Former RSS Pracharak Nanaji Deshmukh was not only a prolific writer but also rebel for a cause within the saffron family. Few know that he wrote a series of missives to RSS chief KS Sudershan and his deputy Mohan Bhagwat at the peak of controversy arising out of LK Advani’s euologisation of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Short of saying that the RSS should shut shop and appropriate the BJP instead of remote-controlling the politics, Deshmukh was quite critical of the manner in which the RSS manipulated the politics to upstage Advani. He was, in fact, concerned that the RSS’s straying into politics would make the organization irrelevant and thoroughly discredited to carry out the tasks it was originally assigned to do.
But he was particularly hurt as none of his letters were answered. Those accompanying him testify that all letters were sharp, precise and had raised pertinent points about the RSS' proclivity to dabble in politics. "They do not realize, it will ruin them," the octogenarian leader used to say in closed confines of Deendayal Rsesearch Institute (DRI) situated barely a hundred yards away from the RSS Jhandewala headquarters in Delhi.
Deshmukh’s rebellion within the Sangh Parivar was never a secret. Unlike the RSS which draws pracharaks from the Hindu society and train them to dedicate exclusively for the social cause without getting married, Deshmukh dismissed the idea of bachelorhood as out of sync with the reality. In his own experiment, he created institutions like university at Chitrakoot (Madhya Pradesh) to promote the concept of ideal families. Though bachelor himself , Deshmukh never made a fetish of celibacy and in fact rejected the idea of character-building through celibacy.
Though Deshmukh carried out his parallel activity by creating institutions distinctly different from the culture of the Sangh Parivar, he never severed umbilical chord with the saffron family. Yet he was hardly a conformist- a fact that irked top leadership of the RSS. He was particularly irked when the RSS led from the front the revolt against LK Advani after his Pakistan visit in 2005.
Towards the end of his life, Deshmukh was less seen and much less heard within the saffron fold. Yet old-timers within the RSS acknowledge that his concerns were genuine. In fact he was one of the rarest among the old generation RSS pracharaks who was skeptical of the relevance of an old RSS beholden to archaic values and practices in the modern times. He was one among many RSS leaders who emphasised metamorphosing the RSS to respond to changing times.
The all India pratinidhi sabha (apex representative body of the RSS) seems to have made a small beginning in this context by agreeing to change the dress-code (ganvesh) of the cadres. After nearly seven decades, the RSS cadre would be seen in wearing full pants instead of a flowing nicker which was often butt jokes among political rivals. Those who are aware of the RSS functioning know that the change in the dress code has come after lengthy deliberation and a lot of procrastination.
Top leaders of the RSS was worried over the inability of the RSS to attract youth. In many internal meetings of the Sangh Parivar in post-Ayodhya phase, stalwarts like Bhaurao Deoras had expressed their concern over the average age profile of the cadres getting older. In one of the pratinidhi sabha meeting in Delhi, Deoras lamented, “It is out challenge to attract youth to our fold”. Of late, the RSS’s acceptance among youth was much less as compared to the BJP which now wields the real political and social clout.
There is little doubt that the RSS is largely overwhelmed by the influence of the BJP. And this is the precise reason that the All India Pratinidhi Sabha finally agreed to change the dress-code to adapt to new social impulses that are not in consonance with its archaic practices and worn-out idioms. A perceptive leader like Nanaji Deshmukh would have been much happier if the RSS would have either stuck to its original role or assumed full political role by appropriating the BJP. But such a radical change of view is well nigh impossible in an organisation whose leadership often relishes time warp more than modernity.
The RSS today draws all its power and whatever relevance it has from its political baby, the BJP. But stuck in its time warp, the RSS will not see the writing on the wall. So it will continue to tinker with dress codes rather than take Nanaji’s advice and dive headlong into politics or allow its political offspring to do politics without having to look over its shoulders.