As the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has chalked out its plans in striving to establish a Hindu Rashtra. It has slowly but surely begun to spread its wings by assuming the political leadership in the states. It started with Haryana and now has its chief ministers firmly ensconced in Uttarakhand and crucial Uttar Pradesh.
Winning a landslide in the most populous state in the country makes the BJP the frontrunner in the upcoming general elections two years later in 2019. This has been possible in great measure to the RSS workers chipping away tirelessly on the ground facilitating the Lotus party in winning elections particularly in UP after a gap of 14 years.
It all began with the installation of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in May 2014. The RSS has since fine-tuned and consolidated its strategy after a setback in the assembly elections in Bihar in 2015. Winning the recent assembly elections in UP, Uttarakhand coupled with quick thinking in forming governments in Goa and Manipur has paid the BJP rich dividends. In Punjab the Congress won comfortably.
Modi’s relentless campaigning as evidenced in UP puts him in a league of his own rendering his opponents as mere also rans. The trend of RSS men taking over the political leadership in the states is ominous. The hardliner from Gorakhpur — Yogi Adityanath being catapulted to the chief minister in Lucknow — was only waiting to happen.
The Yogi has made the right noises so far. At the same time the crackdown on unlicensed slaughter houses cannot be questioned. The result has been a meat crisis all over UP forcing meat sellers to go on strike since Monday last. There is tension in certain parts of the state as it is mostly Muslims in the meat trade.
The Yogi, who has begun work in right earnest, has asked all departments to prioritise tasks that can be achieved in the first 100 days of his government. Simultaneously, he needs to ensure that he does not project himself as a radical Hindu zealot out to harm the minorities. He also needs to send an unambiguous message that violence against and intimidation of ordinary citizens by political parties or pro-Hindutva squads or the cops themselves will not be tolerated.
While the Prime Minister says India is now a nation that meets the dreams of its youth, Adityanath has invariably undermined the choices, freedoms and rights that the youth are entitled to in a civilised society.
The RSS wants to quicken the pace of saffronisation now that the BJP has a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha. During the Prime Ministership of Atal Behari Vajpayee from 1999 to 2004 the RSS was helpless as the BJP led NDA government was a 26-party disparate coalition. An understanding reached by the NDA was that the Vajpayee government will steer clear of implementing the controversial three-point agenda of the RSS. These pertained to building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution according special status to Jammu and Kashmir and implementing the Uniform Civil Code.
The keenness of the RSS to bash on regardless in the prevailing circumstances with Modi as the Head of Government is not surprising. Its leadership has been emboldened with the staggering win in UP reminiscent of the outcome in the 2014 general elections. It is clear that this assembly win is no flash in the pan.
What is becoming apparent is that it will not be easy to brush aside the RSS as evidenced in Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister. Under these circumstances Modi might be compelled to contest the 2019 general elections for a second term as Prime Minister on the Hindu card. He has been known to be a fighter and has not thrown in the towel in the past.
The Prime Minister has affirmed time and time again that he will abide by the provisions of the Constitution. What cannot be lost sight of is that this country has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It is not easy to get rid of them.
The RSS has ensured installing its key men in historical and research organisations to rewrite history in keeping with its own perspective. The development agenda being pursued by Modi has to be dovetailed with the Hindutva agenda of the RSS.
Development is bound to be the dominant theme coupled with Hindutva and pro-poor programmes with variations in the schemes connected with the “garibi hatao” slogan of the late Indira Gandhi during her Prime Ministership.
Modi has sent the opposition to the dog house in UP twice in a span of three years. Be that as it may the Congress as well as the regional parties like the SP and BSP have been made toothless.
Having spent more than a week in office Adityanath has shown he means business. Jharkhand, another BJP ruled state, has also decided to shut down illegal abbatoirs. At the same time it has become necessary for the Lotus party to assure the people that their focus is on development rather than whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria.
The SP is in a shambles in UP because of the conflict in the Yadav family. With Patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son and erstwhile chief minister of UP Akhilesh Yadav having called separate meetings, a split appears inevitable.
There is mounting clamour in the Congress to restructure and overhaul the party. The leadership of Congress Vice President and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi has failed to enthuse the party. It has gone from bad to worse as evidenced in UP.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)