Can RSS rescue BJP in MP election?

DB Post 29 Oct 18



The BJP leadership in Madhya Pradesh has received a rap on the knuckles from the RSS bosses on the eve of state assembly election. Samidha, the Sangh headquarters at Bhopal, apparently received disturbing reports about anti-incumbency against the BJP. 

Many sitting MLAs, including ministers, face resentment in their constituencies due to poor performance. The party leadership failed to gauge the intensity of the movement against the SC/ST Act. Many sections of voters are unhappy. 

The strategy of raking up the Congress regime’s failures is not proving so effective this time. The BJP’s goal of achieving 200 plus seat looks like a dream as it struggles to return to power for  record fourth term. 

The past week saw frenzied activities in the RSS as it started a damage control exercise. BJP chief Amit Shah visited the Sangh headquarters to receive feedback from the parent organisation. It was followed by several rounds of marathon meetings between the leaders of the two organisations. 

Political grapevine says that the Sangh’s role would not be confined to election campaign. It may play a bigger role, even intervening in ticket distribution. Can the RSS rescue the BJP? More importantly, does it have the magic formula to tide over anti-incumbency? 

The BJP is bound to the RSS by umbilical cord. The relationship is best symbolised by the organisation secretaries of the party. The BJP has been borrowing its organisation secretaries from the Sangh for over six decades now, since its Jana Sangh era. These RSS whole-timers, who join the BJP on deputation, control the party apparatus and act as its link with the Sangh. 

The BJP’s top leaders love to flaunt their RSS credentials. It is considered a passport to success. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan started his career as a worker of Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the RSS. 

The BJP leaders meet the Sangh functionaries at frequent intervals for feedback, guidance and mid-course correction. Even the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues have been part of such regular parleys. 

The Sangh has been sharing its feedback about the government’s functioning with the party leadership ever since the BJP came to power in MP. The RSS whole-timers have expressed their disapproval of the bureaucracy’s alleged influence over Chouhan government. 

The feedback had its impact. The government transferred police officers from Balaghat, Jhabua, Neemuch, Raisen and Agar-Malwa after they came into conflict with the Sangh workers. 

The Chouhan government has also demonstrated that it wants to keep the Sangh in good humour. It appointed an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the CM Secretariat for better coordination with the Sangh. In fact, it borrowed an officer from a public sector bank, giving him the rank of additional secretary in the state government, when it could not find an officer suitable for this highly sensitive job within its system.

Chouhan has been quite liberal in bowing to the Sangh’s preferences in the running of his government. He appointed at least 15 former whole-timers of the Sangh as chairmen of various government corporations, boards and public undertakings, giving them ministerial ranks. 

It is an open secret that several organisations like Jan Abhiyan Parishad, Ekta Parishad, Journalism University and Hindi University have a large number of RSS appointees. 

“My name was in the short-listed panel that included five names, but I was appointed only because the Sangh insisted,” confided the vice-chairman of one such organisation, who enjoys ministerial rank. The RSS cannot claim that Chouhan government has ignored it in decision making process. 

Given this background, the Sangh must be ready to share part of the blame when it says that the MLAs or the ministers did not perform well. Because that means that its system of feedback did not work. If there was a regular system of honest feedback, things could not have reached this stage. 

Why did that happen? Observers point out that one reason could be the change in the lifestyle, calibre and integrity of some of the RSS whole-timers responsible to maintain a vigil over the BJP. 

Gone is that generation of hard-working, incorruptible Pracharaks like Kushabhau Thakre who would live like a monk to serve the cause eating frugally, moping floor, washing their own clothes and working without expectations of a reward. 

Many among the new generation of Pracharaks are fond of good things of life. They care for creature comforts, move in luxury cars and flaunt their electronic gadgets and political connections. Many BJP leaders have been using this weakness to their advantage. 

The forthcoming assembly election is going to be as much a test for the RSS as for the BJP. 

DB Post 29 October 2018

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