With the central theme of 'Hindutva', the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Monday launched its three-day lecture series by its chief Mohan Bhagwat. On day one of the event, which saw politicians, actors, artistes and other known personalities in attendance, Bhagwat explained that the RSS does not seek domination and is indifferent towards who comes to power. With this event, he launched an unprecedented outreach in a bid to allay apprehensions about the group's ideology.
On day two of the event, scheduled to begin at 5.30 pm on Tuesday, Bhagwat will present the RSS’ perspective on various issues of national importance.
According to a report in the NDTV, the dispute over building the Ram temple in Ayodhya is one of the key subjects he will discuss at the three-day lecture series in Delhi. However, those interested are counting down to Wednesday, when Bhagwat will take questions from the special invitees in an hour-and-a-half long Q&A segment.
On the first day of the programme, titled 'Future of Bharat: An RSS Perspective', prominent personalities were present. The attendees included "Metro Man" E Sreedharan, actors Manisha Koirala, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anu Kapur, singers Malini Awasthi and Hansraj Hans, music producer Anu Malik, cricketer Chetan Chauhan, politicians Manoj Tiwari and Amar Singh, journalist Swapan Dasgupta, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar and Jagran group editor Sanjay Gupta.
Union ministers Harshvardhan, Vijay Goel, Arjunram Meghwal and Alphons Kananthanam and several BJP leaders including Ram Madhav, Ram Lal and Subramaniam Swamy were also present at the event.
Nearly all major Opposition parties gave the "Bhavishya Ka Bharat: An RSS Perspective" conclave, though the RSS had invited them. Several Opposition leaders, including many from the Congress, said they did not get an invite and would not have attended the conclave even if they did. They alleged that the conclave was a "pre-election agenda" to project that the outfit is "neither untouchable nor hated".
In his near 80-minute-long speech on the first day of the conclave, Bhagwat asserted that the RSS is the "most democratic" organisation and is not dictatorial. He insisted that it neither imposes its ideology nor remote-controls its various affiliates, rejecting criticism that it controls the BJP.
"The Sangh is the most democratic organisation. We run by consensus. Here, every worker can express his views. There are no restrictions... We have started our work to make a certain kind of people and society and we do not want anything else," he said.
"People often believe that the RSS is a dictatorial organisation and that one man decides everything... If you want to see the most open organisation, then you should come to the Sangh. There is no restriction. An RSS worker conducts himself in line with the values given to him by organisation."
The RSS lecture series comes three months after former president Pranab Mukherjee addressed a function at the Sangh's Nagpur headquarters in June.
The three-day RSS conclave was held in Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan, which is usually the venue of major government events. Extensively quoting RSS founder KB Hedgewar in his speech on Monday, Bhagwat said the event was being organised so people could understand the organisation.
The mega outreach programme comes at a time when the Congress-led Opposition has been ramping up attacks on the RSS, accusing it of promoting a divisive ideology and attacking minority communities. It is interesting that the 68-year-old RSS chief talked about various ideologies that worked together during the freedom movement and acknowledged the role of the Congress, even though it is among the organisation's biggest critics.
"In the form of the Congress, a big freedom movement had started in the country, which gave us many great personalities," Bhagwat said. "Who will be in power and what policy the country will accept is something to be decided by the society and people. There are mechanisms in place for that... We are not concerned about that. What we are concerned about is the conduct of the society," he said, adding that the RSS does not believe in publicising an individual's work and wants to remain faceless.
Bhagwat's comments assume significance as it is believed that the RSS played a key role in the victory of the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the 2014 elections. It is also widely expected to play an important role in the next year's Lok Sabha polls, as well.
"We do not want RSS's domination. We believe that if history writes that something good happened in the country because of the Sangh's domination, then it will be a big defeat for us. We want the country to rise due to the efforts of the common man and its history and present is decided by him," Bhagwat said, emphasising that the RSS was not after power.
In his speech, he also rejected the Opposition's criticism of lack of women's participation in the RSS, pointing out that there is a separate women's wing.
The RSS, founded in 1925 and the ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP, had earlier explained why the close-knit group was inviting others to the unprecedented event.
"The RSS is being criticised by one and all, especially by the Opposition," an RSS spokesperson had said. "This event is to present our view, how we see the issues the Opposition has been using to target us and the government."
The event follows Bhagwat's address at the second World Hindu Congress in Chicago on 8 September, where the RSS chief urged Hindus worldwide to unite.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Sep 18, 2018 14:27 PM