RSS drops shorts, pulls up their pants: Is Sangh's attempt at image makeover even possible?

More than 90 years after it was founded by Kesava Rao Baliram Hedgewar in 1925, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is finally dropping their khaki shorts. On 11 October, which is also the RSS Foundation Day, the organisation will be bidding farewell to the iconic khaki shorts and putting on brown pants. Sale of the new uniform has already begun with each piece costing Rs 250.

A pair of trousers with waist size 20-24 is priced at Rs 250 and an additional Rs 10 for every additional two inches. A white shirt, canvas belt, black cap, and black shoes also come with this price, The Hindu reported. These new pants have been stitched in different parts of the country, but the raw material has been bought from the textile town of Bhilwara in Rajasthan, sources said.

Speaking to The Hindu, former RSS member said that everyone will have to buy the new uniform. "No one is excluded from this. Even the Sarsanghchalak [chief] has to buy his uniform."

RSS drops shorts, pulls up their pants: Is Sanghs attempt at image makeover even possible?

RSS swayamsevak tries on the new uniform. Image courtesy: @RSS_Org

"Around 2 lakh full pants have already reached the RSS offices in various states and it will be provided to all its members," head of the RSS' communications department Manmohan Vaidya told PTI. According to sources, around 7 lakh trousers are to be provided in first phase to the members of RSS, which is the ideological head of the ruling BJP.

The decision to move from shorts to full pants was taken in March this year. After the annual meeting of the organisation's highest decision-making body, general secretary of the RSS, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, announced that after a prolonged will-they- won’t-they discussion, the body voted for brown full pants to replace the khaki-shorts as their official uniform. When the news hit the stalls in March, there was a lot of buzz in the media about RSS changing with changing times.

"RSS uniform has changed. Brown color pants in the place of khaki nikkar: Bhaiyya Ji Joshi in press conference," RSS had tweeted in March. The motive behind this was inspired by the Sangh's planned efforts to attract the younger generation, giving the message that RSS is a contemporary organisation with "traditional outlook."

This is the fifth time RSS has decided to change their uniform. Starting in 1925, when the Hindu nationalist group adopted khaki shorts, leather belts, long black shoes, khaki cap and a stick. In 1930, the first change was made to the uniform when it replaced the khaki cap with a black cap. The next change was a decade later in 1940, under the leadership of K B Hedgewar when the khaki shirt was replaced with a white shirt as their uniform bore resemblance to the British army uniform. In 1973, RSS replaced heavy boots with normal black shoes.

But the biggest sartorial shift in the Sangh's uniform, since World War I, was in 2011 when the organisation decided to do away with the leather belts and replaced them by those made of thick canvas. According to The Hindu, Jain monk Tarun Sagar (currently in news for addressing Haryana assembly over a score of issues) had then said that the use of a leather belt was "not so related to non-violence." RSS' official stand on the change, however, was the canvas belts "were cheaper and easy to maintain," NDTV reported.

Even though the RSS swears that it is willing to change with the times and adapt to the sartorial sense of the younger generation of the country, it is hard to digest the fact that by merely changing pants one becomes modern.

Like Ajay Singh of Firstpost observes in this piece, RSS is one such organisation which relishes time warp and will embrace it rather than modernity. The RSS draws all its power and "whatever relevance it has" from its political baby, the BJP. Since the organisation is stuck in a time warp and fails to see the writing on the wall, it will continue changing dress codes. Founding members have often felt that RSS should shut shop and appropriate the BJP, since there have been instances where the ideological fountainhead has tried to remote-control the politics of it all. It should either "dive headlong into politics or allow its political offspring to do politics without having to look over its shoulders," Ajay Singh writes in his piece.

The RSS shorts had attracted a lot of attention and for the most unlikely reasons. In 2012, the then president of the BJP, Nitish Gadkari was photographed where the minister was wearing the RSS shorts and was sitting cross-legged. The image, where Gadkari was compared to Sharon Stone in Basic Instint, went viral and witnessed a barrage of humorous comments on both Facebook and Twitter.

On that note here's a thought for the trendy RSS: Why don't you contemplate changing the uniform of Rashtra Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers Committee), the RSS' women wing, to shorts from sarees. Now, that could be called changing with changing times.

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Updated Date: Aug 30, 2016 17:05:11 IST

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