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The deep irony of Modi's love for RSS hater Sardar Patel

by Prashant Pandey

Modi is desperate to become PM.

He knows that he can never shed his communal image, thanks to Godhra and much more. This is why he is taking desperate measures including trying to usurp the secular Sardar Patel. Well, the unfortunate thing for Modi is that the world knows too well about what Patel thought of the RSS (he even banned it and held it responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s murder).

What the world may not know is that Patel practiced law in Godhra for several years. How ironical that the man tarnished by Godhra is trying to usurp the one who practiced in that same town. Unfortunately for Modi, in today’s connected world, his sham is visible a mile away.

 The deep irony of Modis love for RSS hater Sardar Patel


But the sham is not new. It has been going on for some time now, as Modi has tried to acquire a more secular (or at least, less communal) image. First he stopped talking of Ayodhya (leaving the dirty job to his trusted deputy Amit Shah instead). Then he went on to say that toilets came before temples (so what if he was copying Jairam Ramesh). Then he invited Muslims to attend his meetings, even doling out burqas and skull caps (so what if he didn’t wear one himself). And now, he is willing – no, make that desperate – to even fete the man who couldn’t tolerate the RSS. Give him some more time, and Modi may even be willing to get himself branded “Mian Modi”! If only all this could make him – somehow, oh Ram, please somehow – make him the PM!

Let’s be clear.

Patel had extreme dislike for the RSS. He actually banned it in 1948. Here are some statements made by him in letters which are freely available:

On Mahatma Gandhi’s murder: “There is no doubt in my mind the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasbha was involved in this conspiracy”.
On the RSS: The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State.
His famous “poison” statement: The speeches of the Sangh leaders are poisonous. It is as a result of this venom that Mahatma Gandhi has been assassinated.
And shockingly again: The followers of the Sangh have celebrated Gandhiji’s assassination by distributing sweets.
And then speaking in the Lok Sabha in August 1950: You must remember that when the Father of the Nation was murdered, it was by a group of people who belonged to that organisation [Hindu Mahasabha]. I am ready to prove to anybody that there was a group of people there who were determined to take his life.

That aside, Patel’s views on communal politics were well known.

So where does that leave the RSS? Patel was the bête noire of the RSS. And here, Modi is trying to embrace him. We know Modi is a clever politician. And as a true politician, he doesn’t mind doing anything that gets him the moolah (in this case the PM’s chair).

He knows the RSS is a liability, and he is keen to dispense with it (the Congress is already making 2014 a fight between itself and the RSS). But at the same time, he also knows that he is nobody without the RSS. He has to keep the RSS in good humor. The question is just how far he can push it. A little too far, and he could end up like Advani when he praised Jinnah.

In an ideal world, Modi would like to make the RSS an accomplice in his fake secular strategy. Ideally, he would like to become the “statesman”, rising above communal politics a la Vajpayee, while the RSS and its sister organizations should continue with their own usual activities. This way Modi could secure all the votes – those of the extremes and the secular others.

Unfortunately the RSS is not taking to this very kindly. Somebody in the know told me that Modi’s single minded focus to become PM, even if that means adopting the pet peeves of the RSS, is upsetting it to no end.

The RSS realizes that it’s very raison d’etre – that of having a Hindu rashtra – is being played in the game by Modi. How could the RSS tolerate Patel being feted? Has anyone noticed that the RSS has kept a stony silence on this matter? Patel was a beacon of secularism… can the RSS come to terms with him?

Remember, Golwalkar, one of the sarsanghchalaks of the RSS, had famously said that the biggest threat India faced was from Muslims (the second was Christians). In a way, Modi is cocking a snook at the RSS. The RSS knows it has been relegated way below Modi himself to a distant second position (it doesn’t like Modi’s I, me, myself style one bit). What should it do? Play along, or call it all off? For now, it appears the RSS may be willing to play along. For it realizes there is no other leader in the BJP who can take it to power. Once the party comes to power (if it does), they can always decide who to make PM!

The same person in the know also said that most BJP leaders were also opposed to Modi. But since the party’s “cadre” was in favor of Modi (maybe because they were disillusioned with all the others?), they had no option but to publicly back him. But if the RSS were to just indicate a little doubt about Modi, these leaders will be out with their barely-concealed knives drawn. Advani, Sushma, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha will do a flip which will make a roller-coaster feel shy!

The real truth is that Modi is desperate. He doesn’t even mind dancing with the devil. This Sardar Patel event is evidence of that. He will need nimble fingers to handle the RSS, but he knows the RSS’s compulsions. Even the RSS knows it will have to somehow control Modi, but that again is for later. Both the RSS and Modi, are playing games. Right now, both just want to grab power. After that, they can both revert to what they really are…..minority bashers!

This article has been reproduced with permission from Prashant Pandey

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Updated Date: Oct 30, 2013 16:10:59 IST