RSS being a cultural organisation has their focus on culture and religion. Development has never been their primary agenda – nor do they specialize in it. If anything, they have argued only for cultural changes which may have a cumulative positive impact on economy through better integration. That is the limit of it.
Before Modi, cultural agenda of RSS remained the centerpeice of BJP for a long time. Under Modi, development has taken the center figure. An enterpreneurial and systemic approach to development is completely Modi’s baby. Even the posterboy of activists and media – Kejriwal’s central theme was limited to removing corruption. But never wealth building and streamlined governance.
What bothers RSS and Hindu fringe is that Modi has slowly redrawn the ruling agenda of BJP’s politics. And economic development is not really RSS’s expertise. In the new scheme of things, technocrats become more important. Mohan Bhagwat, doesn’t want the pro-Hindu agenda to be sidelined. He and likes of Pramod Muthalik assumed that ‘sabka saath sabka vikaas’ was just an election slogan.
But Modi meant business – and he actively blocked the entrance of fringe into the mainstream. Remember when entry of VHP’s merger with BJP was blocked during Modi leher? This is an indication of Modi’s vision to have BJP’s agenda not being limited to RSS-Hindu lines.
Presently, the antics of Mohan Bhagwat may appear to be a cause of embarassment for Modi. And this is what Mohan Bhagwat probably is aiming for, to show Modi his place in larger RSS vision. He openly challenged the govt to make an anti-conversion law if they don’t subscribe to ghar wapsi. It’s not only the opposition which wants Modi to take a serious position on ‘conversion’ – it’s Bhagwat too. And Bhagwat is impatient and irritated.
Post BJP’s win in general elections – the existence of Modi leher was contested by the likes of Advani and Bhagwat. They claimed that RSS played silently a very important role on the ground. And this belief prevailed. Also why – Yogi Adityanath was brought in Uttar Pradesh with an issue like ‘Love jihad’. Neither RSS, nor Amit Shah were 100% sure of what gave BJP such an unprecidented landslide victory. Though later by-election performance turned out to be a flopshow for BJP and media started speculating the reversal of Modi tsunami.
In reality, it was Modi’s developement agenda which struck a chord with the desperate Indian voter – the same desperation which made stars out of activists overnight. Voter across India had decided to bet on the promise of development and Modi’s credentials to deliver.
But it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. BJP had won, but wasn’t sure of what really worked. Polarization is what BJP knew best – right down to the grass root BJP worker. Though attempts at using polarization didn’t impress the voters of Uttar Pradesh in by-elections.
At this point BJP changed gears – started using PM Modi for campaigning in state elections for Haryana and Maharashtra. Now BJP’s narrative for the voter was – that a pro development BJP government in state would remove the road blocks to development and help center deliver better. This worked – and post this Modi launched Swachhta Abhiyaan and Make in India, and started engaging in foreign policy more actively.
Narendra Modi has single-handely revitalized the agenda and outlook of BJP. And BJP / RSS has toed his line – because he has constanly produced results. But the very core of BJP – which means cultural machinery of RSS and ground infrastructure of party workers – still heavily rely on the communal narrative. This is an irritant for Modi and he must strive to change this. Also, this could very well prove to be an achillies heel for BJP’s uncontested rise under Modi.
Modi has taken a lot of steps in finetuning and oiling the governance machinery and is constantly striving to undo the mess created by a decade of Congress. If you could filter through the cultural sensationalism covered in mainstream media – foundation for long term development is being laid right now. Modi has himself stated that he wishes to continue for at least one more term – to fulfill the promises made.
And this fear is very real for the so-called “secularists” – though they will never acknowledge it openly. This is why Janta Parivar is coming together despite their history of differences. And Congress will put it’s weight behind any entity which can stand upto Modi. The “secular-front” is well aware of the achillies heel too – and will constantly try to corner Modi on every small communal instance. This is why so much noise and so many hours being wasted in the parliament. Right now, opposition urgently wants to deflect public attention back on communal issues and away from all this development talk; because between Modi’s reformist approach and public support, communal-card is their only bet.
Modi talked of moratoriam on communal tension – because peace between communities works in the favor of development agenda. Transition from Hindutva to development has started, but is slow. Pragmatically, Modi is not ready to take on RSS or Bhagwat openly – probably will never be. This is why he wants everybody to look away. He’s an entrepreneur at heart – and he wants to do what he’s good at. Modi doesn’t wish to confront RSS – nor does he wish to openly back the Hindutva agenda. He doesn’t want to pick sides. And which I personally think is the best approach for somebody who is short of time to deliver on the big promises.
The reality is that these communal issues are so complex and so unresolvable that debating on them will take forever and still will not reach anywhere. Exactly why Congress wishes to tie this bell around Narendra Modi – who carefully wants to keep himself away from this noise.
Written by Ishaan Mohan Bagga
Follow him on twitter @IshaanMohan