Nadda redefines BJP-RSS relations


Anil Anand

As the Rashtriya Sawyamsevak Sangh (RSS) is on the cusp of celebrating century of its existence, it is faced with a dilemma. And a serious one but not its own creation. It is serious because it threatens to challenge not only the RSS’s authority but its existence in many ways.
Does this challenge have direct relation to reports that the RSS has not gone full steam in backing the BJP candidate in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections? What makes the affair murkier is throwing the gauntlet at the RSS by its frontal political arm, in many ways vehicle to implement its ideas and ideology, BJP, and that too in the midst of elections.
Does this indicate redefining of relations between RSS and its political wing BJP? Significantly, it has come at a time when the party government is headed by a former RSS “Swayam Sevak” (volunteer), Narendra Modi.
Is the BJP in the process to cut its umbilical cord with someone (RSS) to which not only it owes its existence but also sustenance in terms of Hindutva-centric ideological feeding? That too when Mr Modi is steadfastly following the RSS’s agenda on this front. So, then what went wrong?
The context lies in the startling statement made by BJP president J P Nadda in a recent interview to the Indian Express wherein he made it amply clear that the party was no more dependent on RSS. It implied that the days of RSS hand-holding the BJP are over.
This is certainly not an off-the-cuff remark made by the BJP chief. In fact, he has made a policy statement of far-reaching consequences for the BJP-RSS relationship with a bearing on the country’s political stage. It can be easily deciphered that the BJP top brass has sought to differentiate between RSS and BJP rather than reading the two, as has been the course all these years, in unison.
It is a known fact that Mr Nadda, in the current BJP dispensation, is merely a titular head of the party and is not “empowered” to take such suo motu decisions on his own. That too on an issue as vital as redefining relations with RSS. The power-center lies elsewhere and it is the command of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo that works. It seemed Mr Nadda had a task cutout for him and an assignment to perform. It was timed when the debate was raging, at the end of fifth phase of polling, on RSS role in backing or not the BJP candidates.
Was it to plug the debate, wean the argument away from the Congress-led opposition, and nip in the bud any attempt by the RSS to have an upper hand in conveying a stern message to its political arm? Or is it case of BJP becoming over-confident in the Modi-euphoria ridden era.
There seemed much more to it than what meets the eye. Mr Nadda, in some dimensions, has through his statement seemed distancing the BJP from RSS. “The BJP runs itself. See the party has grown and everyone has got their own duties and role. We are managing our affairs in our own way. And, that’s what political parties should do…….”, he observed when asked on how the RSS presence has changed from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time.
It is clear from these observations that the RSS-BJP relationship is set to enter a new orbit where not RSS but BJP will be the fulcrum. This has given rise to vital questions: Will RSS allow one of its important frontal organisations to slip out of hand, seriously impacting its own existence? Will the RSS allow the authority of its “Sarsanghchalak” (chief of the RSS) to erode?
Never before, either in the Jan Sangh era or the BJP times since 1980, RSS has faced such a situation which is creation of inner contradictions and fight for supremacy. Never before had the leadership of Jan Sangh-BJP dared to call shots and waged a battle of supremacy as now. Never ever the authority of the RSS head challenged as has been done now.
“The party has grown independent of the RSS now and doesn’t need any hand-holding by the parent body anymore….” This observation by Mr Nadda vouch for the emerging new order and the things to come in the RSS-BJP relationship.
By all means Mr Nadda has made an explosive statement which he could not have done without the prodding of his superiors in the party. If this gives credence to stories regarding RSS’s unhappiness with the BJP particularly by the manner in which parent organization has been rendered to be a mere ringside viewer, it also confirms, coming from the horse’s mouth, that BJP under Mr Modi is not going to take it lying down and is not averse to even challenge the RSS.
Mr Nadda has left no ambiguity and his message is crystal clear. From available indications, it has hit hard where it was meant to hurt. It has also demolished the myth that BJP is inseparable from RSS. Interestingly, even weeks after Mr Nadda’s statement, there is no reaction from RSS headquarters in Nagpur.
Nevertheless, the RSS top brass should draw some solace that unlike the previous Vajpayee-regime, the Narendra Modi government made considerable headway in implementing their ideological agenda. It is another matter that the Mr Modi became the sole credit claimant in implementing key components of the RSS agenda- uppermost being the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370. The RSS during the last decade has only been a mute witness.
The BJP-RSS relations in the Modi-era have acquired a different dimension in comparison to where it stood during the Vajpayee rule. Consultations at the highest level was a key component of this relationship during earlier times and Prime Minister Vajpayee meeting RSS chief of the time, was a regular feature. Not a single such meeting has taken place during the last decade.
Mr Nadda has laid down the contours for the RSS-BJP relationship to follow in the days ahead. Contrary to the earlier tradition of RSS setting the agenda, it is BJP performing the role this time. It will be interesting to see how the two sides move ahead from here on.
This development has to be viewed in the backdrop of total dominance by Mr Modi in all matters particularly those related to Hindutava and Sangh agenda. This has certainly caused consternation in the RSS corridors. But there was little they could do before Mr Nadda struck.
The shape and form of the BJP-RSS relations hinge on the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections. A BJP victory and Mr Modi becoming Prime Minister for the third time, will strengthen the Nadda-doctrine on RSS-BJP relations. The turn of events during the last decade and a situation has been created where RSS needed Modi more, than Modi (read BJP) needing RSS. The Nadda-doctrine is the culmination of this situation.
The BJP-RSS relations will have a contrarian dimension if the party failed to retain power at the Centre. Such a situation will give RSS more elbow space to exert itself in different ways to try and subjugate team-Modi.

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