D.R. GOYAL is known to have written the most authentic account of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), in 1978. He was an RSS member from 1942 to 1947. His analysis of the hate-mongering culture of the RSS since Independence has earned him great respect in academic circles. As a school student, he joined the RSS, which projected itself as one of the organisations fighting for Indias independence, but it did not take him long to realise that the organisations professions were not necessarily true. Since then, he has been a chronicler of various developments in this cultural organisation. In 1962, when he was a Delhi University lecturer, he set up a unit of the Communist Party of India at the university. He later joined Subhadra Joshi (then Member of Parliament from Jabalpur, who also holds the distinction of having defeated Atal Bihari Vajpayee) to form the Sampradayikta Virodhi Manch. The organisation is at present named the Qaumi Ekta Trust. He has also written a biography of Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani of Dar-ul-Uloom and is now working on a book on Indian madrassas. In an interview to Frontline, the author of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh elaborates on how the present crisis within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is historically linked to the RSS.
How do you understand the present crisis in the BJP? What is the role of the RSS in influencing the BJPs recent decisions such as the expulsion of Jaswant Singh, the sidelining of Yashwant Sinha, or the issuing of a show-cause notice to Arun Shourie?
First of all, I would say that the present situation in the BJP is like the Mahabharat. Kauravas and Pandavas fighting each other. Instead of Krishna coming and trying to solve [the conflict], the RSS jumps in. Though it has always been influencing it, for the first time the RSS chief has come and issued a public statement before the Chintan Baithak of the BJP. He made a statement on TV that older people should retire and the leadership should be given over to people in their 50s and 60s. This kind of thing has never happened earlier.
Another feature of Mohan Bhagwats visit to Delhi was that he did not even show the courtesy of visiting the ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was a major leader of the political formation founded by the RSS in 1951. Vajpayee was at that time attached to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and until the other day he led the party and the BJP government for six years. So, an ordinary human courtesy required that the head of an institution that founded the BJP should visit him. Not necessarily for any consultation, but even Vajpayees advice, if he could speak, would have been useful because he knew people more. Advani, in fact, came into the political scene much later, only in the 1960s. Before that he was only an RSS pracharak. Now it seems that Mohan Bhagwat has displayed a preference for Advani over Vajpayee, which means that he has rejected all those people who were with Vajpayee.
In other words, for Bhagwat, Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and all these people are personae non gratae. He didnt talk to any of them whereas he talked to everyone who was either with Rajnath Singh or with Advani. For him, the BJP means only those who are with Rajnath or Advani. The result of this was that in the Chintan Baithak of the BJP, no one could discuss the reasons for its defeat, which was the purpose of the meeting. If it had happened, discussions on ideology would have come in. The RSS did not want that. All these days, there have been discussions only about the real role of Hindutva. Although Advani tried to undermine it, he is known to be a person who is attached to Hindutva.
In 2002, Vajpayee was in favour of dismissing [Narendra] Modi, but Advani defended him. So in the RSS view, Advani is the real RSS man, a defender of the RSS ideology, not Vajpayee. Therefore anybody who is attached to Vajpayee has to be discarded.
Now what is the way ahead? Bhagwat says that he can only advise them [BJP leaders] but cannot suggest. In other words, he doesnt want to take names although he has talked to all these people collectively as well as separately. Talking to [Arun] Jaitley, [Sushma] Swaraj, [Venkaiah] Naidu, Ananth Kumar means he was talking to people who were against Rajnath. Therefore, he talked separately to Rajnath.
Another thing to be noticed is that Bhagwat went to Murli Manohar Joshis house for lunch and didnt go to anybodys house until then. Murli Manohar Joshi had not come to meet him. He, therefore, went to his house. In other words, the RSS has a soft corner for Joshi also. That is why there is talk that there might be a place for Joshi either as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or as president of the BJP. What happened at the meeting, one doesnt know; because the RSS makes statements that are partial. It has never abdicated its role as the real mentor of the BJP, or even the Jana Sangh. When the Jana Sangh was founded, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was told by [M.S.] Golwalkar to set up an organisation and the RSS would give it its cadre but only on condition that its ideology would be promoted. So this was a political party of the RSS meant to promote Hindutva, which also means Hindu nationalism. Therefore, if the BJP does anything against the minorities, the RSS has no objection to it be it the 2002 Gujarat carnage or Kandhamal and Karnataka in 2008. The RSS speaks only when there is a crisis inside the BJPs organisation.
