Amidst all the mudslinging by politicians against each other, it was indeed heartening to see Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, photographed with his successor Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, their linked arms raised in jubilation. Chouhan is fondly called Mama (uncle) by the people of the state. Although Shivraj Singh is a staunch follower of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and has faithfully implemented the policies of the Sangh Parivar, he has not been arrogant and vindictive like other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. His participation in the swearing-in ceremony of the new chief minister and graciously congratulating him is an expression of his gentlemanliness.
Rahul Kothari, BJP Madhya Pradesh spokesperson, appreciated Chouhan for his amiability. “This shows how gracious our leader is; he believes in the ideology that victory-defeat happens in politics, but there is no place for bitterness,” he said. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav tweeted: “Proud of Shivraj Singh Chouhan; spirited fight. More votes; short of majority in a hung house; but no temptation for harakiri; graceful exit by submitting resignation. He won the hearts even in party’s sad electoral loss.” Unfortunately, majority of the leaders of the Sangh Parivar is yet to learn from Chouhan’s courtesy and humanness.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and other fringe leaders spit venom of hatred and revenge against the minorities and opposition political leaders, Chouhan rarely indulged in hate speech. Often he could not go against the divisive policies of the BJP and RSS, but he tried to reach out to the minorities. During his tenure as chief minister, no communal riots took place in Madhya Pradesh, though there were attacks on the minorities by the cow vigilantes and the militant Bajrang Dal activists. Because of his soft spoken nature and focus on development policies, BJP’s vote share was slightly (0.1 percent) more than that of the Congress in the recently concluded assembly election.
According to political observers, the BJP was defeated in Madhya Pradesh mainly because of the arrogance and wrong policies of Modi and Amit Shah. A prominent Maharashtra farmer leader, Kishore Tiwari, demanded on Dec. 18 that the RSS must replace Modi with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at the prime minister post if the BJP wishes to win the 2019 general elections. In his letter to RSS leaders he termed Modi and Shah as “arrogant”. “Leaders who pursue an extremist and dictatorial attitude in the party and government are dangerous for the society and the country,” he further wrote.
It is not only Modi and Shah that are arrogant. A majority of the Sangh Parivar is also affected by this dangerous disease because it is the result of the majoritarian ideology of the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh Parivar suffers from five highly damaging diseases: 1) prejudice against minorities, 2) hatred and revenge against minorities, 3) arrogance emanating from majoritarianism, 4) exclusive approach, and 5) superiority complex arising from exaggerated glorification of India’s past. Using religion for political mobilization is resorted to by all political parties, but no party can excel BJP in this art of manipulation.
All five major weaknesses are the consequence of the ideology of the Sangh Parivar largely based on the following sources: “ Essentials of Hindutva” or “ Hindutva , Who Is a Hindu? ” by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, “We or Our Nationhood Defined” and “Bunch of Thoughts” by MS Golwalkar. Exclusion of minorities and dominance of the majority are reflected in the three documents that the Sangh Parivar considers sacred to it. The following quote from the book “We or Our Nationhood Defined” by MS Golwalkar – whom the RSS calls ‘Guruji’ with reverence – clearly reflects that Muslims and Christians will be second-class citizens in the Hindu Rashtra.
“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races who have chosen to live in our country.”
If the BJP has to evolve as a political party acceptable to all sections of the Indian society, the RSS should allow BJP to function as a party wedded to the vision of the constitution of India. RSS should not impose its ideology of Hindutva on the BJP. The BJP has to declare to the public that in post-independent India, Golwalkar’s idea of Hindu Rashtra and of excluding Muslims and Christians is not only relevant but also harmful. The BJP has to prove through its actions that it stands for an inclusive India. The BJP should dump persons like Yogi Adityanath who excel in hate speech and ‘weaponisation’ of cows to target Muslims. Choosing him to be the chief minister of the largest state of India is one of the biggest blunders committed by the BJP. As long as the RSS controls the BJP, it cannot grow as a political party acceptable to all sections of Indian society.
No organization in the world can match RSS in its organizational skills, discipline, determination and hard work. It has 73 affiliated organizations, according to Wikipedia, and many of these organizations have more than a million membership. There is no segment of Indian society into which RSS has not penetrated. There is no government department or wings of government in which its men are not positioned. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Modi government could be planting RSS men in key positions in most of the government departments. Even if Modi government is out in the next election, the RSS will be in the government. Dealing with the RSS within the governance system will be the greatest challenge for any non-BJP government in the future.
The RSS has a golden opportunity to restore the lost glory of India by shedding hatred and revenge from its lexicon. If the RSS replaces its mindset of hatred with love and uses its vast human and financial resources for building an inclusive India, the country can easily be developed. The result of recent assembly elections in three Hindi heartland states - Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - should help the RSS to rethink about its ideology and approach. An ideology based on hatred and revenge can bring political benefits in the short run, but in the long run the law of diminishing returns will work against it. If the RSS revises its negative ideology, it will be beneficial not only to them but also to the people of India.
Although the RSS could extend its tentacles deep into the different layers of Hindu society, majority of Hindus continue to be liberal. Large majority of those who raise their voice against the culture of hatred and violence unleashed by the Hindutva forces are mainly Hindus. An excellent example is the open letter written by 83 former bureaucrats demanding the resignation of Yogi Adityanath in connection with the murder of Subodh Kumar Singh in mob violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr. They strongly criticized the central and state governments for their failure to act against the killers of a police officer. “ Our Prime Minister, who is so voluble in his election campaigns and who never tires of telling us of how the Constitution of India is the only holy book he worships, maintains stony silence even as he sees a chief minister handpicked by him treats that same Constitution with sheer contempt,” they said. Most of these former bureaucrats are Hindus.
It is pertinent to recall what Pranab Mukherji, the former president of India, said at a Christmas gathering organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India this year. “ Divisive tendencies, intolerance and prejudiced ‘fear of the other’ seem to be defining us today, but it is a temporary phase and the idea of India will prevail.” Referring to the present political situation of India he further said, “Indians will tenaciously fight this in order to once again establish our unique national identity, which has emerged out of our civilizational values and remains etched ever so clearly in our Magna Carta – the Constitution of India.”
It is easier for those who are inside of an organization to bring about change than those who are outside. The liberal elements within the BJP and RSS have to take initiative to bring about change in the ideology and approach of RSS. They should tell the rank and file of the RSS that ‘vasudevakudumbakam’ is our national heritage and not hatred and violence. Persons like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Nitin Gadkari can lead this revolution within the Sangh Parivar.
At the same time, the secular forces within the country cannot have the luxury of keeping quiet. They have to expose vigorously to the people the lies and prejudices propagated by the Hindutva forces. The policy of the Congress adopting soft Hindutva and keeping mum on the issue of hatred against the minorities is totally against its ideology. As Harsh Mander, IAS officer-turned-social activist, has pointed out in his article “Speak Up, Act,” “ Modi’s BJP must be fought not just for its failures to create jobs or salvage India’s farmers, or for its crony capitalism. It must be fought because of the poison of majoritarian hate that it has inserted into India’s social fabric, leaving India more divided than ever since Partition... This battle for the soul of India cannot be fought by stealth and strategic silences.”
(Published on 31th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 01)