The recently concluded three day RSS conclave, ‘Future of Bharat: An RSS Perspective’ was significant on several counts.
Becoming a major news item, the meet had for the first time in the history of the Sangh made such a massive outreach to the people of the country. The timing of the meet was just as important. With a mere six months for the next elections to happen and the Sangh professes its lack of interest in influencing the governance in any way and conveys the message of being detached to the power politics at the Centre. This just goes to show the astuteness of Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak and the acknowledged philosopher and mentor of the complete Sangh Parivar.
Shri Mohan Bhagwat who is more familiarly known as Mohan-Ji to his cadets is a man of select words. His eight-year tenure as the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) characterized a smooth and uncontroversial journey for the organization. In spite of being endowed with immense power, Mohan-Ji kept himself as apolitical as possible, never interfering in the working of BJP governments both at the Central as well as State level. He refrained from socializing with the Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister himself and not for the dearth of opportunities. Creating opportunities was all in his hands if he wanted to. Mohan-ji tenaciously followed the basic principle of the Sangh and that was to be a socio-cultural stronghold quietly focusing on the work of building the nation.
If one wants to understand the reasons behind the outreach made by Mohan-Ji in the Sangh conclave one needs to understand a bit of the background and in consequence something more about Mohan-Ji. The working style of the Sangh and its main concerns were clearly laid down by Mohan-Ji. In his eyes, the President of India, the Prime Minister, Vice-President, the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha heads and almost two-thirds of the state government heads were ‘Swayamsevaks’. He advocated the Sangh’s stress on being committed to building the nation to its full glory and character keeping the ethical values and the cultural ethos of the country intact. In fact, 30 years prior to Mohan-Ji becoming the ‘Sarsanghchalak’, Dattopant Thengadi who was an RSS ideologue had prophetically said the Sangh would experience its golden era under the leadership of Mohan-Ji. It would be the time when the Sangh would invent itself anew; reinterpreting and strengthening its foundations on the real goal for which it was established and that was ‘Param Vaibhav’ or supreme glory of the Motherland. Totally unselfish, very encompassing and broad-minded!
The RSS has grown in stature over the past century and today it has earned a unique distinction of being the ideological mix for the future of India. A noteworthy record indeed! And so for the Opposition to label, the reason for the RSS conclave as the means for merely explaining its stand or enhancing its image would be to downplay the true intention of the Sangh for the massive outreach.
Dr. Mohan Bhagwat in a very subtle way reclaimed the entire sphere of nationalist legacy by quoting heroes of the freedom struggle, evoking the role played by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in it and subsequently emphasizing the socio-cultural responsibility of the Sangh in today’s times. His attempts to project the Sangh as the conscience of a reviving India are visible here.
The conclave has to be also viewed in the wake of Pranab Mukherjee’s Nagpur address in July wherein he had mentioned Hedgewar as a great son of India. Mohan-Ji was paving the way for filling the nationalist space left vacant by Congress and the Opposition parties. It was the reason for Dr. Mohan Bhagwat’s emphasis on not being concerned about people following the practices of their own religion. He was quite open to people following any mode of worship and talked at length on the Constitution, religion, the Hindu Code as explained by Dr. Ambedkar and how to distinguish a government governed by the Constitution and principles running a vigorous society. His special emphasis on Dr. Hegdewar has to be noted.
The invitation to the other parties along with the Congress for the conclave was to enable them to understand the Sangh better and open the possibilities of a dialogue. Several film celebrities and diplomats availed of the opportunity that came their way, the Congress meanwhile merely offered criticisms standing in the stands. With Mohan-Ji declaring his detachment to power plays of the political parties, critics of the Sangh-BJP viewed the intention of the invite differently, some even went to the extent of hinting the possibility of the Sangh supporting a Rahul Gandhi led Congress. And with Rahul Gandhi going out his way for projecting himself as a God-fearing Brahmin only went to fuel the amusement of the core RSS circles. RSS had always wanted a Hindu-centric Indian polity emulating the American or European polity which is Christian centric. However, this has to be distanced from the religious intolerance of the Islamic countries.
Rahul Gandhi’s visits to varied temples during his election campaigns be it at Karnataka, Gujarat and now at the Centre is his way of dealing with Indian reality. Being forced in a way into it by the BJP, he feels that he can prove his Hindutva by ferrying to the various temples in the country and the Kailash Mansarovar. The RSS was not averse to a leader opposed to Hindutva yet wearing its mask for political convenience. However, what counts more is the leader’s integrity. The fact of the Prime Minister not visiting a single temple on his election tour is quite significant here.
In the context of the conclave, the invitation put forth by the RSS was meant for people who were truly interested in knowing the Sangh better. With the Sangh being as it is at the peak of ideological success will definitely be large-hearted to make an outreach to all but in no way will it be at the cost of diluting or reinventing itself.