Two events in the last one month - cow-protection and Goa rebellion - underscore RSS’s dilemma in meeting the demands of a core right-wing constituency while striking a delicate balance in its perceived larger role as the ideological mentor of the party in power.
On both issues, the saffron front has had to do some fine balancing act and take some hard decisions at the risk of annoying its very own.
The rebelling in the Goa unit of the RSS was in the making for almost two years. But the first signs of a clampdown came last week in faraway Agra when Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat disapproved of public criticism of the Prime Minister by an affiliate organisation. Bhagwat was addressing a motley group of pracharaks from UP and Uttarakhand. Whatever be your grievances, voice them at the right forum, he said; otherwise it gives an impression that the parivar is at loggerheads within.
The message many felt was made public to assuage many ruffled feathers after Praveen Togadia’s recent diatribe against Prime Minister Modi’s take on cow vigilantes. The quantification - as high as 80% - of vigilantes as anti-social elements had the VHP chief fuming.
That there was a sense of discomfiture within the sangh on the use of this figure - 80% - was apparent from RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi’s statement which pared the figure down of such elements to a mere handful. So was the firebrand VHP leader merely articulating RSS’ concern on cow-protection in that press conference in Delhi when he openly took on the Prime Minister? And did he in the process exceed the brief?
Speculations were rife in this regard when BJP president Amit Shah flew down to Bhopal last week for a long drawn out discussion with Bhaiyyaji Joshi and Joint General Secretary Dr. Krishna Gopal. A few days later a mellowed-down Togadia issued a statement expressing confidence that there are “gau-bhakts in the BJP committed towards the cause”. Somewhere, it seems, a rapprochement had been reached.
But the trouble in Goa unit was far from over. That things were getting out of control was evident when RSS’ Goa chief Subhash Velingkar and his Bhartiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch showed black flags to Amit Shah when the later visited the state earlier this month. Velingkar, an educationist by profession has mentored many BJP leaders including Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
He is now Parrikar’s most vociferous critic, accusing the Goa heavyweight of reneging on his pre-poll promise to restrict grant-in-aid to only Marathi and Konkani medium schools.
RSS relieved Velingkar of all responsibilities this week when reports came in from Goa that BBSM was planning to take a political plunge in the next elections. As the reports of the extant and depth of the rebellion tricked in, the Sangh again had to issue a clarification. In a press release issued late in the evening, the RSS Prachar Pramukh Dr Manmohan Vaidya said, “RSS is of the firm opinion that all efforts should be made to strengthen the system of primary education in mother tongue in all parts of the country. The RSS has supported and will continue to support the cause of agitation in Goa by BBSM.”
The damage however had already been done.
When BJP is in opposition, it is always much easier for the RSS to maintain a loosely coupled relationship - at least in public perception- with the BJP. In power, the cadre demands delivery, from the BJP, and concomitantly from the ideological fountainhead RSS which is seen to exercise clout over the political executive.
Both cow-protection and Goa rebellion are vintage examples in this genre.