Published: August 5, 2011 - 13:30 Updated: August 5, 2011 - 13:34
The Sangh Parivar is riding piggyback on the anti-corruption campaign. But what is Anna camp’s not-so-secret game?
Akash Bisht Delhi
As Baba Ramdev approached the dais at Jantar Mantar on the fourth day of Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption in April 2011, the crowds jostled for space to get a view of the television celebrity. Loud applause greeted Ramdev. The entire Anna camp had smiles on their faces. Pumping himself, Ramdev started his speech with ‘Anna tum aage badho, hum tumhare saath hai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ before declaring that all the corrupt should be hanged. He also sang a “typical RSS song”, as a Hindi TV journalist informed. His supporters had literally taken over the show; it appeared as if the Anna campaign had skidded and Ramdev had successfully hijacked it. “Yes, he tried it. Had he come just to support us, he wouldn’t have engaged in such a drama. When someone tries to hijack something, it shows,” Swami Agnivesh later told Hardnews in April.
A slow tension simmered in the Anna camp. They were seduced by Ramdev’s ‘television support base’ and did not really have the courage to say no. RSS had also passed a resolution asking its cadres across the country to actively participate in Anna’s camp. RSS General Secretary Suresh Joshi had reportedly written a letter to Anna extending support; this letter was handed over to Anna by RSS spokesman Ram Madhav who also shared the stage. This came under severe criticism from secular forces, including the Congress.
The Anna camp tried, at least, to make it appear as if it was distancing itself from Ramdev. However, the ghost of ‘Sangh backing’ keeps returning to haunt them. Hardnews spoke to several members of the Sangh Parivar: So what exactly transpired?
“Even if he is our mukhota (mask), what is wrong with that? If someone else does it, we will be with them too. The Sangh Parivar is a hardcore nationalist organisation and we will participate in all such movements. However, we are not the policy makers, we just supported it,” said Prakash Sharma, spokesperson, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Anna reportedly had close relations with some RSS members before he rose to national prominence. His work has also been restricted around Maharashtra, and he is not known to have been an active participant in various social and people’s movements all over India, or in the “campaign against globalisation and communal fascism”, a pet theme of activists like Medha Patkar. DM Date, an RSS pracharak, was particularly close and accompanied him to various Sangh functions in and around Pune, remember old-timers. Incidentally, one of the first books on Anna was penned by former RSS general secretary HV Seshadri. His book, The Village that Reminds Us of Ramarajya, is one of the first chronicles of Anna’s experiments in Ralegan Siddhi. “Several swayamsevaks (RSS cadre) have visited Ralegan Siddhi to see the work done by Anna,” said KN Govindacharya, former BJP organisational secretary and
Indeed, Anna had once even showered praise on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray, known for his chauvinist and fundamentalist politics, and for unleashing his goons on migrants from North India. He had then said, “Outsiders trying to prove their dominance in the state is not at all acceptable.” DR Goyal, a former RSS member who has written Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, one of the most authoritative accounts of the secret cult of RSS, said, “Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan still had some of his yoga followers, but Anna’s crowd was bursting with RSS cadres. The kind of pamphlets and slogans that reverberated at Jantar Mantar could only have been the handiwork of RSS.” (He is right. Praises of gau mutra (cow urine) and gau raksha (cow protection), apart from personal attacks on Sonia Gandhi’s ‘foreign origin’, were being openly floated at Jantar Mantar during Anna’s fast.)
“RSS is in crisis and in decline. Youngsters and educated people are not joining it, or visiting their shakhas. So they tried to ride the Anna bandwagon,” said Goyal. Goyal is categorical that Ramdev is an RSS man, and this was reflected when Sadhvi Ritambara and ‘other Rightwing personalities’ shared the dais with him at Ramlila Maidan. “When Ramdev was taken to Haridwar, what were Ashok Singhal and Uma Bharti doing there? But the real question is, what was the Anna camp doing with Ramdev?” said Goyal.
There is a view in the UPA government, and within secular NGOs, that the police action in Ramlila Ground had become necessary, not only because Ramdev had violated his signed agreement, or his promise that this would only be a yoga shivir. It was also crystal clear that RSS and its front organisations formed the vanguard of Ramdev’s show, with ex-IB chief Ajit Doval, Govindacharya and Sangh ideologue Gurumurthy as backroom strategists. According to sources, there was a genuine fear of communal tension, or even motivated violence to inflame riots, in this sensitive area near old Delhi.
Also, it is alleged that there was (and continues to be) a sinister conspiracy to use the Anna and Ramdev campaign and create a putsch kind of situation, organise mass anarchy and civil society unrest, and destablise the elected government in New Delhi. “RSS also wants to divert national attention from the Hindutva terror groups’ role in various blasts, with direct RSS linkages,” said a
According to Goyal, both the movements are basically a handiwork of the RSS, which wants to destabilise the government, but knows that BJP has lost the political credibility to lead any such movement. “That’s why they need Ramdev and Anna, so that they can ride piggyback. RSS wants to alter the Constitution and they have tried doing it in the past. Their idea of Dharam Sansad was shot down during the BJP-led NDA regime because of coalition compulsions.”
Govindacharya played a crucial role in mobilising the Sangh cadre to join Ramdev. But the yoga guru “betrayed” the movement by reaching a secret agreement with the government. “By raising the RSS issue, the government succeeded in weakening the agitation,” he said. “Erroneously, Team Anna thought they would get stronger in isolation; instead, they were weakened. Anna’s untouchability approach will not help the movement against corruption,” he said. The Anna camp should have spoken about “alternate politics” instead of their “apolitical stance”.
However, RSS spokesman Ram Madhav denies any RSS role in Anna’s campaign: “We would only say that these are very old tactics of the government to divert attention. We are behind nobody and not even ahead of anybody. We are with everyone who is fighting for the interest of this country.”
Senior BJP leader and former Bajrang Dal chief Vinay Katiyar told Hardnews, “Five people cannot dictate terms to the government. They are not above Parliament and should fight elections. They think they are the only repositories of truth, while the rest are chors (thiefs); this will not take them far. Why should we take their draft? MPs should discuss the bill, or else, there will be total anarchy. Tomorrow, anyone can come up with such demands and sit on a fast. This is not the right precedent.”
However, the Sangh Parivar maintains that all possible support will be extended to such agitations. Govindacharya felt this is a public interest issue and they will keep talking. He added that Sangh members are everywhere and their presence shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance. “I want to tell both Anna and Ramdev that they shouldn’t be apologetic and should not bother about the colour of the cat till it catches the mice. We are ready to provide both tacit and active support,” he said. And Goyal predicts, “If Anna sits on a fast, RSS will again support him.”