Karunanidhi on RSS

Print edition : February 19, 2000

THE Gujarat Government's decision to allow its employees to participate in the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's defence of it have sparked a controversy in Tamil Nadu involving Chief Minister and Drav ida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi, who first declined to comment on the issue, later endorsed Vajpayee's remark that the RSS was a "social" and not a political organisation.

The DMK chief's political opponents were quick to pounce on his seeming equation of the RSS with the Dravidar Kazhagam (D.K.). This invited sharp criticism especially from Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) president G.K. Moopanar. (Karunanidhi has since denie d that he made such a comparison.)

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.-K.G. SANTHOSH

It appeared as if Karunanidhi was equivocal in his characterisation of the RSS, but clear that government employees should not be allowed to take part in RSS activities. He explained that "even if it is accepted that the RSS is not a political organisati on, just as some social organisations are taking part in politics the RSS is also taking part in politics. I have made it clear that I cannot accept the view that government employees can join the RSS. I still hold this view."

Newspapers on February 6 reported that the Prime Minister had upheld Gujarat's decision. Vajpayee was quoted as having said that the RSS "is a cultural and social organisation, and I do not think objections should be raised against anybody joining it."

Speaking at a function in Chennai on that day, Karunanidhi said: "The Government at the Centre will remain secular because we are aligned with it." He denied that the BJP-led government was opposed to minority communities. In this context he referred to the reception accorded to Pope John Paul II on his visit last year. When reporters sought his views on the Prime Minister's statement, he said tersely: "I do not want to comment on it."

Two days later, Karunanidhi told mediapersons that no communal organisation was acceptable to the DMK. "In Tamil Nadu, some outfits calling themselves social organisations are taking part in political activities. Perhaps, in Gujarat too, the RSS is calli ng itself a social organisation and participating in politics." Asked specifically whether he endorsed Vajpayee's argument that the RSS was a social organisation, the Chief Minister said: "I accept it." He added: "The Dravidar Kazhagam is a social organi sation. But there are big ideological differences between the RSS and the Dravidar Kazhagam. Both call themselves social organisations. Yet they are not the same. I came from the Dravidar Kazhagam."

This invited a broadside from Moopanar, who said that "compulsions of power" had forced Karunanidhi to describe the RSS as a social organisation. He reminded Karunanidhi of an article he had written in the March 7, 1999 issue of Murasoli, the DMK organ, in which he had said: "They (the RSS members) do not respect humanitarianism. Nor do they love humanitarianism. They do not subscribe to communal harmony or to the belief that all religions are one. Such persons are in power today. In support of s uch a regime, there are some parivars and retinue. Their atrocities and high-handed acts have made India bow its head in international forums."

Moopanar said that he was not angry with Karunanidhi for changing tack. "I am only pained that this misfortune has befallen Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi has equated the RSS with the Dravidar Kazhagam. If Periyar (E.V. Ramasamy, leader of the Dravidian movemen t) and Anna (C.N. Annadurai, the first DMK Chief Minister) had been alive today, they would have shed tears of blood." It was a "travesty of the times" that Karunanidhi, a "senior disciple" of Periyar, should call the RSS a social organisation, Moopanar remarked.

IN a letter to Vajpayee on February 9, Karunanidhi proposed that a national consensus be evolved to forbid government servants from joining social organisations having links with political parties. The letter noted: "... Both the Government of India as w ell as the State governments have already framed Conduct Rules for government servants. ...all State governments and the Government of India, in their rules, specifically prohibit government servants (from) joining political parties."

The Chief Minister hoped that the Prime Minister would agree with him that government servants should not take part in political activities and that people should not lose faith in the impartial and apolitical nature of the administrative machinery.

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