Just three months into 2016, Indian politics has seen what promises to be the biggest irony of the year. Weeks after starting a heated debate on the necessity of chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) President Asaduddin Owasi are finally on same side: no one should be forced to chant the slogan; it should come from within and be left to an individual's discretion.
Bhagwat sprung a surprise on Monday when he stated, “We have to create so great an India that people will themselves say Bharat Mata ki Jai. We don’t need to force it on anybody. We have to give direction to the world with our life. There is no need to force our system and thoughts on anyone; there should be a desire to consider the whole world as ours.”
Bhagwat is the same RSS leader who on 3 March had said in reference to the Jawaharlal Nehru University row, "Now the time has come when we have to tell the new generation to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'. It should be real, spontaneous and part of the all-round development of youth."
Owaisi had then issued a fiery response saying, "Mohan Bhagwat I will not chant that slogan. What will you do? I won't say it even if you put a knife to my throat," adding that, "Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that one should say Bharat Mata ki Jai."
Bhagwat's revised position was revealed through a statement issued by the RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh on Monday. Incidentally, Bhagwat's new position is the same one that AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan held, for which he was suspended from the Maharastra Legislative Assembly on 16 March.
Interestingly, just the previous day (Sunday), Bhagwat had said, “We want the whole world to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai”. What transpired in the next 24 hours that the RSS chief chose to clarify his position?
Bhagwat's latest remark has adversely affected the BJP. In its National Executive meeting held only 10 days ago, the BJP took its cue from the RSS chief's initial statement and incorporated it in its political resolution.
This is what the BJP's document, which was deliberated in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Cabinet and senior officials of the party, said under the sub-heading, 'Nationalism, article of faith': "Nationalism, national unity and integrity are an article of faith with the BJP. A very microscopic minority in this country is indulging in kind of demagogy that goes against the very essence of our Constitution....Talking about destruction of Bharat can't be supported in name of freedom of expression. Similarly, refusal to hail Bharat — say Bharat Mata Ki Jai — in name of freedom is unacceptable. Our Constitution describes India as Bharat also, refusal to victory to Bharat tantamount to disrespect to our Constitution itself. Bharat Mata Jai is not merely a slogan. It was a mantra of inspiration to countless freedom fighters during independence struggle. It is a heartbeat of billion people today. It is reiteration of our constitutional obligations as citizens to uphold its primacy."
With Bhagwat softening his stance, the BJP's position on the subject has become very awkward, to say the least. Remember, RSS is the BJP's ideological fountainhead. The wishes of the RSS chief are the BJP's commands. The BJP may or may not always abide by the RSS' wishes but those statements or wishes set national agenda. At times, they are favourable to the BJP but more often than not, such contentious public utterances have proved to be detrimental to the BJP.
A few months ago, during the run up to the Bihar Assembly election, Bhagwat's statement on quota review had put the BJP in a tight spot. The resultant confusion caused the party heavily, with Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar cashing in and emerging victorious.
In February 2016, around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was wooing the Christian community through a series of actions and meetings with community leaders, Bhagwat courted controversy by saying that converting people to Christianity was the motive behind Mother Teresa's social service.
This time around, Bhagwat's clarification is for the good of all concerned. Even if the BJP feels awkward, it should be happy that the issue which has been debated at length has been put to rest by the person who began it all, the revered Sarsanghchalak. Only if he had clarified it earlier, things would have been different today.