Parivars plans

Published : Sep 26, 2008 00:00 IST

Sadhus at the VHP-sponsored Dharam Sansad held in Allahabad in February 2006.-PTI

Sadhus at the VHP-sponsored Dharam Sansad held in Allahabad in February 2006.-PTI

The Sangh and its affiliates have achieved greater coordination at this point of time.

ON December 24, 2007, when top leaders of the Sangh Parivar were celebrating the remarkable thrice-in-a-row victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat under the leadership of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, its cadre attacked Dalit and tribal Christians in Kandhamal district of Orissa. The general reaction to the attacks was one of shock and disgust, but the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar interpreted them as bearing a unique organisational message to the top leadership. Implausible as it may sound, it was felt that one of the Sangh Parivar outfits, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was once described as the ideological sword arm of the Hindutva combine, was giving out a message that it was carrying out the tasks assigned to it in a larger Hindutva initiative.

In a sense it was also a message from another Gujarati leader of the Sangh Parivar, VHPs international general secretary Praveen Togadia, not to be carried away by the election victories scored by the other Gujarati, Narendra Modi, commented a senior Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) leader from Uttar Pradesh. Togadia had fallen out with Modi during the run-up to the 2005 local body elections in the State on account of the Chief Ministers refusal to accommodate some of the close associates of the VHP leader in the candidates list. Since then, Togadia steadfastly kept away from the BJP campaign in Gujarat, and the two leaders even stopped communicating with each other. Moreover, dominant sections of the VHP led by Togadia often subjected former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and Modi to criticism for deviating from the core Hindutva ideological path. Togadia even maintained that these leaders had succumbed to the trappings of power and needed to make earnest attempts to overcome that.

It was in this context that the symbolism of the December conflict in Orissa was perceived at various levels of the Sangh Parivar, the RSS leader said. It was as though the VHP was reminding the Sangh Parivar leadership that behind every election victory of the BJP, credited normally to the political sagacity of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Advani or to the development initiative of Narendra Modi, there are scores of ideology-driven initiatives such as the one in Orissa, he pointed out. The Orissa moves were led by Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a veteran VHP leader, who was considered close to Togadia.

It is not known whether this interpretation of the Orissa riots was formally acknowledged by the Sangh Parivar leadership, but it is certain that there have been efforts in the past six months for a rapprochement between Togadia and Modi. The formers comments about the Chief Minister during a visit to Ahmedabad in early August bears testimony to this. Togadia, who visited the city soon after the serial blasts, said he clearly supported the line pursued by Modi in addressing the threat of terrorism in Gujarat. When mediapersons asked him about the turnaround in their relationship, the VHP leader maintained that fights take place between brothers and even spouses but ultimately they all belong to the same family.

Jayanti Barot, BJP general secretary and Rajya Sabha member, supported this argument by explaining that even when Togadia and Modi had differences of opinion, they worked to achieve a common goal. What you see as differences are actually the varied streams of a unified strategy, he added. Barots opinion is corroborated by activists of other Sangh Parivar outfits such as the RSS, the BJP and the Bajrang Dal.

According to the RSS leader, it is true that the Sangh Parivar constituents, especially the BJP, went through a period of intense ideological confusion and organisational upheaval in the last months of 2004 and a good part of 2005. But all that has been more or less rectified, and the Sangh Parivar is functioning like a good orchestra these days. The rectification process was initiated between the last months of 2005 and early 2006 through a series of organisational initiatives. There may be some hitches even now in terms of fine-tuning, but the rampant confusion is a thing of the past and there is greater coordination among the different units at this point of time, the leader said.

The course correction measures aimed at reviving coordination and concerted action among various Sangh Parivar outfits were launched by the RSS leadership after its October 2005 national executive at Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh. By the time the National Council (Pratinidhi Sabha) met in February 2006 at the organisations headquarters in Nagpur, these efforts had advanced considerably and the leadership even outlined an action plan (Frontline, March 10, 2006). The action plan signified a qualitative shift in emphasis from internal, organisational matters, which had manifested themselves as constant wrangling within the Sangh Parivar on ideological and organisational questions, to external socio-political goals, evolving in the form of a revived pursuit of the core Hindutva agenda along with a neoliberal economic agenda and attempts to exploit the differences among secular forces.

