Friday, 04 September 2015 11:53

Welcoming theocracy: BJP ministers queue up for RSS tution

Welcoming theocracy: BJP ministers queue up for RSS tution

By: ysn

 

The three-day coordination meeting, or ‘samanvay’ as the Hindutva lobby puts it in chaste Hindi, between the Centre and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh caused repugnance in all those who see democracy as a vehicle of probity and transparency. The very spectacle of cabinet ministers attending a meeting on the behest of a religious body suggests that the elected government of the day has become subservient to a group of ideologues. This betrays the trust of all those voters who, irrespective of their religious identities, had given them an overwhelming mandate to govern. 

 

Coordination between a state and its religious leaders is not unheard of in history. There is nothing necessarily bad about it either. But when a government holds 'samanvay' with the leaders of one particular faith, to the exception of other faiths, its inherent bias, allegiance to, and the acceptance of a monolithic set of ideology becomes far too evident. This cannot be accommodated in a country like India where diverse religious views and inter-faith tolerance have long been the building block of democracy.

 

The exclusive presence of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad further demonstrated that the meeting was a singular Hindutva agenda rather than any genuine attempt to have leaders of all faith on board to discuss key issues. The VHP, whose intolerant agendas are not hidden to anybody, had been invited but not the representatives of any other religious bodies or the minorities. During the three-day long meeting, which began in New Delhi on 2 September, participating members of the RSS were briefed by senior BJP leaders about their policies, programmes and achievements. The ministers further sought counsel from the 'Dharma Gurus' on important legislative matters that are pending in Parliament. 

 

A case in hand was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who not only informed RSS leaders about the developments in “one rank, one pension” controversy, but also supposedly asked them how to resolve it. This was nothing but a grand breach of the principles of governance where the views of religion-based ideologues are considered pernicious. The RSS went a notch further by holding separate meetings with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley besides Parrikar, to chalk out strategy to counter the OROP agitation.

 

Though the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's rooting for the RSS is no secret, so far the party had mostly collaborated with it at the time of elections to mobilise crowds. Of-course, the RSS did demand its share of the spoils whenever the BJP came out victorious at Centre or in a state, its interference in administrative and governance matter was never as evident and unabashed as the present one. One probable reason behind this could be the fact that this is for the first time the BJP has come to power on its own. In the past, when former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ruled between 1998 and 2004, the BJP depended on its allies, most of whom viewed the RSS with suspicion. Whatever be the reasons, the fact that the RSS is spreading its tentacles so freely towards New Delhi, is a matter of grave concern.

 

That such 'samanvay' is an inadmissible gesture in representative politics is supported from the fact that the BJP was kicked out of the Morarji Desai government in 1980 over the same. At the time, BJP was known as the Jana Sangh. Although it had merged with the Janata Party, which had stormed to power in 1977, senior leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani held parleys with RSS top brass. This was rightfully protested by the Janata Party leaders and the Jana Sangha members within the party were expelled over this issue of "dual membership", a reference for their secret allegiance to RSS despite formally being part of the Janata Party.

 

What is strikingly alarming in the current BJP-RSS collaboration is that it is more an outcome of choice rather than compulsion. In the past, although such public hobnobbing have taken place, they always happened at a time when the BJP was evidently going through a rough phase electorally. For example, Vajpayee had drifted away from RSS' ‘samanvay’ politics after the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. It was only after the BJP shrinked to an abysmally poor tally of two seats in the 1984 general elections, that its top leaders looked the RSS way. Although the RSS interference was marked when Vajpayee was elected to power with a slim majority in April 1998, he pushed the Nagpur leaders to a corner when he rode to power again in October 1999 in the backdrop of the Kargil war which had endeared him as a hero to the masses. It clearly shows, in the Atal-Advani era, RSS was invited for guidance only when the BJP was in a desperate situation, and it very cleverly pushed the Nagpur elements out from New Delhi as soon as it regained vigour.

 

But currently, the RSS intervention is voluntary on part of the BJP. The party is not only in power in the Centre with over 272 seats of its own, it is comfortably placed in most states. This means, that the present government is welcoming the Nagpur ideologues as a matter of choice. This is more dangerous. Precisely because it means that the RSS dominance will not be periodic as it had been earlier. If that happens, the policies of the nation will be laced with religious overtones. This certainly does not portend well for a diverse democracy such as India's.

 

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