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Political Play
Ratan Sharda
Impact of RSS on Political & Economic Discourse in India 23 October, 2015
Not many would be aware that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh supported the formation of the first nationalist political party in 1951 by deputing some of its smartest organisers (prachaaraks) on request from the founder of the party, Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee. That was the first foray of RSS into politics since its birth in 1925.

Doctor K B Hedgewar, the founder was of course, an active member of Congress till he founded RSS in 1925. But, after this, he scrupulously kept out of party politics. It may be recalled that Dr. Mukherjee was a leader of Hindu Mahasabha, but he realized that its leadership had very narrow militant views that did not go well with emerging India and not inclusive. Hence, the birth of Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS).

It was a reluctant go ahead by chief of RSS, Shri M S Golwalkar aka Guruji as was not too convinced with the idea but went along with his colleagues. His team's views prevailed because RSS had suffered ignominy due to misinformation and persecution let loose by Pandit Nehru and his cohorts after Gandhi's assassination.

Historic fact is that conspiracies to crush RSS somehow were being hatched by Congress leaders from 1945 assembly elections itself. RSS leadership realized that they had no friend in political arena though many leaders privately supported RSS. This trial by fire persuaded Guruji to go ahead and help rise of a truly nationalist party that had no Congress past. Guruji kept himself and RSS away from politics. He offered his advice as and when BJS seniors sought it. He firmly believed that government alone cannot bring about change, people have to work at all levels in an organized, disciplined manner to achieve growth.

From being a marginal ideology (supposedly a fringe element) to become the second pole of national political discourse, has been an eventful journey for Hindutva propagated by RSS. From being a urban-centric cadre based, shakha oriented organization to being a social movement (andolan), it has been a slow transformation brought about by dedication, hard work and sweat and blood of ordinary swayamsevaks and karyakartas. How did it come about?

There are two aspects of politics - one using democratic tools and organize social movements or changes. Other is electoral politics. RSS has stayed away from electoral politics but has taken part in social action and movements whose end results could have social impact and also political impact as a by-product.

BJS came into being when Nehru was the lodestar of Indian socio-political firmament. He had thrown out all the leaders who had a view different from his own western Fabian socialism, western secularism and Russian Communism. Supposedly Hindu leaning leaders like Purshottam Das Tandon, and farmer leaders like Charan Singh and socialist like Acharya Kripalani were thrown out or silenced effectively. In this era there seemed very little chance of success of a nationalist party like BJS. But, hard work of people like Deendayal Upadhyay, Nana ji Deshmukh, Balraj Madhok, Jagannathrao Joshi and new generation leaders like Vajpayee and Advani saw slow rise of BJS. Its plank of 'Cultural nationalism' made it a unique party in crowd of multiple factions of Socialists and Communists.

After Jai Prakash Narayan left politics, Ram Manohar Lohia was tallest Socialist leader. He did not have pathological hatred for anything Hindu like his alleged present day followers. Difference with BJS was presentation of Indian culture that RSS identified as Hindu culture while he preferred to stay within mainstream political thought. Lohia too looked at Ram as the icon of Indian culture and celebrated it. This commonality in world view with some differences brought them together.

1967 saw the rise of first non-Congress governments in many states under the acronym of SVD (Sanyukta Vidhayak Dal) with close collaboration of Socialists and BJS. Thus, began the crystallization of the other pole of Indian political universe. However, this pole was dominated by ex-Congress members of Socialist hue. Untimely death of Lohia was a big blow to opposition unity as Socialist movement began to disintegrate all over again.

Navnirman Andolan of Gujarat students was a turning point. It was backed by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Chimanbhai Patel, the face of Congress corruption fell by the wayside. It saw BJS sharing power for the first time in Gujarat. Student agitation against corruption moved to Bihar, emboldened by success in Gujarat. Political parties of all hues, welded together by anti-Congressism gave full support to the movement.

Till this time, RSS had a clear policy. It will not enter any social arena as RSS but individuals or other RSS inspired organizations could take part in a movement or activity. RSS people, including Dr. Hedgewar took part in 1920s and 1930s movements as individual citizen. Hemu Kalani, RSS member from Sindh was hanged for taking part in 1942. He remained unsung hero in India as he belonged to RSS and Pakistan had no use for Hindu patriots.

In 1973-74, RSS under Balasaheb Deoras openly offered support to the Bihar movement. Many leaders including Nana ji Deshmukh persuaded Jai Prakash Narayan to lead this anti-corruption crusade. This was next inflexion point for RSS in India's political history. Movement ultimately resulted in declaration of Internal Emergency, jailing of all the opposition leaders and thousands of ordinary citizens of India. The satyagrah for lifting the emergency saw nearly 1 lac people in jails with 20000 of them in draconian MISA law.

Nearly 70% or more of those jailed were RSS and its associate organizations. Coming together of leaders and workers of various political hues and stay in prisons was the seed for birth of Janata Party, an amalgam of major political parties. Many opposition leaders who had all along been spewing venom on RSS realized that it had the best cadre that was highly committed, organized, very balanced and always ready to work with good people from any region or religion.

However, this goodwill for RSS was shortlived. Within a year of formation of Janata Party, Socialist groups began creating fissures in the party in the name of dual membership of erstwhile BJS and RSS as if it was not known earlier. Actually, they were afraid of organizational power of RSS that they felt, would capture Janata Party in organizational elections. This short sighted quarrel of socialist groups proved costly for Janata party and socialists too, as subsequent events showed.

BJS rose in a new avatar - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with many other elements of erstwhile Janata Party. This is recent history so I won't get into its details. Beginning was disastrous but over years, with new strategies and hard work, BJP went on to occupy the second pole of political spectrum. BJP has now become so strong that anti-BJPism has replaced anti-Congressism.

How else has RSS impacted the socio-political landscape of India? It became the second line of defence for armed forces and held on while Pakistanis were pushing into Kashmir. Hundreds of swayamsevaks lost their lives but saved Jammu & Kashmir. RSS supported Praja Parishad and later to BJS demanding same laws for J&K as applicable in India. The agitation saw untimely death (or murder by state government) of Dr. Mukherjee. RSS played a major role in saving J&K from separatists.

RSS's rock solid stand against fissiparous forces at any cost to it or its volunteers has strengthened national unity in most dangerous situations. RSS sent its first batch of prachaaraks in North East (Assam at that time) in 1950 after then all India leader Eknath Ranade toured Assam for nearly a month and realized that Assam will be lost to India in another 10-15 years if work didn't begin urgently. During insurgency in Punjab it stood up firmly for unity of Hindus and Sikhs, refusing to pander to extreme Hindu sentiments in light of Khalistani onslaught and paid a heavy price. Many of us would remember Moga massacre of RSS volunteers in a shakha.

Enunciation of a purely Indian perspective on political economy by Deendayal Upadhyay was another breakthrough. World knew of only two streams of economic thought till then - Capitalism and Communism (including Socialism). Though both are taken as the two extremes of economic thought, they actually come from same school of materialism where human beings are supposedly only worried about economic wellbeing. Key difference between the two is only about who owns the means of production or wealth - individual or state.

Integral Humanism presented a philosophy born out of Hindu genius that talked of human beings as centre of all activity who had integral relationship with family, society and nation. Here human being has not just material wants but also spiritual and emotional desires. It propounded that all nations must rise on their own 'chiti' (inherent nature), not copy other societies. This Indian thought is bound to leave a lasting imprint in policy formulation in India.

Establishment of Vishwa Hindu Parishad to reform and unite Hindu society with blessings of the entire spectrum of Saints, Gurus and Mutt pramukhs, different faiths and sects brought onto a single platform was a historic event. Though religious in nature, it had far reaching implications for Hindu unity against odds of casteism, regionalism, sects and linguistic differences.

For the first time all saints together declared that no Hindus is untouchable and all Hindus are children of same mother. This call for unity and equity has slowly seeped into Hindu psyche and created environment for consolidating Hindus. Subsequent work against conversions, Ram Temple movement have all left a lasting impact on the national scene.

RSS has, thus, contributed to evolution of India's political and economic thought in a big way. It has been able to bring marginalized ancient Indian heritage back into mainstream as the central point of reference for policy formulation and political discourse.

(Author's note: RSS is completing 90 years of formation. It is acknowledged as biggest Voluntary Organization in the world. Article tries to take a broad view of its contribution to Indian political and Economic thought)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Ratan Sharda is a citizen journalist. He has authored books like 'Secrets of RSS'. A marketing consultant by profession, Mr. Sharda is a keen observer of the country's political scenario.
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