The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat appears to have perfected the art of first courting controversy and then doing damage control. In the latest instance he reversed his own position regarding the Bharat Mata ki Jai slogan and observed that no one should be forced to chant it and the desire to do so should come from within. We should make our country so great that people have no other option but to endorse this particular expression of love for the motherland, he noted barely ten days after the BJP at its National Executive in the capital lent its full support to it.
The imperative question is: why does the RSS chief, unlike his distinguished predecessors, get into debates which should be best left to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political wing of the Sangh Parivar? The fact of the matter is that the RSS considers itself as a cultural organisation, while in reality it is as much concerned with the social and political developments in the country as the BJP is. After all, culture is also another name for the pursuit of power which is considered the definition of politics.
Taking a cue from the RSS, the BJP had, at its conclave, resolved that the slogan was indicative of a person’s affection for our motherland and therefore people should be proud of chanting it. This had not gone too well with many opposition groups, including several Muslim organisations which were of the view that the recitation should not be obligatory as there were other ways of expressing one’s affinity for one’s country. Jai Hind, for example, conveys similar sentiments.
Thus this is one of the reasons for Bhagwat coming out in the open to state that the chorusing of the slogan could at best be made voluntary. In other words, the RSS supremo opposed the idea of making people recite Bharat Mata ki Jai in a compulsory manner. The act of articulating it should be a matter of self realisation rather than a diktat, which was sought to be imposed on individuals and fellow citizens.
The RSS Sarsanghchalak changed his stance after the decision for a BJP-PDP alliance was finalised once again and the former RSS spokesman and now BJP interlocutor for Kashmir affairs, Ram Madhav managed to persuade Mehbooba Mufti to continue with her partnership with the saffron brigade as it would be in accordance with the mandate of the Assembly polls. Bhagwat is aware that any attempt to coerce Kashmiris to sing “Bharat Mata ki Jai” would be counter-productive and shall certainly impact the alliance, as the slogan was not a part of the common agreement between the two partners.
Further, the PDP has alleged connections with some separatists and pro Pakistan elements and this slogan would find no acceptance in any part of the Valley. Thus by insisting that this expression of patriotism was the only way to prove one’s nationalism and commitment to the country, the BJP would not be able to implement its will. In any case, no BJP legislator or a minister would be able to persuade colleagues in the Assembly to repeat the utterance. The voicing of the slogan would further not find universal acceptance on the streets of Srinagar, where even the staunchest RSS/BJP supporters would ordinarily not venture out on their own and without adequate security cover.
Bhagwat is also well aware that in 1991, when the RSS approved the Ekta Yatra of the then BJP president Dr Murali Manohar Joshi from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, there were varied practical obstacles that hampered the mission. On 25 January 1992, the Yatra had reached Patnitop on its way to Srinagar from Jammu, when it was halted due to security concerns. It was eventually decided that Dr Joshi, along with Narendra Modi, then his escort during the Yatra, and a few others would fly in a government aircraft to Srinagar on the morning of the Republic Day.
They finally hoisted the National Flag at the Lal Chowk amidst heightened security. Incidentally, the Ekta Yatra was the first RSS approved rath adventure by the BJP, since L.K. Advani’s famous Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra in 1990 was his personal decision and did not have the go ahead of the RSS, though the entire Sangh subsequently supported it.
Bhagwat, thus, anticipated certain issues that would be brought in by the slogan and his change of stance is thus being viewed by many as a pre-emptive move to bail out the BJP in Kashmir. Close RSS observers believe that Bhagwat’s actions appear to have more political shades than those of many others in the Sangh. Hence, Bhagwat realises that the role of the RSS has been enhanced post the BJP securing a majority on its own in Parliament for the first time.
Bhagwat has no political ambitions, but wants to ensure that the significance of the RSS and its affiliates does not get eclipsed in the power games that get played in realpolitik. He is keen to help the BJP consolidate its position and is therefore attempting to bring back disgruntled supporters into the fold. Between us.