IN the last few days, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been going through the motions of a subordinate’s bid for slightly greater power from a superior. As ever, the superior wins. The reasons for this predetermined end are historical, organisational and political.
The BJP is a political front of the militant RSS and very much amenable to fiats from the RSS. This is made known to all by the manner in which the RSS has been removing and imposing successive presidents of the BJP and its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh.
After the March 1977 general election the opposition parties’, including the Jan Sangh, merged into a single party, the Janata Party. It formed the government at the centre only to lose power in July 1979 following a split within its ranks. On April 5, 1980 the Janata Party suffered another split when members of the erstwhile Jan Sangh walked out when the party demanded that they should not “participate in the day-to-day activities of the RSS”. Rather than do the honest thing and revive the Jan Sangh they set up a new party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP), avowedly as the truly nationalistic Janata Party.
Before long its leading lights like A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani openly declared that the BJP’s parent was the Jan Sangh.
This body was set up on Oct 21, 1951 under a pact between the Mahasabha leader Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and the RSS supremo M.S. Golwalkar. The politicians provided the ‘leaders’ but they were pitiably dependent on the cadres lent by the RSS.
This is the true relationship between the BJP, successor to the Jan Sangh, and the RSS.
It is important to emphasise this because not only some Indians but also observers outside, particularly in the US, fondly hoped that the BJP would emerge rather like the Christian Democrats in Europe. This is wishful thinking. The RSS never allowed its progeny to become independent. If anything it has strengthened its control in the last decade.
On Nov 3, 1954 the Jan Sangh’s president Mauli Chandra Sharma resigned complaining belatedly of “interference by the RSS in the affairs of the Jan Sangh”. He was accused of “betrayal” by a senior member, Balraj Madhok. Later he became president only to be expelled from membership of the Jan Sangh by its young president, Lal Kishen Advani. Madhok had complained of “too much interference by the RSS in party affairs”.
In December 2005 Advani was forced to resign as president of the BJP by the RSS. He had given offence by the comments he had written in June 2005 in the visitor’s book at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
They read: “There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history. But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. In his early years Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described Mr Jinnah as an ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on Aug 11, 1947 is a classic; a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to practise his own religion but the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man.”
It was a cruel blow. In 2004 the BJP lost power to the Congress and Advani’s hopes of succeeding Vajpayee as prime minister were dashed. The 2009 general elections saw the Congress return to power. Advani turned 85 this month. But he pins his hopes on a possible impasse in the 2014 general election, given the Congress’s declining popularity. This plan the RSS is resolved to defeat.
There is another aspirant to that post, Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat known for the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. The RSS finds him too self-willed. This brings us to the genesis of the crisis in 2012. In 2005, the RSS had replaced Advani with the former chief minister of UP Rajnath Singh. He was replaced on Nov 19, 2009, by Nitin Gadkari of Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS.
The whole country was shocked by disclosures last month that Gadkari’s Purti Co. received money from other companies which hardly existed. Where did he get the crores from? He undertook to face a probe, an offer which Advani, no friend of his, lauded.
The RSS sent S. Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant and a lifelong member, to conduct a ‘probe’. On Nov 6, he told a core group of the BJP leadership — minus a sulking Advani — that Gadkari was neither morally nor legally guilty of any wrongdoing.
They dutifully affirmed their “full faith” in Gadkari’s leadership.
Correspondents of repute attributed this to a phone call from Nagpur by RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat. Gadkari’s term as BJP president ends next month. It is uncertain whether he will get a second term. For the RSS had second thoughts. On Nov 13, Gurumurthy tweeted that his “clean chit” was not for Gadkari, only for his companies.
What is more relevant is the reality of the RSS control of the BJP and their ideology. Mohan Bhagwat holds “Pakistan is transitory and will become part of India sooner or later … Pakistan and Afghanistan are a part of us and will return one day” (India Today; Nov 18, 2009). That is also Advani’s ideal though he is more circumspect. He spoke of an Indo-Pakistan confederation, doubtless on his terms, on July 6, 2001, on the eve of the Agra summit which he scuttled, and on Jan 22, 2002, when Indian troops were massed on the international border and along the LoC.
On Nov 10, 2012, Jaswant Singh asserted in a TV debate with Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf that the BJP alone can deliver the goods because its nationalism is not suspect. His remarks on Muslims quoted by Strobe Talbott in his book Engaging India reveal his ‘nationalism’. The BJP is a menace to Indian democracy in India and an obstacle to a sound policy towards its neighbours.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.