RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Credits: PTI Photo

In the 95 years of its existence, not once has the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak’s annual Vijayadashami speech ever been missed. This year was no exception despite the pandemic and a small gathering of attendees. The day is doubly important for the RSS – the organisation was started on Vijayadashami Day in 1925.

The RSS has been clear in its approach through the years. An assertive Hindu society fully aware of its rights will be able to elect a pro-Hindu government and also keep that political dispensation in check within the parameters of the Constitution.

It would not be wrong to say that this seems to be happening. Therefore, a large portion of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s speech focused on how the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has fared on many of the Sangh’s ideas for a united Hindu society as well as key issues it has identified itself with. But those thinking that with Ram Mandir and Article 370 done, it is curtains for the RSS, a close reading of Bhagwat’s Vijayadashami speech is in order. The RSS is here to stay.

Bhagwat’s speech had much in terms of guiding the government on matters that are likely to take up significant time and energy in the coming months – managing the economic fallout of the pandemic, and connected to it, the anti-China coalition that is emerging, albeit very slowly. This year’s speech dwells on national sovereignty as well as push for ‘swadeshi’ with Indian characteristics, thus flagging off a qualified backing for foreign investment, something that should be music to the Modi government’s ears. It need not face the predicament that the AB Vajpayee government faced.

In fact the Sarsanghachalak’s statement, “…the idea of safeguarding life and exercising international cooperation by promoting unique strengths and assets of each country is an idea that has started to take shape in the global mind. The philosophy of ‘swadeshi’ has trumped once again. It is time to redefine these adages in view of the current Bhartiya context and to rebuild paths that will lead us back to our time-tested values and traditions,” is likely to remain relevant for a long time.

An important part of Bhagwat’s speech was his exposition on the meaning of Hindutva. When the Sangh says that ‘Hindustan is Hindu Rashtra’ it does not have any political, theological or state-centered concept in mind. The RSS has taken pains to clarify that the idea of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is in no way akin to a theocratic state as the term Hindu (or Hindutva, Hinduness or Hinduism) is not a sectarian, class or denominational concept. “Hindutva is the essence of this Rashtra’s ‘Swa’ (self-hood). We are plainly acknowledging the selfhood of the country as Hindu because all our socio-cultural practices are directed by its principles with their spirit percolating in the personal, familial, professional and social life of each one of us,” Bhagwat explained in his speech.

In this context his suggestions to the government on two aspects is interesting. As mentioned, the RSS would like the government to focus on economic restructuring with emphasis on ‘swadeshi’ but with Indian characteristics. What does this mean? Unlike its frontal organisations the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the RSS seems to be clear about the need for foreign investments and engaging with the world strictly on ‘our terms’. It is for the government to set the rules of engagement.

Invoking veteran Gandhian Vinoba Bhave and founder of the SJM Dattopant Thengadi, the Sarsanghchalak laid new ground rules which identify a combination of self-reliance and non-violence as swadeshi. By quoting Thengadi as having claimed that Swadeshi cuts beyond goods and services and stands for attaining a position of international cooperation by achieving national self-reliance, sovereignty and parity, the RSS has cleared the path for the government to freely work on foreign investments-related policies. Bhagwat said: “So to achieve financial independence in the future and attain a position of international cooperation we are open to foreign investors and give relaxations to companies offering newer technologies, provided they engage on our terms and mutually agreeable conditions.” What he probably indicated was that in the birth centenary year of D B Thengadi, the government better dust off his book The Third Way and do its homework.

In fact, in a departure from standard parameters of such speeches, Bhagwat raised issues such as the woes of the migrant labourers, skill development and the psychological effects of the pandemic such as lockdown and unemployment, especially of the unskilled and rural population. Other than his appeal to work for prevention of crime, depression and suicide through counselling and support services, Bhagwat’s suggestions to create employment opportunities and skill training could very well be part of Modi government’s future economic programmes reflected in the Budget.

This is not the first time that the RSS is giving its opinion on the prevailing economic situation and its suggestions at the macro level. In his 2018 Vijayadashami address, Bhagwat had spoken of “establish(ing) our own model of development” in the light of the provisions of the Constitution. “Even after adopting the noble principles from the world, it is absolutely essential for the progress of the nation that we devise our own distinct model of development and corresponding framework based on our philosophical foundation,” he had said.

At a time when the democratic countries of the world are talking about forging a ‘free and open rule-based new world order’ as against China’s hegemonic ambitions, as one of the largest democracies, India has a much bigger role to play in the coming years. The contours of the emerging world order and India’s role will depend on the Modi government’s action plans. But as of now the RSS-BJP coordination is at its best with the Modi government ticking off the items on the RSS wish list.

(Seshadri Chari is a member of the BJP National Executive and was formerly Editor of the RSS publication, Organiser)


Source: Deccan Herald