Is RSS pushing its saffron agenda? Has BJP bitten off more than it can chew in JNU case?
As the ideologue of ruling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is in pursuit of its agenda of Hindu Rashtra.Â CalculatedÂ attempts are being madeÂ by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Lotus party, to whip up trouble in universities by isolatingÂ the so calledÂ anti-nationals. BJP leaders are shouting from rooftops that they will come down heavily againstÂ anti-national elements.Â The prestigious Central university - Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the national Capital appears toÂ be a test case.Â Â
The State's intervention isÂ to send a strong and stern message that dissent will not be tolerated.Â The arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and cracking down on political dissent has brought to center-stage once again the BJP-led NDAÂ government's bid toÂ stifle free speech. Kanhaiya Kumar has since been granted interim bail by the Delhi High Court, released and welcomed by thousands of JNU students in the campus where he addressed a large gathering of his fellow students Thursday evening and asserted that he was for Azadi within India and not from India. His hour-long speech has gone viral on the social media network.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu reacted by saying that the JNUSU president ""is getting free publicity and is enjoying it."" ""They are all studying at a Central university, where public money is involved, so they must do justice to the cause and they must study, that's all,"" Mr. Naidu advised. However, there is marked silence about action being taken against lower court lawyers for attacking Kumar as well asÂ roughing up reporters of the audio-visual as well as the print media.
The crackdown at JNU was instigated by the alleged chanting of anti-national slogans along withÂ a meeting to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru who was convicted and hanged for his involvement in Parliament House terror attack. Kumar was arrested and the outgoing DelhiÂ Police Commissioner B S BassiÂ claimedÂ that they had evidence to charge him with sedition which has rarely been proved in the past. If convicted for sedition, he faces life imprisonment. The JNUSU president has maintained he had notÂ said anythingÂ anti-national and has full trust and faith in the Constitution of India. Investigation agencies have found many of the videos showing Kumar shouting slogans to be doctored. The alleged complicity of the Delhi police under the leadership of Mr. Bassi been a matter of concern.
With tempers running highÂ against theÂ so calledÂ anti-national elements, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and Human Resource minister Smriti Irani emphasized anti-national slogans will not be tolerated. The Centre views itself as being theÂ torch bearers of nationalism. The use of state power is to put the defenders of liberty and critics of the state on their guard. The RSS does not want to let goÂ thisÂ opportunity with the BJP havingÂ secured aÂ majority on its own in the Lok Sabha since the party was formed in 1980. During NDA I when BJP's liberal stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister heading a disparateÂ 26-party coalition government from 1999 to 2004, the RSS was sidelined as the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) adopted then steered clear of the three point Hindutva agenda. These pertained to building a Ram temple at Ayodhya,Â abrogation of Article 370 according special status to theÂ only Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in the country and having a Uniform Civil Code. The second time around the RSS is determined in implementing its agenda. They handpicked Mr. Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, in SeptemberÂ 2013 to be the BJP's Pime Ministerial nominee. He did not disappoint. He carried the dayÂ repeatedly underlining that he is a Hindu nationalist. He stole the thunder with the people rootingÂ for him overwhelmingly as he focussed on development and stressed upon ""Sab ka Saath, Saab ka Vikas ""along with making a multitude of promises.
Mr. Modi's invincibility at the hustings after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was shattered when he lost the assembly elections in Delhi last year. The BJPÂ suffered a mind boggling defeat managing only three seats and the remaining 67 in the 70-member assemblyÂ being gobbled upÂ by the fledgling Aam Aadmi party of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. It was highly embarrassing for the Prime Minister. Then again later inÂ October-November the BJP suffered a loss of face in the assembly elections in Bihar,Â one of the mainÂ battleground states in theÂ Hindi Heartland. Lalu Prasad Yadav and chief ministerÂ Nitish Kumar forming the Mahagatbandhan put paid to BJP's hopes.
RealisingÂ thatÂ the Lotus party was safe in occupyingÂ the seat of power on the Raisina Hill tillÂ the 2019 general elections, Mr. Modi and the RSS appearÂ working to a game plan.Â It will be naive to assume that the RSS pressure is not getting toÂ theÂ Prime Minister. The meeting ofÂ Vice-Chancellors of central universities under the aegis of Smriti Irani recently adopted a resolution that central universities should install the national flag on their campusÂ to instil patriotic fervour among the students. What it means isÂ that students of JNU are not nationalist enough barring a handful belonging to the ABVP. Other universities are also not sufficiently nationalist.
CounteringÂ the BJP or the Sangh Parivar is not going to be easy. The courts will no doubt have their say but the incident in JNU is a warningÂ to theÂ people who disagree with the BJP's Ram Rajya. The obstacles in countering the Parivar are many. Mr. Modi's second term as Prime Minister will depend on predelictions of his masters inÂ Nagpur where the RSS is headquartered. His chancesÂ will primarily depend on whether he is able to deliver on his pledges. He has shown he canÂ think out of the box and take snap decisions. On the other had UPA IIÂ had lost its vigour with thenÂ Prime Minister Manmohan SinghÂ and UPA chairpersonÂ Sonia GandhiÂ dabbling in dual authority. For the BJP and the Sangh Parivar JNU is a test case given the various student bodies'Â Left orientation and secular character. The present challenge is a test forÂ the country's political democratic system as well as the opposition to strike a balance. ShuttingÂ down JNU might well be pipe dream.
T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and a commentator. Views are personal."