate Arun Singh, Delhi Mayor Subhash Arya, and liaison man Anil Bali were among those were present. The buzz was the RSS wanted Rajiv to open the locks of Babri Masjid -Ramjanambhoomi and get clearance for Ramanand Sagar's televised version of Ramayan on Doordarshan.
In fact, RSS support for the Congress was evident even before Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October 1984. It was evident in an article authored by veteran RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh. Published in the Hindi magazine Pratipaksh with the headline ‘Moments of soul searching’ on November 25, 1984, Deshmukh’s article ended with a call to bless and cooperate with Rajiv Gandhi when voting was less than a month away. Nanaji Deshmukh wrote: “Indira Gandhi ultimately did secure a permanent place at the doorstep of history as a great martyr. With her dynamism born out of her fearlessness and dexterity, she was able to take the country forward like a colossus for over a decade … she alone had the ability to run the decadent political system of our corrupt and divided society…”

Prior to this, Indira Gandhi had sought to cultivate the majority community, accepting the invitation to launch the VHP's `Ekatmata Yatra', also called the `Ganga Jal Yatra.' This was a nascent Vishwa Hindu Parishad's first mass contact programme giving a glimpse that Hindu rituals and symbols could be effectively utilised for popular and political mobilisation. Bureaucrat and author S S Gill noticed that by 1982-83, Indira Gandhi lacked social solicitude towards Muslims. A clear indication came from her loyalist CM Stephen who declared in 1983, “The wave-length of Hindu culture and the Congress culture is the same.” Barely six months before her assassination, Indira Gandhi sought to assure the majority community that “if there is injustice to them or if they did not get their rights, then it would be dangerous to the integrity of the country.”

Throughout his tenure as Congress president and Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao was accused of going soft on the RSS. In fact, before Babri Masjid fell on December 6, 1992, Rao was in close touch with the top RSS leadership in order to find an out of court settlement of the vexed Ayodhya issue. When Prof Rajendra Singh, popularly known as Rajju Bhaiya, took over as RSS chief in 1994, a section of the Congress had coined a joke, “Arrey Rao sahib phir rah gaye” (Oh Rao has missed the chance again).

On a more serious note, a strong Right-wing lobby in the Congress has survived for decades. Ravishankar Shukla, the premier of the Central Provinces and the first Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, had authored a two-part article, published in Kalyan in July-August 1947. The Congress stalwart had argued that “Hindustan should become a Hindu rashtra and its state religion should be Hinduism. Hindus or non-Muslims should hold the top posts. Any person who does not believe in Hindu culture should not be made a part of the Government of Hindustan.” Shukla, a member of the Constituent Assembly, had advocated that Muslims should not be given citizenship rights.

Rasheed Kidwai is the Associate Editor with The Telegraph. His Twitter handle is @rasheedkidwai

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