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RSS Has Changed. But What About The Opposition's Strategy To Counter Its Influence?

The cover of academic Badri Narayan's book, Republic of Hindutva.

The cover of academic Badri Narayan's book, Republic of Hindutva.

To take on the RSS, political parties like the Congress and the TMC need to create a new body and soul. They need to create new organizations, writes the author.

While on the one hand the Sangh is deriving its strength from various sources and evolving a language and discourse which has become popular among large numbers of the rural and urban poor, it is simultaneously being targeted by the parties in the Opposition. But the problem of the Opposition’s politics is that they are fighting with the image of the RSS which is not its reality. The RSS is morphing day by day and the image the opposition parties are attacking is much older and has become obsolete. These parties are, in fact, attacking the shadow of the RSS but are unable to understand the real RSS for their mobilization.

A few opposition leaders have now decided to fight the RSS with its own weapon. West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo, Mamata Banerjee, announced the formation of two new outfits—Jai Hind Vahini and Bang Janani Samiti—reportedly to fight the influence of the RSS in the state. Banerjee said the two wings would fight to keep Bengal’s political environment secular. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi too has been targeting the RSS and the BJP, saying that his fight with the two is ideological. The question, however, is which RSS are the two leaders actually taking on?

The RSS that Gandhi and Banerjee are claiming to fight, existed thirty to forty years back, while the RSS of today is a drastically changed organization. To fight this new RSS, these two leaders need to understand the changes that have appeared in the RSS ideology. To take on the RSS, political parties like the Congress and the TMC need to create a new body and soul. They need to create new organizations. These organizations will show that they are not only there for the politics of power and state, but to usher in a politics of social change. A strategy that RSS leaders have successfully applied is the notion of tyag (renunciation). The RSS mobilizes communities but does not claim power and money for itself. If the volunteers find someone suitable for politics among themselves, they send that person to join the BJP. They don’t put their own relatives into any organization. The notion of tyag attracts Indian people and strikes a chord with them. These are traditional cultural values that are rooted in the people’s psyche. The RSS produces a corpus of pracharaks who have renounced their families and have dedicated their lives to its ideology. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee appointed her brother in the organizations that she formed to fight against the RSS. So, Banerjee lost the battle even before it began—she lost the battle of gaining people’s trust. The RSS is able to exert its strength because of its cultural rooting and location. Parties like the Congress and TMC need to evolve a counter hegemony through a new cultural politics.

No cultural politics can begin with an organization that does not understand Indian traditions and society. They can fight with the BJP, but it will be very difficult for them to combat the RSS, which is the womb of the power of Hindutva politics. The RSS is now no longer an organization where the volunteers wield spears or sticks. The volunteers today wield a far more powerful weapon, which is the mission of creating a sociocultural hegemony that would include the entire Hindu community and even many traditionally non-Hindu tribals and other minority groups.

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They are armed with smartphones, advance communication technology and the power of social media. It will be very difficult to counter the RSS ideology with the outmoded language of secularism and conventional party organization. People need to see the real RSS instead of its old shadow. Criticism of its organization-based violence and hollow talk cannot defeat the RSS, because the outfit has the strength of appropriation and inclusion.

Disclaimer:This excerpt from Republic of Hindutva by Badri Narayan has been used with permission of Penguin Randomhouse.

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first published:April 29, 2021, 15:54 IST