The future of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s prospects in the 2019 general elections lie in the hands of Rashtriya Swyam Sevak Sangh (RSS), particularly RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, argues a new biography on Bhagwat. Senior journalist Kingshuk Nag, in his new book titled Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, not only sketches out Bhagwat’s personal and professional journey but also reflects on how the ‘social organisation’ influences the government of the day.
Nag, known for his previous biographies on PM Modi and BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee, avers that it was RSS that helped Modi coast to power in 2014 and that the Hindu nationalist organisation will play a crucial role in BJP’s 2019 prospects. Nag’s 185-page account of Mohan Bhagwat’s life and career contends that ‘to ensure that the BJP wins the 2019 elections, the RSS is getting into the nuts and bolts of the next polls. While Bhagwat and the senior leaders in the RSS do worry about Modi’s declining popularity and opposition’s attempt to forge a grand united front, BJP remains Bhagwat’s best bet to achieve RSS long-harboured dream of ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
“RSS’ top brass realises that only if the BJP wins the election can the agenda of the Sangh be furthered. This means that over the next few months, the RSS would want to have a greater say over policymaking and appointments and, of course, election strategies,” postulates the new book published by the Rupa publications.
According to the book, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls showcasing of Modi government’s achievements, SC’s Ram Mandir verdict, party’s outreach in states like Kerala, West Bengal, and Jammu and Kashmir, and the Pakistan challenge are crucial topics for the RSS and its saffron political outfit in the ensuing elections.
According to Nag’s account, Bhagwat was born and brought up in RSS backyard, and the organisation’s ideologies run in his blood. His grandfather Nanasaheb was RSS founder KB Hegdewar’s close aide, his father was a Gujarat-based RSS pracharak, and his mother was an active member of the organisation’s women’s group. Nag claims that Bhagwat realised his heart’s calling very early in life and joined the RSS at the age of 25 as a full-timer.
In 1991, Bhagwat was appointed the Akhil Bharatiya Sharirik Pramukh and from here started his journey to become the RSS chief and one of the most influential man in the country at present. Nag argues that Bhagwat’s appointment as RSS chief brought in several new changes within the organisation. He is the first RSS member from Maharashtra to become Sarsanghchalak. Further, he introduced new attire for the swayamsevaks symbolising the visible changes within the RSS to keep up with the changing times.
The book asserts that Bhagwat has a long-term plan for the organisation and is committed to ensuring that Sangh realises its dream of making India ( RSS likes to call it Bharat) a Hindu nation that is inclusive of all faiths, including Islam, but rejects the European culture and thinking. Further, ever since 2009, when Bhagwat was appointed as RSS chief, the organisation has been making significant attempts to make inroads into the Northeast. The results of Bhagwat’s groundwork and outreach programme were reflected in Assam and Tripura elections where BJP formed the government last year. Also, under Bhagwat’s tutelage, RSS is actively reaching out to Dalits under its social outreach programme called Samajik Samrasta( social equality).
Nag argues that BJP’s victory in 2019 is the essential condition for the RSS to further its ‘nation-building’ agenda. This is why the ruling party has seen increased crossovers from RSS in the past four years.
While Bhagwat has lent his support to the Modi-led BJP, he likes to keep Modi in check. It’s widely known that Modi wasn’t Bhagwat’s first choice but looking at Modi’s tireless effort to come to power at the centre and his strong commitment towards the Sangh convinced Bhagwat to put weight behind Modi. However, the book presents interesting inside details on how Bhagwat is keeping his second option ready, in case Modi fails to deliver a decisive victory.
“The RSS may not be too comfortable with Modi’s power politics and his none-too-discreet attempts to corner all the glory, but for Nagpur, he is still the best bet to keep the Hindu flag afloat. Modi campers are however aware that the Sangh may keep a (say) Nitin Gadkari under wraps. He may be pulled out of the hat if push comes to shove and if the Modi-led BJP is unable to deliver a decisive victory,” asserts Nag in his new book.
Nag’s book, Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, further contends that while BJP is a political offshoot of the Sangh, RSS doesn’t limit its political support to the saffron party. The book cites several instances from the past where RSS joined hands with the Congress, especially during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure, to keep its agenda afloat. Even today, the Bhagwat-led RSS incessantly reaches out to leaders from other political outfits. This was clearly reflected in Bhagwat’s decision to invite the former president and Congress senior leader Pranab Mukherjee to visit and deliver a lecture at RSS headquarters in Nagpur in June 2018.