Jairam Ramesh is right: 2014 polls was always to be a Congress vs RSS contest

The BJP’s role has been to serve as the more acceptable public face of the Parivar.

Akshaya Mishra October 02, 2013 11:57:43 IST
Jairam Ramesh is right: 2014 polls was always to be a Congress vs RSS contest

Jairam Ramesh is right. General elections 2014 will be a battle between the RSS and the Congress, not between the Congress and the BJP. With the entire script and the cast for the elections for the latter being decided in Nagpur, it’s better that the BJP dropped the pretension of being an independent entity.

Howsoever hard the supporters of the BJP might try to convince the world of their outfit’s political autonomy, the fact is it is only a proxy for the mother organisation. The BJP cannot stay in denial over its existential reality for ever.

The problem with the arrangement is it confuses the lay outsider more than it offers clarity on what the BJP means: an organisation that promotes the agenda of its handlers or a party that could be trusted to make decisions on its own. In short, the mask versus the face debate continues, raising fundamental trust issues for the outsider - does he believe the growth-governance rhetoric of the mask or does he accept this is only the facade for a narrow, exclusive ideology of the face?

That the party is a political front of the RSS by itself would not be so unpalatable, but for the shrill accusation from the leaders of the party and its vocal supporters about the lack of the democratic, liberal culture in rival parties, mainly the Congress. Coming from a party that is made to swallow decisions made elsewhere, this is hypocrisy of the highest order. The BJP cannot be elastic about interpretation of everything.

Jairam Ramesh is right 2014 polls was always to be a Congress vs RSS contest

Is Modi's rise more to do with the RSS than the internal democracy of the BJP? AFP

There’s merit in the party’s charge that the Congress is steeped in the loyalty-patronage-sycophancy culture and it has killed leadership in the states to muzzle challenge to the authority of the Gandhis at the top. The BJP’s allegations that the Congress has killed intra-party democracy, effectively blocking the emergence of new leaders from beyond the privileged circle is also largely true. But what about the BJP itself? Is it as democratic in its structure and character as it claims to be?

The Narendra Modi example won’t do. His rise from tea vendor to the prime ministerial prospect is an exceptional story indeed. But is he a product of the BJP’s much-trumpeted democratic ethos? By a long stretch, no. He would not be where he is today without the emphatic intervention of the RSS.

It is public knowledge that the mother organisation, led by Mohan Bhagwat, streamrolled all resistance to foist its choice on the party. The so-called surge of support for Modi from below would not be possible without the entire Sangh Parivar throwing his weight behind him. The BJP’s claim of ‘collective leadership’ was nowhere in sight when the RSS was pushing the case of the Gujarat chief minister.

The ‘surge from below’ was missing when Atal Behari Vajpayee was at odds with the RSS while trying to position BJP as a party in tune with the pan-Indian socio-political reality. The ‘mask’ tried to be the face and had to pay the pay the price.

The wider parivar abandoned him and the party lost in 2004. The story repeated in 2009 after LK Advani tried to assert limited freedom from the core ideology of the mother organisation. Now, the latter has decided to be in full control. The mask and the face become one in Modi - the BJP won’t admit it in the open though.

The Congress-RSS tussle goes back a long way. It represents a clash of worldviews - the Gandhi-Nehru version of a liberal, inclusive India vs the RSS’ version of a majoritarian India drawing its binding theme from the country’s cultural-religious past.

The spread of the RSS ideology would have been much faster in the 50s and 60s but for the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru and his band of visionaries, including Sardar Patel. That explains why the Sangh Parivar loves to hate the Gandhi family. For them, it in some way provides the convergence point for all those who don’t subscribe to its ideology.

It is no secret that the RSS was the mind and the muscle behind the JP movement of 1974. It was its organisational strength that made the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare so powerful - the leaders of the movement won’t accept it though.

Notwithstanding the issues involved - the RSS is known to take up issues of national concern, the primary target in both was to bring the Congress government down. If anyone bothered to notice, the Anna Hazare movement collapsed as soon as it became clear that the Congress-led government would not collapse. The point here is it has always been a battle between the RSS and the Congress. The BJP’s role has been to serve as the more acceptable public face of the Parivar.

Jairam is only hinting at that ambiguity.

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