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Vajpayee's two faces

Print edition : Feb 19, 2000 T+T-
A. G. NOORANI

ON August 2, 1979, Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote in a famous article in Indian Express entitled "All responsible for Janata crisis" that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was not responsible for the crisis in the Janata Party. But, he added:

"Having said this, I must also add that the RSS, claiming to be a social and cultural organisation, should have taken greater pains to demonstrate that they did not seek a political role. Patronising a press that takes sides in the sordid politics of pow er, involvement in youth bodies that interact with political parties, participating in trade union rivalries such as the one which recently brought enormous misery to the people of Delhi by callously cutting off the water supply - these do not help the o rganisation to establish its apolitical credentials.

"It is possible that some people genuinely feel apprehensive about the RSS. A certain onus accordingly devolved on the RSS, an onus that has not been discharged effectively by the RSS. Its repudiation of the theocratic form of the state was welcom e, yet the question could legitimately be asked - why does it not open its doors to non-Hindus? Recent statements of the RSS Chief, Mr. Deoras, indicates that non-Hindus are being encouraged to join the organisation. A natural corollary of this pr oposal would be clear enunciation by the RSS that by Hindu Rashtra it means the Indian nation which includes non-Hindus as equal members.

"The other course of action open to the RSS could be to function only as a Hindu religion-cum-social-cultural organisation wedded to the task of eradicating the evils, revitalising it to face the challenges of modern times. The kind of selfless service t hat the RSS has rendered in times of natural calamities has endeared it even to its critics and has established beyond doubt its capacity for constructive work for ameliorating the suffering of those who are in need of help. Such an organisation will dra w support and sustenance from members of various political parties as has been the case with institutions like the Arya Samaj."

To this day the RSS refuses to accept non-Hindus as its members. Deoras even said on November 15 and 16, 1987 that it planned to enter politics (see the writer's "A threat comes true: RSS & elections": Frontline; May 3, 1996). It became more braze nly communal and political since 1979.

The RSS did not mend its ways. Vajpayee mended his. He said on February 5: "The RSS is not a political organisation but a cultural and social one."

This is not only in defiance of the President whose anxieties over the Gujarat order and Advani's prior green signal to it are no secret. It is Vajpayee's surrender to Advani and the RSS who are using his Kandahar humiliation to show him his place in the set-up.