What Will The RSS And PM Modi Talk About?
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and PM Narendra Modi
NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the patriarch of the Sangh conglomerate, has started its “samanway baithak” with chief Mohan Bhagwat in the chair. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend, while BJP president Amit Shah and at least 12 senior Ministers from the central government will be in attendance for the entire three days of the meeting.
The RSS has rejected reports suggesting that this was a review of the governments performance, as clearly this would then amount to PM Modi appearing before RSS chief Bhagwat with his government in the dock as it were. RSS chief spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya thus dismissed this speculation, maintaining instead that the 93 functionaries representing 15 affiliates will attend the meeting and “exchange notes” over coordination.
He said that while such meetings are held twice a year, “this time the meeting is bigger. It is happening because lot many things are happening in our society and there will be wider inputs from everybody.”
The Citizen has put together a list of the agenda judging from the differences between the RSS, and its affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad with the government and on occasion with the Bharatiya Janata party. As well as the recent challenges before the government that have become a cause of worry for the RSS.
The RSS is particularly keen that all these issues are resolved before the crucial Bihar elections so that the victory of the BJP is guaranteed. At present RSS workers are leading the district, house to house campaign in the state with PM Modi the star campaigner. However, reports of differences within the BJP and also with some of the front organisations has become a cause of concern that this meeting is expected to iron out.
One Rank One Pension is an issue that will be discussed, particularly as the government formulation is not acceptable to the military veterans currently sitting in protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. There has been a split however, with retired senior officers of the view that the ex-servicemen should accept the government offer, and move forward. Talks are on, but the RSS is keen to break the strike and ensure the veterans support for the BJP in Bihar.
The farmers agitation had been a major issue of conflict between the government and the affiliates. Pressure not just from the Opposition, but from the farmer lobbies across the country, led to the RSS exerting pressure on the government to give on the Land Acquisition Bill. This feeds into the government’s decision not to renew the Ordinance now, and to dilute the provisions of its controversial Bill. This issue, however, remains of concern to the affiliates with the kisan organisations of the Sangh still worried about the final outcome.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch that is the RSS affiliate overseeing economic policies has been openly critical of the Modi government on its commitment to Foreign Direct investment, sale of government assets and other such issues. It was part of the agitation against the Land Acquisition Bill with discussion expected on how to tackle the ‘anti farmer’ tag that has attached itself to the central government.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been asking for a bigger role, and is miffed at being asked to curtail some of its initiatives---such as violence in the name of culture---when these boomerang on the image and the extended support base of the government. The Gujarat agitation led by Hardik Patel is of great interest and is expected to figure in the meeting. More so as Hardik Patel has been linked by the media to the VHP, being seen in photographs with Pravin Togadia who is now seen on the side of dissenters. Togadia, once a main rabble rouser, has been marginalised by Modi and media speculation places him as the hand behind Hardik Patel and the agitation that is causing grief to the Prime Minister in his home state. With coordination as the theme, the meeting is expected to discuss this issue in some detail.
Government dithering on issues will be a focus area as well, although the RSS has been careful to point out that the meeting will not review the functioning of PM Modi and his government. However, the slow progress on several issues that has led to considerable criticism will figure. It will not be a one way traffic in favour of the RSS, however, as the BJP government is worried about the pressure from the affiliates that many Ministers believe have led to this vacillation on key economic issues. The corporates looking for reforms are particularly disappointed but as BJP members point out, the movement forward such as through legislative measures like the Land Acquisition Bill is being held up not just by the Opposition but by its own partners in the larger Sangh grouping.
While on Kashmir the RSS and the central government are working in unison, in the North East there are difficulties that will be raised. The RSS is looking for a BJP spread in Assam and other states, and is keen to get a first hand knowledge of the controversial Naga accord as well. Border states are expected to be a topic of discussion during the three day meet.
The different voices emerging from within the Sangh has been a cause of concern. And the baithak will look at converging these into a more melodious tune. Pakistan remains an irritant as the RSS and its affiliates are opposed to peace with the neighbour as yet and are not keen for talks to be resumed at this point.
The RSS has grown over the past year, with its shakhas increasing from 80,000 to 1.15 lakhs. However, the RSS insists this has little to do with the BJP being in government and more to do with its own prowess and appeal. It has gained in confidence since the new government came to power, where PM Modi was able to call the shots to a great extent as the Lok Sabha victory was seen directly as his. Over the year the RSS is on more confident ground, and seen to be playing with the dissidence against the Prime Minister who has lost some of his appeal. This three day conclave will determine and perhaps even recast the equations to some extent.