Did the RSS tacitly back Congress in the Lok Sabha elections?
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
A few days before the results of the Lok Sabha elections were announced, arrangements were made by the handlers of BJP's prime ministerial candidate, LK Advani, to have a big bash to celebrate the expected victory of the eternal PM-in-Waiting. This was reinforced substantially by an avalanche of support they got from the non-voting cyber-world, which they thought would be enough to help them form the government largely on their own.
When the results came out on May 16, the wide gap between the BJP's expectations and the outcome was clearly visible. The BJP fell short by 50-odd seats from their projections. Not only did the BJP strategist and number crunchers, but also pollsters and journalists went wrong in their failure to assess BJP's shoddy performance. Why did the BJP perform so abysmally?
In the sizeable torrent of words and letters that have been written since its historical loss by Sudheendra Kulkarni, Arun Jaitley, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, among others, one can see a lot of finger-pointing but no genuine identification of the real cause that led to the party's discomfiture.
No one really mentioned the reasons why the traditional Hindu-minded upper caste supporters, who wanted a "government with a difference" led by tough leader LK Advani, chose to ignore the BJP and instead vote for the Congress. Kulkarni, whose best-laid plans - inspired by Barack Obama's iconic presidential campaign - to use web 2.0 to catapult Advani to power, came closest to hinting why the campaign flopped.
In his article, he alleged that Advani had not been given the same kind of support that Atal Behari Vajpayee had received from party men. Kulkarni pulled punches by not saying in so many words the truth that the BJP would find it difficult to reconcile with: The RSS not only did not back the BJP or Advani, but in many places allowed its followers to support the Congress. So, if the BJP or the pollsters got the poll outcome wrong, then it was due to the simple fact that their so-called "Hindu" voters did not vote for them.
RSS ideologue, MG Vaidya, writing in Tarun Bharat, on the contrary, did not mince words. He said that Advani did not enthuse the Hindu voters as he gave up the Hindutva agenda of constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya, Article 370 and common civil code. Vaidya said categorically that the BJP should consider leading a life without the RSS if it was not interested in giving precedence to the RSS agenda.
Kulkarni, who swung from the CPM to the BJP in his illustrious career, also wanted the RSS to introspect. Facilitated by his close relations with the business house of Hindujas that wanted Advani, a fellow Sindhi, as the prime minister, Kulkarni was bitter as he failed in this objective. His earlier advice that led Advani to declare MA Jinnah as secular caused his estrangement with the RSS.
"RSS pursues a policy of active infiltration into secular parties when it feels that its objectives would be better met that way rather than supporting the BJP," claimed an RSS watcher. According to him, RSS had infiltrated the Congress and the Janata Dal in the past to ensure that their perception of Hindu interests was not hurt. RSS, as history would indicate, has always tried to earn legitimacy from the Congress. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel wanted a larger role for them. In the 1950s, the RSS had a contingent at the Republic Day parade. There are also reports that the RSS extended support to Indira Gandhi's government at different stages and managed such concessions as a ban on cow slaughter. Their support resulted in big victories for Indira Congress in Jammu and Madhya Pradesh in the early 1980s.
In election 2009, Congress's extraordinary performance was due to the collapse of the BJP in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan Delhi and Haryana. In West Bengal, the RSS and other Hinduttva outfits realised that their old foes, the communists, could be beaten if they backed the Congress-TMC combine. A similar story was played out in Kerala.
BJP has lost substantial number of votes since 1999 when they were in power. In 2009 elections, they lost four to seven per cent votes. In Rajasthan, the BJP lost 14 per cent votes. Compared to 1999, BJP lost 6.7 per cent votes.
Commentators have blamed the disillusionment of urban voters with an ideology that is violent and fanatic and gives legitimacy to those who beat up young girls and boys for celebrating Valentine's Day, or sitting in a pub. It is seen as a party that celebrates obscurantism and retrograde orthodoxy. The truth is that the BJP has lost the reason for its existence. RSS, wily as it is, realises this fact more than others and is working towards a life after BJP.
The reason why BJP is on a fast decline stems from the fact that they have run out of ideas in an environment where there were fewer takers for their hate-based politics. Their conduct has a predictability of screen villains that try to take advantage of communal violence, terror and every other form of violence. It was truly bizarre when the BJP began to talk about fighting terror during the run-up to the assembly elections when there was little reason for them to do that.
So when the Mumbai terror attack took place on November 26, 2008, BJP seemed ready to reap the benefits of their campaign in Delhi and elsewhere. Its party's leadership rushed to Mumbai to commiserate with the victims of terror and the widows of police officers killed in the attack. (Narendra Modi especially made a fool of himself and was universally castigated, especially by family members of the victims, such as Hemant Karkare's wife who refused to meet Modi or take any monetary benefits from him.) The alacrity with which the BJP reacted revealed a twisted mind where it seemed as if they were anticipating such an incident and were hungry to parasite on the trage
Expectedly, the widows of police officers spurned their offer of support. Advani and Narendra Modi returned from Mumbai with, literally, egg on their faces. In Delhi, where the elections took place after the Mumbai attack, Congress gave a serious drubbing to the BJP. At that time, it was clear that the BJP was losing its plot as its exclusionist politics was proving to be electorally unviable.
The BJP's problems got compounded by its opposition to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. This was a relationship that got endorsement from BJP's core constituency and surely it was left confused on why the party leadership was against it. The Congress, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, managed to co-opt this huge westernised constituency that traditionally backed the BJP in urban areas. Although RSS paid lip service to BJP's opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, Hardnews is aware of the occasions that US embassy officials met its leaders in Nagpur and got their endorsement.
Earlier, the RSS had restrained BJP leaders from opposing President George W Bush's visit to India. At that time, they did not want their Hindu constituency to stand alongside with the chest-thumping Muslim agitators.
In other words, RSS, short on genuine leadership that can provide vision for the future, is taking a short-cut and seemingly jettisoning the BJP and supporting the Congress as it is pro-US and is best qualified to handle the threat of Islamic terror from across the border. RSS may show its hand again when it feels that the government is proving to be "pseudo secular" and giving inordinate space to the minorities.