How RSS’ Early Morning Shakhas are Lending Voice to the BJP Campaign in Bihar
With the polling for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the district merely three days away, Bihar's Nawada is buzzing with indistinct chatter about the battle of ballots. And the RSS' shakha is no exception to this.
Nawada: It’s five-thirty in the morning in Bihar’s Nawada. While the rest of the town sleeps, a group of men, donned in khaki shorts have convened in a field. Just like every other day, these men, who are the members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have gathered to hold their morning assembly or the shakha.
In a far corner, 80-year-old Brahma Dev stands and watches as the vibhag pracharak begins to lead the shakha for the morning. Brahma ji, as he is fondly referred to, has been a full time swayamsevak for 70 years. Devoting his life to the cause, he has remained a bachelor and immersed his life in the steady drones of shakhas, held across the districts of Bihar.
A young man adjusts a metal pole that holds the RSS’ saffron flag to the ground. One by one, the men approach the hoisted flag and raise their hand to the chest, palms facing the ground. They bow down and line up for physical activities. A whistle blown by the vibhag pracharak marks the beginning of the exercise. The men then parade the ground under Brahma ji’s scrutiny, who stands in a corner and points out their mistakes.
The town may be asleep, tucked in oblivion from all of this, but a sense of excitement clings heavily in the air. With the polling for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the district merely three days away, Nawada is buzzing with indistinct chatter about the battle of ballots. And the shakha is no exception to this.
After an hour of physical activities, the men form a circle and sit near the flag. "Swayam ab jaag kar humko, jagana desh hai apna (we ourselves need to rise now and awaken our nation)," the group begins to chant a short hymn.
Brahma ji is now perched at the edge of the circle and leads the discourse. "Who can tell me what the duties of a swayamsevak are?" he asks.
36-year-old Santosh Kumar, raises his hand. Kumar is an engineer by profession and works for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) in the area. "Our prime responsibility is to ensure that we work for the welfare of people,” he says.
Before he could go any further, he is interrupted by Brahma ji, "Our first responsibility is to work for the welfare of a Hindu rashtra (nation)," he says while others nod in agreement.
Brahma ji then explains that for every swayamsevak, it is mandatory to propagate the idea of the sangh (RSS) and convince at least three more individuals to join the shakha. On this point, the discussion takes a political turn.
"The elections are approaching and we need to take our duties with utmost seriousness. I do not need to tell you which government the nation needs at this point in time," says Brahma ji, in an apparent reference to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
"We need to speak to people in our professional and personal circles and ensure they vote in favour of the nation's development,” he adds.
A part of the circle is Ashok Kumar, a 47-year-old doctor and also the zila prabhandhak for Sangh in Nawada. He explains that RSS is not a political body and needs to play the role of making people aware about choosing the right government.
"We will not tell people which government to vote for, however, we will make them think about the qualities a perfect prime minister should have," he says -- his connotation towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than obvious.
Among the gathered men is also an 18-year-old boy, Achyuth Kumar. A first year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) student of KLS College, Nawada has been a swayamsevak since his childhood. He first started attending the shakha after being encouraged by his father at the age of 9. He is also a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
"I joined the Sangh’s student politics because ABVP is the stepping stone to BJP,” says Achyuth, who aspires to contest elections someday. Apart from ABVP, the RSS-affiliated bodies includes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Seva Bharati.
The political overtones within the ranks of gathered RSS workers is unmissable.
However, Subodh Kumar, a local businessman in the area says that people associated with the Sangh are disappointed this time since a BJP candidate did not get a ticket from Nawada.
BJP’s sitting MP Giriraj Singh, who won the seat in 2014 by defeating RJD's Raj Ballabh Prasad with a margin of nearly 1.4 lakh votes, was sent to Begusarai. This is because Nawada went to Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as part of the seat-sharing formula of the National Democratic Alliance.
Chandan Kumar will contest from Nawada as LJP candidate and RJD's Vibha Devi will contest as the Mahagathbandhan candidate. She is the wife of jailed former MLA, Raj Vallabh Yadav, who was disqualified recently following his conviction in a rape case.
"Chandan Kumar has hardly been seen in the area but we will still vote for him because that will ensure an additional seat for the NDA and will help BJP at the Centre," Subodh Kumar adds.
Brahma ji, however, considers all of them duty-bound to ‘educate masses’ and propagate the Hindutva ideology. "We need to explain Hindutva and our understanding of nationalism to the people. The RSS is the mother organisation, so any support for us translates into support for the BJP," he says, in conclusion. After this, the Shakha heads for the daily prayer.
Solemn, but resolute in respect, the sevaks recite their prayers in front of the saffron flag, deliver a traditional salute and disperse for the day.
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