Glasnost, RSS and confusion

Ever since Mohan Bhagwat chose to speak at Vigyan Bhawan in September there have been tomes of the writings describing his departure from the past to a new Inclusive kind of narrative which was like a fresh air to the moth eaten environs of Nagpur.

Its most loquacious speaker nowadays, Ram Madhav was out with his own version in the Indian Express, calling his September address as Glasnost, Perestroika, a change in the way RSS views the country in light of its new found confidence. It was called coming of age of RSS, maybe after 70 years of Independence and with a firmer place in the Political Firmament, it has found another reason for its own good. The address while dwelling on the issue of diversity of the country, the emphasis on the inclusion rather than exclusion as the mantra for going forward was touted by many as the new RSS.

Mohan Bhagwat in his Vigyan Bhawan address also pondered rather thoughtfully as to why was the Swayamsevak only attracted towards the BJP and why did he not have a different perspective. Certainly, these words do sound like a whiff of spring in the cold winters but I could imagine a smug smile on the face of Mohan Bhagwat and the older lot at RSS headquarters at Nagpur. After all the wily Sarsanghchalak is a master at the art of hypnosis and the September address was a beautiful deliverance of his art in midst of Delhi Elite.

However, Ram Madhav editorial was punctured just two days before the Vijayadashami by Manmohan Vaidya in his own subtle way by calling Ram Madhav’s Glasnost idea as the failure on part of the author and the public in their inability to understand the fact that RSS was an ever evolving and changing organisation which was socially mobile. Besides, the word Glasnost and Perestroika were alien to the RSS ethos. Surprisingly, both RSS leaders chose Indian Express as the medium is not without reason.

Manmohan Vaidya had to reach the same audience which was addressed by Ram Madhav with his Glasnost Theory and debunk the whole idea in itself. Hence, the rebuttal, albeit subtly. The timing of Vaidya’s article is more important, he came up with it just a couple of days before Bhagwat was to make his annual VijayaDashmi speech which set the tone for his Reshmibagh address.

And today, the newspapers are still trying to figure out the contours of the VijayaDashmi speech. They are screaming treason, betrayal by Bhagwat of his ideas expressed in the Vigyan Bhawan speech.

It must be said that Bhagwat has been the most consummate political Sarsanghchalak seen by the country in the recent years. He definitely comes off as much more affable than his predecessors, besides, can be seen engaging with people who hold absolutely divergent views than RSS. The invite to former President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee was an act of extraordinary dexterity, though RSS has called people who differed with them to their annual Bhaudhiks but Mukherjee was a coup de grace to an extent it rankled the main opposition, Congress to no avail.

It was his actions preceding the VijayaDashmi address which lulled the RSS Watchers and Baiters into a false sense of an awaited Glasnost. It also raised hackles among the hard core Swayamsevaks who were at quite an unease over his earlier avatar at the Vigyan Bhawan. It created some confusion among the RSS supporters who have developed a keen anti Congress politics over the decades. The confusing statements on diversity, inclusiveness, the broader definition of a Hindu all seemed foreign to a spiritual Swayamsevak whose world view was restricted by the teachings at his local Shakha.

It seems that the Glasnost speech of Bhagwat did create some confusion among the Believers and it has been the catalyst for his renewed call to Back To Basics on VijayaDashmi.

Interestingly, political analysts are at pains to dispel any Glasnost coming from the RSS stables. Suhas Palshikar has called Bhagwat’s address at Reshmibagh as a “reality check”. He says, “There’s no Glasnost. The same consistently confusing politics manifests itself as the core project of RSS “. What prompted this change of narrative by the RSS needs to be looked at in view of recent Court judgements, the fall out of the amendments to the SC/ST Act, the Sabarimala showdown, Sec 377, have all acted in a manner which puts a question mark on the efficacy of the Narendra Modi government dealing with the higher judiciary, in its ability to safeguard the core interests of the Hindus and the will of the government on contentious issues like Ram Mandir.

The year end elections looming large over the important states of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are also a factor in Bhagwat’s articulation on VijayaDashmi. Only, Shivraj Singh Chouhan seems to be in a relatively comfortable position compared to Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje, who is facing a veritable revolt in the state. What else than a thundering statement on Ram Mandir can lift the heat off the elections better, a call for an Ordinance is a virtual Brahamastra in the Sangh arsenal.

It is a well known fact that Ram Mandir still has the potential to swing any election in the country. The reference to Sabarimala is an afterthought, especially as recently as few days back, RSS was singing a different tune, advocating an unrestricted entry of women to Sabarimala. The protests in Kerala in particular and South of Vindhyas in general has led to this change of heart.

However, it has moderated its stand by bringing in the concept of consensus on the entry of women in Sabarimala, which according to the RSS has been ignored to the detriment of the Hindus of Kerala by the Communist Government of Pinarayi Vijayan.

The nuance has worked fine to the benefit of BJP in Kerala where it continues to be a fringe political power despite a robust and strong RSS, his latest statement has put the leading opposition Congress on a back foot in Kerala. Congress fears the prospect of losing the Hindu vote to the BJP in southern Kerala. It has also compounded the problem for the Communists whose last bastion is feeling the heat of Hindu resurgence in wake of Sabarimala protests.

RSS is trying to do what the BJP failed as a party in power, achieve the impossible of breaking the Untouchable tag in the Deep South. It has its eyes on the States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu to compensate for the losses in the Cow Belt. Though ambitious, but RSS’ changed stand on Sabarimala has some gains goes without saying.

Bhagwat has also tried to allay the fears of his succumbing to the new narrative of Inclusiveness by once again forcing the idea of Hindu being the One who was born in India or belonging to one of the Sects which originated from India. His not so subtle messaging is pure delight to the Swayamsevak who was confused with the Vigyan Bhawan rhetoric.

The VijayaDashmi address was primarily to his constituents rather than some eclectic gathering at an elite gathering in Delhi, far from the ideological headquarters of Nagpur.

The Hindutva proponents are enthusiastic by some plain speaking after a brief period of confusion over the impending Glasnost and Perestroika, words foreign to the RSS vocabulary as stated by Manmohan Vaidya in his article. The sigh of relief is apparent from the reaction of the Swayamsevaks after VijayaDashmi.

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