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Ahead of 2021 Bengal Polls, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat's Upcoming Kolkata Visit Piques Interest

Sources say Bhagwat wants to set up at least one shakha (daily congregation) in each of the 341 Blocks in West Bengal. (File photo)

Sources say Bhagwat wants to set up at least one shakha (daily congregation) in each of the 341 Blocks in West Bengal. (File photo)

Aiming at strengthening the organisation at block level, this will be Bhagwat's fourth visit to the state since August 2019. Earlier, the RS chief had come on August 1, August 31 and September 19 last year.

In a significant development ahead of 2021 Assembly Polls in West Bengal - RSS ‘Sarsanghchalak’ Mohan Bhagwat will be on a three-day visit to Kolkata on September 22 to chair an organizational meeting with all the ‘Sangathan Pramukhs’ who are active in the state.

He will stay in Kolkata till September 24 and from there, will be travelling to Odisha for an organisational meet with the Sangha leaders. The meetings in Kolkata will be held strictly in accordance with the COVID-19 precautionary norms.

Sources said, Bhagwat will interact with the ‘Sangathan Pramukhs’ of Arogya Bharati, Siksha Bharati, Kreeda Bharati, Saksham (for physically challenged), Seva Bharati among others to get an understanding of the achievements made in Bengal so far and the issues they faced while executing their respective work.

Aiming at strengthening the organisation at block level, this will be Bhagwat's fourth visit to the state since August 2019. Earlier, the RS chief had come on August 1, August 31 and September 19 last year.

On his previous visits, Bhagwat had asked the key Sangha ‘Karyakartas’ (workers) in Bengal to connect with those from the Muslim community/minorities, who strongly believe in ‘Jatiyatabad’ (nationalism).

He had also asked the workers in Bengal not to shy away from accepting mistakes if they failed to make the common people (mainly non-political) understand what ‘Samajik Seva’ (social service) the Sangha does for the people.

“Bhagwat ji wants to set up at least one shakha (daily congregation) in each of the 341 Blocks in West Bengal. At present, there are nearly 1,800 shakhas in Bengal but they do not cover all blocks as they are unevenly distributed. Our plan is to cover all the blocks and if it happens, the total number of shakhas in West Bengal will reach 5000 in the near future,” sources said.

“It’s almost one year that we haven’t met him. We are eager to meet him in Kolkata. All the required protocols with the administration have been taken care of. The police department was intimated in advance because of his Z-plus security cover. Since he is fond of Bengali cuisine like Postor Bora (Poppy Seed Fritters), we have already worked on that besides greeting him with ‘sandesh’ and ‘rosogolla’. Due to the pandemic situation, we don’t know whether he will have it or not but we are fully prepared to welcome him,” a senior RSS worker said.

RSS has been a constant factor in the political scheme of things in Bengal present since 1939 but had failed to spread its clout during the 34 years of Left Front rule.

Since the end of CPI (M)-led Left Front government in 2011 and Narendra Modi’s ascent to power in 2014, the Sangh has suddenly emerged as a force to reckon with in Bengal.

Extensive social work by the Sangha ‘karyakartas’ and its affiliates are nothing new in Bengal but despite being the home state of Jan Sangh ideologue Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, the RSS was hardly a noticeable force in Bengal for decades.

Sudden media attention (post 2014) has not changed things much for the RSS and it continues to run its show the way it always has, away from the public eye.

Even though the practice to organize workshops spanning over 15 to 20 days as part of karyakarta nirmaan, an initiation process to train new cadres has been a regular feature, such sessions have hardly ever drawn any attention.

RSS, which has been silently active in Bengal since the Partition, has been moving like an invisible force through the swathe of refugees, who made their way across the border in 1947, and then in 1971. And it has been actively involved in the rural as well as urban Bengal on various projects for the betterment of the society.

When the Narendra Modi led-BJP came to power at the Centre, the winds of change started to blow. The BJP, which was not even a marginal force in the state’s politics, started claiming bigger stakes in the political arena and has significantly improved its electoral lot.

Things changed even more with the arrival of Dilip Ghosh to the picture, who took over as president of the state BJP unit in late 2014. An old RSS hand with around 25 years of field experience in the East and the North East, he was brought in to infuse fresh blood into the party’s state unit.

The BJP-Sangh proximity has often been questioned, majorly facing criticism that the party is just the political manifestation of RSS, a conclusion that has been objectively refuted by both BJP and RSS leaders.

In the 2016 Assembly, BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha it went up to 40.3 per cent. There was an increase of 30.1 percent vote share mainly because of Hindus coalescing towards the BJP. In the last three years, BJP managed to cultivate religious driven politics in Bengal and it was evident with its significant rise in Bengal in terms of its vote share.

Majority of vote shares which were once with the Left Front and Congress went to the BJP as there was no decline in TMC’s vote share. In 2011 Assembly TMC’s vote share was 39 per cent which increased to 39.56 per cent by 0.56 percent.

Similarly, in 2014 Lok Sabha TMC’s vote share was 39.03 percent which increased to 43.3 percent by 4.27 per cent. So there was no decrease in TMC’s vote share. The only factor which went in favour of BJP is the Left and the Congress votes

Now for the BJP – apart from the ruling TMC, the CPI (M)-Congress (alliance partner) became a major concern because in all the 294 assembly constituencies, if the Left Front-Congress combine manages to seize nearly 30,000 votes each, then it will be an advantage for the ruling TMC. The reason is most of the Left votes went to the BJP as the TMC’s vote share was more or less the same.

So, in case of any significant gain in the voting pattern towards the Left-Congress combination, the results will not be favourable for the saffron brigade.

Many felt that Bhagwat’s visit in this crucial time in Bengal (ahead of the state poll) will help to boost the morale of the state BJP to strengthen booths across the states.

Bhagwat's words have definitely created an impact on the local RSS workers in the state who have started working on a two- year project under the banner of 'Atmanirbhar Bangla' to make villagers self-reliant.

The ‘sangha karyakartas’ have already selected 120 remote and backward villages from all the districts in Bengal to make villagers and migrant workers self-reliant by providing technical assistance to the villagers.

Most skilled workers having good knowledge in their respective areas like farming, poultry, mechanical work, automobile repairing, civil activities, tailoring, are being trained and supported by the Sangha workers.

They are also assisting them with food, clothes, medicines and other daily requirements. Alongside, they have plans to train them in various sectors like cow-based economy, how to open an automobile garage, what skills it requires to open a garage, tailoring skills, cow-dung products, salesman skills for small items like lozenges, bindi, bangles, leaf plates, eco-friendly bags, pickles, homemade sweets, papad, etc.