Why do you think not talking about ideology in the Chintan Baithak of the BJP would be beneficial for the RSS?
If they didnt come out with any kind of discussions in the Chintan Baithak, it is because they didnt want to disclose that there were people who were reporting to the RSS. What does Bal Aptes report mean? That ideology was one of the reasons for the defeat. The RSS was never bothered about the future or fate of the political party. Ideology is prime. Therefore, Rajnath in his own defence repeatedly says that there can be no dilution of the ideology.
In other words, whatever Golwalkar has said about nationalism, whether it was his book We, Our Nationhood Defined or later on in Bunch of Thoughts, still holds. In We, Our Nationhood Defined he said that the minorities would have no rights except as second-class citizens unless they accepted the culture of the Hindus. In other words, unless they converted, they had no rights as citizens. And in the other book, Bunch of Thoughts, he says that there are three enemies of nationalism: Muslims, Christians and communists. If they have to adhere to that ideology, they cant have any alliance with any of these three. The sin of Vajpayee was that when confronted with a question on the dilution of Hindutva in the U.S., he said that unless the party had two-thirds majority, ideology couldnt be implemented. So he becomes an unwanted person. Advani will never say that. Atal Bihari also defends the Gujarat carnage, Karnataka and Kandhamal implicitly because he doesnt speak a word against these incidents.
Do you suggest that the present crisis is a fight between the Advani and Vajpayee camps and is doctored by the RSS?
You see, the RSS doesnt need Vajpayee. He was tolerated, not accepted.
The RSS wants a young leadership in the BJP. In a way, all the present outcastes such as Jaswant Singh, Shourie and Yashwant Sinha are more than 70 years old. Young leaders like Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj are close to the RSS and also fall in the age bracket that Bhagwat suggested. Does it suggest some kind of remote controlling of the BJP by the RSS through a superficial talk of young leadership in order to sideline the people who were not close to it?
The idea of the youngsters is intended to promote the people who are from the RSS stream. The present crop of older leaders like Jaswant have not been trained in the RSS. The RSS knows that these people will not work for ideology. They will work for power. Until the BJP came to power, there was no problem between the RSS and the BJP. It was only in the 1990s, when there was a possibility of the BJP coming to power. At that time, there was a BJP conference in Bombay [now Mumbai]. There was also a parallel conference of the BJP that was addressed by the then RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan. He said that the BJP needed to be careful about the corruption that had entered in its ranks. A biography of Advani called Advent of Advani was issued. Even in this biography, it was suggested by the RSS that the BJP had got addicted to five-star cultures, which showed in the places where they conducted their meetings. Even the Shimla meeting was conducted in a luxurious hotel rather than a place suggested by the State government.
What has been the role of the RSS after Independence in determining the organisational decisions of the BJP and the Jana Sangh?
The RSS doesnt only influence their decisions. The relationship between these political formations and the RSS ensures that the parties do not function independently. Political formations are meant to advance the ideology. In fact, earlier the RSS was not in favour of entering politics by itself. It thought unless it created an atmosphere in which its ideology was acceptable, it would not enter politics. Our culture will be our politics, it said. Therefore, it is very difficult for the RSS to enter politics directly or give up the influence it exerts in these political formations that it has created. That is the dilemma for the RSS.
Jaswant Singh was expelled on the grounds of writing something that violated the ideology of the RSS and the BJP. Even Arun Shourie came forward to confront the leadership of the party, but he was not expelled, perhaps because he is seen as a staunch Hindutva ideologue. Does this mean the RSS needs more people like Shourie who could engage intellectually with the civil society in favour of its ideology despite certain criticisms against it?
Once Arun Shourie was invited to preside over the Vijayadashami function, their annual function, in the Nagpur headquarters of the RSS. A person who has been invited to such a function is normally considered a promoter of the ideology, though he may not be close to the Sangh. Moreover, his objection to the functioning of the BJP is that the ideology has not been promoted in the way it should have been. Therefore, the RSS should take over, he means, but the RSS cannot do that. At the same time, Mohan Bhagwat had to say that he is a respected journalist and an intellectual.
So you think this is the reason the RSS has not been criticising Narendra Modi despite his efforts to distance himself from the RSS over the last few years?
Modi is doing what the RSS wants. The only problem between Modi and the RSS in Gujarat is that Modi has not been able to win over the castes that are against him.