A series of programmes that were held at that time as well as some significant political interventions by the RSS exemplified this shift. The programmes included the VHP-sponsored Dharam Sansads (religious parliaments of sants and mahants) held in different parts of the country, including in Orissas Puri district, and the Shabari Kumbh Mela organised at Dangs in Gujarat. These programmes evolved a clutch of ideas and plans to advance the ideological, organisational, political and realpolitik interests of the Sangh Parivar. Each segment had diverse strategies, all cumulatively aimed at enhancing the Sangh Parivars support base.

The Dharam Sansad meetings the Puri meet was held on February 18 and 19, 2006 passed a 13-point Hindu charter, which was described by the Sangh Parivar leadership as the core ideological blueprint of Hindutva initiatives in the future. The charter included oft-repeated Sangh Parivar demands such as a ban on cow slaughter, purification of the Ganga, and imposition of the common civil code, but its central piece was the decision to develop a Hindu vote bank to counter the alleged Muslim vote bank. The plan was to develop a Hindu vote bank to pressure all political parties to protect and advance the interests of the Hindu community, cutting across barriers of caste. In concrete terms, this meant the creation of a block of Hindutva volunteers in each booth of the country, who would support and work for the candidate who gives in to Hindutva demands.

The Shabari Kumbh Mela was professedly an event to promote self-respect and confidence among the Vanvasis [the Sangh Parivar terminology for Adivasis] as well as to resist and revert the conversions to Christianity engineered by missionaries. The presentations at the mela argued that organisations of Muslims and Christians were working in a planned manner to effect a demographic shift. It was in the context of this conference that many RSS leaders, including sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan, exhorted the Hindu community to ignore the concept of family planning so that India did not become a society dominated by Muslims and Christians.

Sudarshan also exhorted leaders of Sangh Parivar outfits to evolve campaign plans highlighting this issue. These campaigns were to follow broadly the blatantly communal slogan of the VHP, pehle kasai phir isai. Roughly it means the first priority is to tackle and coerce Muslims into submission and then Christians.

Organisationally, the initiatives undertaken between October 2005 and February 2006 witnessed repeated expressions of intent to enhance the importance of organisations such as the VHP and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and cut the BJP leadership to size. It was also decided to evolve a collective leadership in the BJP in order to ensure that the party did not lose its ideological moorings but at the same time adopted such political postures that it was able to wean away regional and smaller parties from the secular fold. This go-ahead for realpolitik also reflected a clearance to the pursuit of neoliberal policies opportunistically.

According to the Uttar Pradesh RSS leader, the evaluation of the Sangh Parivar leadership in early 2008 was that all the diverse political, organisational, ideological and realpolitik operations were going on more or less smoothly. Gujarat has shown that neoliberal Hindutva is a workable proposition. The realpolitik initiatives since February 2006 led to a significant political victory in Karnataka, too. There, the differences among secular parties were exploited well by the BJP to come to power on its own.

The Sangh Parivar leadership is also of the view that collective action has been facilitated to a great extent by the elevation of Rajnath Singh to the top leadership of the BJP and the dilution of the Advani-Vajpayee stranglehold over the political arm. Within the RSS itself, the authority exercised by sarkaryavah (general secretary) Mohan Rao Bhagwat over organisational and political matters is acclaimed to have contributed in a big way in setting things in order.

A number of Sangh Parivar activists, including veteran RSS leaders, told Frontline that the Sangh Parivar leadership had evaluated the Orissa project as one that was on course. The operations in Orissa were essentially following the Shabari Kumbh Melas directives and Togadia was closely involved in its execution. Here, too, a kind of neoliberal Hindutva is at work. Gujarat was the original experimental lab of the Hindutva agenda. That has more or less stabilised as a Hindutva bastion under the able leadership of Narendra Modi, and now we are looking forward to Orissa. Though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik belongs to a non-Sangh Parivar party the Biju Janata Dal he has been more than cooperative in helping us advance our agenda, a senior RSS leader from Jharkhand told Frontline.

He added that in South India, the Sangh Parivar hoped to repeat in Kerala the big gains of Karnataka. The BJP has not been able to win even a single Assembly seat in Kerala so far. Our students movement, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, is making big gains on the campuses of the State and the number of people who are disgruntled with the corruption and infighting in the two mainstream parties of Kerala, the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is increasing day by day. But the Sangh Parivar leaderships clear assessment is that Orissa will be the first State to follow Gujarat as a Hindutva model.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment