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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindutva trounced
Contrary to RSS/BJP post-polls claims, Hindutva card was played to the hilt during the elections

By Shamsul Islam

Nobody can beat the RSS in manufacturing and twisting “facts”. The latest instance is that with the rout of BJP/NDA candidates in the just concluded elections they have come out with the thesis that it all happened due to the "dilution of the Hindutva ideology" by the BJP. Pravin Togadia, one of the prominent ideologues of the Parivar, claimed: "The BJP betrayed the Hindus. The BJP left its core ideology of Hindutva on the basis of which they were voted to power. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister betrayed them [Hindus]. Hindus punished them." The RSS spokesperson, Ram Madhav, echoing the Togadia line said: "There was a perception over the last four to five years that there had been dilution of the Hindutva ideology. Our cadres were unenthusiastic as they felt that the BJP had diluted its Hindutva ideology. Politics is about perception. This perception cost the BJP dear." Madhav added that though the RSS cadres did work for the BJP during elections but "there was resentment on several issues, Hindutva as well as economic issues." Interestingly, the RSS spokesperson was sitting inside the BJP media centre while talking to the press and churning out these explanations for the debacle of BJP/NDA. Vinay Katiyar, another firebrand leader of the Parivar and currently the BJP chief of UP, echoed similar sentiments when he said, "the deviation from the Hindutva agenda cost the party dear in the state."

That they are lying as usual is not difficult to know if we make a perusal of the RSS central organs (Organiser in English and Panchjanya in Hindi) and election-related events. We will realize that it was Hindutva all the way and the RSS was solidly behind the BJP/NDA campaign. It was Hindutva which determined the selection of BJP candidates for the parliamentary elections and this is clear from the fact that the whole gang which played a leading role in the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 consisting of Advani, Chinmayanad, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Ram Bilas Vedanti, were retained. Adityanath who was given ticket from Gorakhpur was openly declaring: "I want Muslim votes too, but (would) wash them in Gangajal first."

Contrary to the claims now being made by the RSS that Hindutva was 'diluted,' the reality is that for the first time since the inception of NDA in 1998, during these elections it adopted all the elements of Hindutva politics. NDA manifesto 2004 promised to bring about a law debarring persons of foreign origin from holding constitutional posts, to build Ram temple at the place where Babri mosque stood and introduce a central law against beef-eating. The RSS did not lag behind in endorsing this Hindutva campaign. Its English organ sang in NDA’s praise: "NDA is a saga of quivering heroism and a tenacious endeavour. The performance has made it one of the most gripping success stories in nation building. One can catch the fragrance of Vajpayee's dream, which stirs with feelings of accomplishment and sends delicious shivers of delight. In fact, what the incumbent government has achieved is to lay the foundation of 'parm vaibhav' for the nation, a prayer that millions of RSS Swayamsevks have chanted for nearly 80 years in thousands of daily 'shakhas' (from the cover story in Organiser, February 15, 2004). This issue of the RSS organ, consisting of 24 pages, carried 15 government advertisements (equal to full 13 pages) of NDA government's 'India Shining' campaign. The February 22 issue of the Organiser consisting of 20 pages carried the same campaign in seven full pages. It also carried a story titled, 'It is a feel proud factor for BJP.' Organiser (March 14) went in an all-out support mode to Advani's Bharat Uday Yatra (March 10-26) and even re-christened it as 'Gigantic Yajna' and highlighted the fact that Advani was not apologetic for his belief in Hindutva. April 4, issue of the Organiser carried an interview with Ashok Singhal, a senior RSS ideologue who admitted that BJP "has Hindutva in its heart". In the same issue of the RSS organ, Pravin Togadia called upon Hindus to "cast your votes for Ram Mandir".

It was S. Gurumurthy, RSS ideologue and the leading light of its southern delight Hindu Munani, who chalked out BJP’s Tamil Nadu election strategy. Gurumurthy & co. were able to convince the BJP leadership that Jayalalitha was the best proponent of 'Hindu' interests. It was again Hindutva politics in full steam when both Vajpayee and Advani attributed their attempts for cordial relations with Pakistan to the urge for better Hindu-Muslim relations in India. It only underlined the old RSS theory that Muslims of India were emotionally attached to Pakistan. This mindset only reflected hatred for Muslims of India and the Times of India (April 27, 2004) editorially raised the question: "By extension of logic, would this imply that if hostilities broke out between the two countries, Muslims in India would suffer the consequence?"

After the third phase of elections on May 5, RSS exuded confidence that the NDA tally would cross 300 mark. Senior BJP leaders said: "the credit for this turnaround should go mainly to the RSS which mobilized its cadres after reports of the NDA's sliding fortunes started to pour in. BJP leaders also feel that the main reason for the 'improvement' is the fact that the RSS directed its cadres to shed their inhibition about 'turncoats' fielded by the BJP at several places, and work for them, keeping in mind the 'greater cause'. The RSS cadres were told to work for candidates of the BJP's allies as well" (The Statesman, May 6, 2004). Arun Anand, Delhi correspondent of The Statesman and a confidant of the RSS top brass, wrote on the eve of counting of votes, "The RSS has never before been so closely associated with electioneering. The poll results would also be a test of the RSS's actual strength. Senior RSS functionaries said that since its inception in 1925 it is the first time that the organization has plunged into poll management directly at such a massive scale. Thus the poll results would decide the effectiveness of the RSS cadres who were granted supremacy over their BJP counterparts in this election at the grassroots level. All major frontal organizations like Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, who had some differences with the Vajpayee government, were not only told to keep their mouths shut but in the last phase of polling were told to work for the victory of BJP and its allies" (The Statesman, May 13, 2004).

The RSS organs continued their campaign against Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, an integral part of Hindutva politics. Organiser (April 11) carried a lengthy piece titled, 'Do we need a foreign captain to hoist our national flag?' It went to the extent of declaring Rahul and Priyanka too are ‘foreigners’ (George Fernandes interview, April 25). On May 2, Organiser highlighting once again the RSS option, carried the cover story, 'NDA the clear winner.' In May 9 issue we read another cover story titled, 'Naturalized citizens and the national security' underlining the Hindutva agenda. The Hindi organ of the RSS, Panchjanya, carried a lengthy interview with Vajpayee (May 2, 2004) in which he declared himself to "be attached to the Sangh ideology." LK Advani, was also interviewed as a senior Swayamsevak (March 14, 2004). Not even once these two senior leaders of BJP/RSS were asked about their deviation from Hindutva.

How solidly RSS was directly involved in the BJP/NDA campaign can also be guaged from the fact that the plane which crashed ferrying popular south Indian actress Soundraya from Bangalore to Andhra Pradesh on April 18, also carried Ramesh Kadam, chief of Karnataka Hindu Jagran Manch (a satellite of the RSS which enrolls Hindutva stormtroopers). He was escorting the star campaigner. There were Swayamsevaks not just from India who were running the BJP/NDA campaign. About 200 RSS cadres, mainly from the United States, UK and Gulf countries, were here establishing and manning the media centers of the BJP, travelling across the country since April to campaign for the BJP. According to the secretary, Overseas Friends of BJP, USA, Jagdish Sewhani, "the USA is our karma bhoomi but India is our matri bhoomi. Our support is symbolic."

Hindutva icon Narendra Modi, correctly described by Veer Sanghvi, the editor of Hindustan Times as "mass murderer" (May 14), toured extensively in UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Delhi. The RSS claim that BJP lost due to diluting Hindutva politics should be tested in the light of the following words of Narender Modi's election speech delivered in Delhi on May 7: "No body knows who she [Sonia Gandhi] is, where she came from and what her family background is. And yet we are talking about handing over the entire country to her." According to him, "even shopkeepers are not ready to employ her as a clerk." Modi went on to the extent of declaring Rahul Gandhi as a "hybrid calf" whom "I will not even employ as my driver". About the Congress he said, "Now that their leader has changed, their slogans have changed. It's now Vande Mata-Rome" (Hindustan Times, May 7, 2004).

The RSS is trying to hide the fact that people's mandate is clearly against Hindutva brand of politics which openly endorsed economic policies and a worldview acceptable to the American imperialism. This Hindutva gang has been thoroughly exposed and presently no amount of jugglery and bluffing are going to restore credibility to the cause of Hindutva which stands exposed as a quisling of imperialism today just as it was at the time of its birth.

Shamsul Islam is reader in sociology at Satyawati College, Delhi University

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