Do you mean to say that the RSS is a very strong organisation? The only thing that matters to it is its ideology. Is it itself free from power politics?
The RSS is not free from power politics. Sometimes problems do arise, but it solves those by dissolving them. There has been a lot of discussion on whether pracharaks should marry or not and on matters such as these. But there has been no difference on ideology. For instance, the difference between Mohan Bhagwat and K.S. Sudarshan was on whether the organisation should tolerate a person like Advani or not. When Bhagwat left Delhi, Sudarshan met him in order to explain that he was not against him. In other words, the difference between the chief and ex-chief was about the treatment that should be given to Advani because there were complaints of ideological corruption against Advani also.
How different is Mohan Bhagwat from his predecessor Sudarshan? What difference does it make to the BJP? Since the influence of the RSS is so strong and Bhagwat for the first time came out speaking before the Chintan Baithak, could a step such as the expulsion of the president over any indiscipline be repeated in future? Jana Sangh presidents Mauli Charan Sharma and Balraj Madhok were expelled from the party on the RSS order. Advani was just asked to resign from the presidentship, though.
It doesnt make any difference to the BJP. Bhagwats only problem is that he wants a younger generation to come up in the BJP. Sudarshan had also wanted this. He had said this to both Advani and Vajpayee. But Bhagwat went a step ahead to prescribe the age limit of the leadership (between 50 and 60). So Murli Manohar Joshi is also out in that way. He has not named any of them. But apart from the prominent four or five, it could also be Bal Apte and Ram Lal. These are people who are delegated in the BJP by the RSS to look after its political formation.
Jana Sangh president Balraj Madhok was expelled because he had written a letter that the organising committee should not be chosen by the RSS but be elected by the respective units of the Jana Sangh. They would be paid by the Jana Sangh, not the RSS. What Madhok meant was that the Jana Sangh should be detached from the RSS. Advani is not able to project such an approach though he says that the RSS should not interfere in the BJPs day-to-day decisions. What does it mean? Does it mean the RSS should not appoint the organising secretary? His only objection is that the RSS should not speak up when the BJP makes a statement that the RSS is critical of. After the Jinnah controversy, Advani was just asked to resign and was not expelled because unlike Madhok he was ready to accept the terms and conditions of the RSS. Madhok was not prepared to accept the RSS diktat. Madhok made a very strong statement against the RSS after his expulsion in Ahmedabad.
In 1985, when the BJP took stock of the reasons for its abject defeat and Vajpayee was asked whether it marked a return to the Jana Sangh type of politics, he countered, When did we get away from the Jana Sangh? The Jana Sangh was openly a political unit of the RSS, which the BJP claims it is not. Even the RSS claims that. On November 6, 1977, however, he said exactly the opposite. When we joined the Janata Party we had given up our old beliefs and faiths and there was no question of going back. It was almost the same case with Advani regarding the question of Hindutva before the election. Is this some sort of ideological confusion or temporary dishonesty for political gains? What is that which prevents the BJP from charting its own path and emerge as a right-wing organisation with its own brand of Hindutva for political gains?
Neither of the two parties, the BJP or the Jana Sangh, has grown in politics. They have grown in the RSS. The RSS has put them in politics. Therefore, they have to surrender. There was a journalist who brought out a magazine called Mother India from Bombay. It was about the film industry, but there were editorials, which talked about politics. He once made a comment that Vajpayee says something but when it comes to the crunch, he goes and kneels before the RSS chief. There is no difference between the BJP and the RSS. I always say that the BJP grew by accident. The BJP grew because of the ideological mistakes committed by the Congress. First, Indira Gandhi destroyed all the second-rung leaders.
When Rajiv Gandhi came, he was an inexperienced politician. He took decisions that were not in conformity with his party. For example, he permitted the foundation stone of Ram Mandir to be laid in Ayodhya. He also changed the law in the Shah Bano case. He was almost doing what the BJP wanted to do. Before that in 1983, Mrs. Gandhi made speeches in Jammu and later in Delhi, which, according to [K.R.] Malkani, were in accordance with the ideology of the RSS. When you begin to walk in those lines, then naturally the other party becomes acceptable. So the Muslims, Dalits, OBCs [Other Backward Classes], all of them got alienated from the Congress. It was these mistakes of the Congress which led to the rise of Jana Sangh and then the BJP. If there was no Emergency, in 1977 how could a conglomerate of various parties come to power?
