Is Mohan Bhagwat A Bigger Challenge for BJP than Kanhaiya?
NEW DELHI: Is the cult being created around Modi becoming his Achilles Heel?
So far only his tours abroad touted as big star events had come under the shadow of some criticism from within the BJP and the RSS.
But when a home-grown minister and a former chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party like Venkaiah Naidu starts saying that ""Modi is God's gift for India. He is the messiah of the poor. He inherited challenges in each and every sector. He is steering clear of them." And again, “we are fortunate to have a leader like Modi. I always say Modi (is) ‘Maker of Developed India’. We are always willing for a change, take in good things from other parties, this government wants to transform India. Modi is the biggest transformer”, this creates a flutter in the RSS headquarters. And Naidu is rebuked for the first comment publicly.
The RSS that has been uncomfortable with the personality cult sought to be created around the Prime Minister, reportedly held discussions with top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at the Deendayal Shodh Sansthan and urged the party not to engage in 'individual worship' as the 'organisation' should be always supreme, as it is in the RSS.
The RSS has come out of the shadows of being just a cultural organisation, under the Narendra Modi government. Even more so than when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power. The RSS is now represented on television channels, getting into heated conversations with opponents on political and national security issues, making it clear that the organisation is no longer content to let the BJP take the limelight.
The almost public admonishment of Naidu, coming from the RSS and not the BJP top brass, has again shifted political focus to the role of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who manages to recapture ground just as it seems to be slipping. The JNU controversy with the opposition from the students like Kanhaiya Kumar seems to be easier to deal with for the BJP that lapses into almost embarrassed silence when the RSS intervenes.
It was easy to attack Kanhaiya Kumar and JNU with posters, doctored videos and sponsored debates. But Mohan Bhagwat is clearly more difficult to contain, with the BJP aware of the need to keep well within parameters despite comments from the RSS chief that have extracted a political price. In 2015 Bhagwat said, "Reservation for socially backward classes is the right example in this regard. If we would have implemented this policy as envisaged by the Constitution makers instead of doing politics over it, then present situation would not have arrived. Since inception it has been politicised."
His comments contributed to a total rout of the party in Bihar but such is his clout that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had to deny suggestions that his remarks had done damage in Bihar. “The BJP had already clarified that it was in favour of the reservation policy as it exists, therefore, there is no question that Mr. Bhagwat’s remarks were responsible for our loss," Jaitley said at the time.
By a sheer co-incidence the controversy has erupted once again when the Assembly elections for five states are on.
After a meeting of the Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur on March 14, 2016, RSS General Secretary Suresh Bhaiyaaji Joshi said that there should be a proper study to ascertain whether the backward classes who really need reservation are actually getting the benefits.
"Baba Ambedkar gave the provision of reservation. It was for social justice. Today, the level of education of dalit class has improved," he said adding,"There are many backward castes today. It should be studied and discussed whether the deserving castes are getting reservation benefits. This issue should be studied," he said, adding "it is also a matter of detailed discussion whether or not creamy layer system should be there in all categories."
Since this assertion came during the current session of Parliament, vociferous members of the BSP and Samajwadi party leaders protested, and once again it was left to Arun Jaitley to issue a clarification in the Rajya Sabha that the government had no intention of changing the reservation policy guaranteed by the Constitution. He also denied that the RSS had suggested any change in the policy.
Yet another issue on which there are clear differences is on shouting the slogan of Bharat Mata Ki Jai. The BJP that seemed to have been carrying the day went into a twist after MIMs Asaduddin Owaisi said that this was not mandatory in the Constitution and he would not chant this slogan; a fatwa by Darul ul uloom also said Muslims would not raise this slogan.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat sought to extricate the issue from the controversy with the piece of advice that this slogan should not be forced on people. Rather this feeling should come from inside, he suggested trying to douse the fires.
But BJP leaders jumped into the fray with Maharashtra CM Devinder Fadnavis taking the lead to say that those who did not say Bharat Mata ki Jai should leave the country. In view of the new policy articulated by Bhagwat, Fadnavis retracted from this position with 24 hours to say, ““There is absolutely no truth in such assumptions. My government is guided by the Indian Constitution where every citizen has equal right and would get justice.” He said he had no problems if somebody wished to say Jai Hind or Jai Bharat or Jai Hindustan. He regretted that his one remark in a long speech was given a communal colour, and blown ou of all context.
The divide is openly visible on issues related to the manufacturing of a personality cult around the Prime Minister. The RSS has been uncomfortable with this from the beginning. The BJP as indicated by Naidu is more than willing. It remains to be seen who will blink first.