In a direct and unambiguous remark, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has hit out at Narendra Modi’s core agenda of "Congress-mukt Bharat".
At a book launch in Pune on Sunday (April 1), the RSS chief said phrases like Congress-mukt were political slogans and not part of the Sangh’s lexicon. "The RSS doesn’t use the language of excluding anyone. We have to include everyone in the process of nation-building,” he remarked.
That should worry Prime Minister Modi. Has there been a rupture in Modi’s relation with the Sangh? Is there some misunderstanding now or is the RSS dissatisfied with the Modi government’s performance?
Has the RSS sniffed change in wind directions against Modi and issued warning? The RSS chief’s rebuke to Modi on his Congress-mukt slogan raises several questions.
What should worry Modi more is that Bhagwat didn’t confine his remark to casual dismissal of the slogan Congress-mukt. In a veiled reference, he said that those who are not positive in seeking support of all including the Opposition are not useful for nation-building task.
Mark Mohan Bhagwat’s words: “Nation-building cannot be the work of one man. It has to be inclusive, requiring the contributions of both the ruling and the Opposition parties.”
One wonders how can one reconcile Modi’s penchant for Congress-mukt Bharat with requiring the contributions of Opposition parties?
Bhagwat called for the need for a “positive approach” to bring about change and said those with a negative approach would think only of conflicts and divisions. “Such a person is not at all useful in the process of nation-building,” he is quoted to have said.
The RSS chief is not pulling any punches. After close to four years of Modi government, the RSS has voiced a discordant note.
Taking potshots at BJP-led governments is not unusual for the RSS, though. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was victim of the then RSS chief KS Sudarshan’s constant nitpicking. Vajpayee had to suffer the humiliations of being compelled to make last-minute changes in government decisions, including in appointment and allocation of portfolios of senior ministers. In one notable instance, Vajpayee had to drop his confidant Jaswant Singh’s appointment as finance minister from the list of Cabinet ministers on RSS’s diktat.
Veiled criticism or sometimes expression of open disagreements with the BJP top brass is also part of the RSS’s hydra-headed organisational strategy. Doublespeak and Goebbelsian language define the core of the RSS strategy.
But that has not been the case with the current government. Modi has enjoyed virtually unstinted RSS support for reasons that are not far to seek. The most important reason is the Modi government following the textbook RSS agenda to advance the Hindutva cause.
Barring some cases of policy decisions that meet the demands of realpolitik for reasons of electoral politics, Modi has followed the RSS line. It has also helped, for instance, that Modi and Bhagwat are contemporary, have worked together and enjoy good personal equations.
So the question is what has gone wrong to upset the equations or caused the RSS chief to strike at an issue Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been untiringly pursuing?
In election after election, both Modi and Shah have been campaigning on what they have called making the country Congress-mukt.
Only recently Modi chose to clarify his concept of Congress-mukt offering a ruse that what he meant was not decimation of the Congress numerically, but ridding the polity of Congress culture.
Modi would be loathe to know that the RSS chief has not made that fine distinction. Bhagwat has understood and interpreted the meaning of Congress-mukt as Modi critics have accused the prime minister of pursuing, which is working for decimation of the Congress organisation.
The RSS chief’s rebuke to Modi could also be seen in the context of recent developments within the Sangh. Last month, the RSS’s highest decision-making body, Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), took an unexpected decision. At its three-day meeting in Nagpur, it announced that RSS sarkaryavah (general secretary) Bhaiyyaji Joshi would continue in office for the fourth consecutive term.
It was widely expected that RSS would elevate Dattatreya Hosabale, one of the joint-general secretaries, to replace Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
Yet another term to Bhaiyyaji was seen as a setback to Modi in the run-up to the election. Modi’s comfortable political equation with Hosabale is widely known in the political circles. His elevation to the post of general secretary, the second most important position in the RSS, could have eased pressure on Modi. The March ABPS meeting, which is held every three years, was the last before the 2019 elections.
Modi would have needed Hosabale more than ever at this juncture. The BJP government is under tremendous pressure on all fronts. Modi has lost important by-elections in the Hindi heartland. Buoyed by the SP-BSP joint fight that led to BJP’s defeat, the Opposition has mounted pressure with talks of stitching up a united front against the BJP in 2019. Student, farmer and Dalit politics is on the boil nationwide. Dalits’ response to the Bharat bandh in protest against the government’s failure to seek timely revision of the judgment is indication of the growing resentment.
The BJP’s nervousness on account of multi-pronged pressures is visible in Karnataka, where the Congress has pinned down the BJP on several issues. A setback in Karnataka will further increase the pressure on Modi.
The RSS with its vast network of workers, perhaps, has read the growing resentment against Modi on the ground. Mohan Bhagwat has issued a warning to Modi for course correction.