When the BJP makes statements accepting different cultures in India, they have never defined culture. In fact they have never differed from Golwalkar who said that religion is the basis of culture, in his book We, Our Nationhood Defined. If religion is the basis of culture, then those who do not believe in the Hindu religion are not a part of this culture. It is not even temporary dishonesty. It is just meant for public consumption, not for practice. People went gaga over Vajpayees tolerance, but was he able to dismiss Modi? Did he differ from Modi when Advani approved the killing of Graham Staines? The RSS was happy with a leader who tolerated the ideology.
You have shown in your book how the RSS believes in lie-mongering and has a convenient memory. Despite their claims of being the most nationalist force, Savarkar appealed for clemency from the British. In your book, you reproduced the apologetic letter by Balasaheb Deoras to Indira Gandhi during the time of Emergency so that they were not arrested. Almost in the same vein, Advani lied when he claimed ignorance about Jaswant Singh accompanying terrorists in the Kandahar hijack episode. Jaswant Singh called his bluff. What does this history suggest?
You see, they had basically no objection to the Emergency. In fact, Balasaheb Deoras, the RSS chief, told Indira Gandhi that if she was prepared to join them, they would help her to fight the communists. They were prepared to support the Congress. Even now, if the BJP adopts all the economic and foreign policies of the Congress, the RSS will have no objections. If one enemy can be fought with the help of the Congress, the RSS doesnt mind it. Why do they go to Jinnah again and again? Now Jaswant Singh has gone overboard and therefore got expelled. Advani said Jinnah is a great man. One should understand that if you are a follower of Savarkar, you are bound to be a follower of Jinnah too. Savarkar in 1937, before the Pakistan resolution in 1940, had made a statement that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and cannot live together. The hue and cry is just because Jaswant Singh is not acceptable to the RSS and not about Jinnah.
Some in the RSS are repackaging Hindutva. Something like anyone who is born in India is a Hindu. Bhagwat even said that they are open to all. This goes against the Golwalkar (in his book Bunch of Thoughts, Chapter 10) and Savarkar. Both of them denounced territorial nationalism and strictly defined who is a Hindu. Only a person who embraces Hindu culture could be a Hindu. So do you see a shift in the ideology of the RSS or does that amount to the same thing? They have been using religiosity and nationality almost in the same vein, in terms of an all-encompassing Hindu nation.
No, this is a hypocritical deceit. The RSS does not come out in the open with anything. For example, the RSS would not support what Varun Gandhi said, but they would have no objection if you, like Modi, create a situation in which the minorities are killed. That is the difference. They realise that Hindus at large would not accept their original ideology. Therefore, they want to mould Hindus into their ideology. In fact, the idea is not to convert Muslims or Christians. The idea is to convert Hindus to Hindutva ideology. For them, the weakness lies with the Hindus.
Since you have spoken so much about Vajpayee, do you mean to say that Vajpayee was not a strong Hindutva ideologue himself?
For this, you have to go back to the genesis of the political formation. When, after 1948, the RSS was banned, there was a lot of discussion. In the old files of the Organiser between 1946 and 47, there are a whole lot of letters where people say that unless you advance into politics, you will not be able to defend yourself. Because when there was a ban on the RSS, there was nobody to defend it. If you want some defence, you have to take the plunge into politics. I remember one of those letters, which read, Whatever cuts in politics, cuts in life. This means whoever is effective in politics, he is also able to defend its ideological practice in life. Therefore, a political formation was created to defend what the RSS does, in its own name or in any other name. Whatever the Bajrang Dal or the ABVP [Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad] does, it is defended by the BJP.
You have always been an acute observer of the RSS both from inside and outside. Over all these years, what change have you seen in the working of the RSS?
One big change that I see is that the RSS now does not attract school students or even young college students. Youngsters in shakhas are slowly becoming invisible. Life has changed. A child would watch TV in the evening rather than go to a shakha. In the morning, they go to school. Therefore the ABVP is the recruiting ground for political work and violence. After all, where has Arun Jaitley come from?
Finally, where do you see the BJP going from here?
It is very difficult to find a suitable person to preside over the party. I dont see any future for the party for the next 10 years, at least until 2014. In fact, I am sorry to say that the communists have blundered badly, otherwise, here was a chance [for them] to become the main opposition party.
Politics today is more fluid than it ever was. After Independence, the freedom fighters were dictating terms as long as they were alive. But today, ideology is there but idealism is no more there.