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A Listless Bhagwat Is Advantage Modi

The RSS chief warning against “cultural Marxists” and “woke” elements suggests his speech was outsourced, perhaps to someone outside India. It also suggests that the RSS-BJP power equation has been resolved after nearly two decades of sparring.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat addresses the group's Vijayadashami event, in Nagpur, October 24, 2023. Photo: X/@RSSOrg

Could it be that Mohan Bhagwat, who is now in his 12th year as the sarasanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is losing his touch as the putative guide and philosopher to an organisation about to celebrate its centenary? The question suggests itself because the RSS chief gave a strange and curious speech at the traditional Dussehra gathering in Nagpur. The Dussehra speech has always been regarded as the sarasanghchalak’s day out but this year, he was off his game.

Most curious of all, Bhagwat chose to warn his cadres against “cultural Marxists” and “woke” elements. Woke? Mr Bhagwat, come again. Woke in India? For a man who prides himself as the custodian of authentic Indian values and ideas, this invocation of “woke” elements is not only jarring but also entirely inexplicable. 

“Woke” is, of course, very much a part of the current American political vocabulary but the RSS chief is probably the first serious voice to seriously suggest that we have “woke” elements crawling under our collective bed. Not even the most connected Indian pamphleteer, leave alone so critical a personality as the RSS boss, would detect “wokeism” intruding India – that too at a time when we are so thankfully counting the blessings of ‘Amrit Kaal’.

Could it, then, be that the Big Boss’s Dussehra oration was sourced out of Nagpur? Not just out of Nagpur but possibly out of India? Only a highly “Americanised” speechwriter or an NRI domiciled in Chicago or Atlanta could think that “woke” would be of any concern or relevance to anyone in India. It can be safely asserted that even the editorial writers in the Organiser stable would be at a loss to explain or define these “woke” subversives, out to deny Mother India its glorious past, present and future. And, it can be confidently argued that no BJP operative in Bhagalpur or Bathinda or Bhavnagar will have any idea what the RSS boss was talking about.

And, pray, who in god’s name are these “cultural Marxists,” still breathing fire and brimstone even after nine years of a danda sarkar? How have they dared to escape detection from Union home minister Amit Shah’s sniffing Labrador retrievers?  

If this year’s Dusshera speech has not evoked any kind of serious interest or reaction, perhaps it is because something is seriously wrong-keyed in Mohan Bhagwat’s ruminations. It was a total washout, compared to the animated critiques and salutations Bhagwat has received in the past.

Could it be that Bhagwat’s listlessness reflects a definite resolution of the RSS-BJP equation after nearly two decades of sparring and jostling? Remember how BJP president L.K. Advani was defenestrated out of office after he made his vastly misunderstood speech on Mohammed Ali Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan in mid-2005? A BJP president had no choice but to bow to the Nagpur bosses’ diktat and put in his papers. 

Remember, also, Advani’s pithy observations at that time: “Lately an impression has gained ground that no political or organisational decision can be taken without the consent of the RSS functionaries. This perception, we hold, will do no good either to the party or to the RSS.”

Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech this year is the final conclusive evidence that the matter between the BJP and the RSS has been settled in favour of the Modi-Shah duo. He mouthed a meandering defence of all that the Modi government has done or not done these last nine years. He seems to have enlisted himself in the prime minister’s favourite political game of inventing enemies.

It seems that the RSS chief has allowed himself to be overimpressed, perhaps even overawed, not just by Prime Minister Modi but even by home minister Shah. Bhagwat’s allegation of external forces muddying the ethnic fault lines in Manipur is not worthy of an organisation chief who takes considerable pride in its ability to keep itself clinically insulated from the politicians’ dirty world and to think clear-headedly about national interests. Of course, external forces have always meddled and will continue to try to meddle in our affairs, but it is precisely the government’s primary task to protect us from such inimical elements. Yet, Bhagwat seeks to exculpate the home minister’s glorious administrative and political failure in Manipur.

Bemoaning is not an option for any government, certainly not for a regime that boasts of a 56-inch chhaathi. It is the government’s obligation to summon the requisite wisdom and policies to prevent the kind of bloodbath that has been witnessed in Manipur.

Also Read: Mohan Bhagwat’s Comments on Manipur Violence Show Northeast Remains a Puzzle That RSS Can’t Solve

Unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who did not care to appease the Nagpur bosses, Prime Minister Modi has defanged the commissars of the saffron brotherhood by very adroitly co-opting these supposed men of ‘integrity’ in his transactional regime. The swayamsevak-cum-pracharak is now contaminated with the poisoned spoils of power. This ethical degeneration has bubbled up all the way to the Nagpur brass. All the vim and vigour has been drained out of the RSS’s role as a watchful guardian of the BJP’s morals and manners.

This taming of the Bhagwat-led RSS is not without its ramifications for the ruling party’s power landscape. All those who believe that this ‘parent’ organisation will be able to shape and determine the post-Modi arrangements may find themselves totally wrong-footed. In the immediate months to come, the RSS cannot be counted upon to be a source of restraint and sobriety as the oversized Modi personality cult goes into overdrive. The polity’s equilibrium is set to get further tilted in favour of rampant authoritarian tendencies. So much for happy days.


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