Bhagwat on a Mission to Saffronise Bihar

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RSS is aware that it would be a tough proposition to win over the OBCs, EBCs, and Dalits and persuade them to sever their relations with their mentors. In this backdrop, in order to spread in Bihar, the best choice has been the farmers. It is not that the farmers exist in isolation. They belong to some caste, but a strategic differentiation on the lines of farmers would make their task of reaching out to these people easier. A report for Different Truths.

It may sound bizarre but the fact remains that the RSS has put its entire might to weaken and erode the support base of chief minister Nitish Kumar. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat zeroing in on the farmers is the candid example of this strategy. RSS is aware that it would be a tough proposition to win over the OBCs, EBCs, and Dalits and persuade them to sever their relations with their mentors. In this backdrop, in order to spread in Bihar, the best choice has been the farmers. It is not that the farmers exist in isolation. They belong to some caste, but a strategic differentiation on the lines of farmers would make their task of reaching out to these people easier.  

In the political perception of Nitish Kumar, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad might have been his sworn enemies, but the fact is that the RSS chief has been digging his grave. Nitish is not naïve to make out the implication of Bhagwat’s frequent visits to Bihar, but his recent forays make his intentions clear. It is Nitish, not the secular forces that are at the target of Bhagwat. It is strange to watch that Nitish, who had in 2016 made public his resolve to make an RSS-free India, heading an anti-BJP coalition government, is now putting up a studied silence on the visits of Bhagwat. In fact, on some occasions, he even accompanied him to some of his public programmes.

Bhagwat is aware that the Dalits, ECBs and backward caste supporters of the RJD and Left parties would not desert their leaders and parties. But the farmers, especially a section of the backward castes, are vulnerable. At this stage, any attempt to take all these castes as target would prove to be counterproductive. It would be a suicidal move.

The seriousness of Bhagwat’s mission could be made out from the fact that he has been in Bihar for ten days at a stretch. This also underlines the importance of Bihar in the game plan of RSS. During the last six months this is the third visit of Bhagwat to the state. What is of utmost importance is that he would be camping in the north Bihar areas where the population of the farmers is high. Incidentally the farmers did not for the BJP in 2015 assembly elections.

While the BJP has not managed to gain numerically much during the three years of the Modi rule, there has been a significant increase in the membership to the RSS in Bihar. Bhagwat urges the farmers to join the Sangh and become a part of its mission to build a society free from discrimination. Speaking to farmers invited to an RSS volunteers’ camp in Muzaffarpur a couple of days ago, he highlighted the work done by swayamsevaks in villages of the country. He cautioned the farmers that none else but people who live in villages can solve the problems faced by the villages. While he tried to convey that all the political parties were urban in nature and catered to their urban subjects, Sangh was the only forum which cared for the rural people.

His marketing mission does not appear to be of high pitch. While he has been harping on the contribution of Sangh towards rural development, he maintained a low profile about the role and nature of the Sangh. He also stressed on the need to adopt organic farming, which he said has been a part of tradition for thousands of years.

If the secular forces are suspicious of Bhagwat’s visit to Bihar just ahead of the March meeting of Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the organization’s top decision-making body to be held in Nagpur, a section of the BJP leaders are also in a state of stupor about the real motive behind this exercise. While the RJD and the Congress allege that Bhagwat’s visits have become frequent of late and are part of the agenda of the BJP to “saffronise” Bihar, the BJP leaders view these as prelude to a major organisational shuffle. A major shake-up keeping in view the general election could be carried out in the RSS at the ABPS. Popular faces would be forced to make way for a younger team.

Bhagwat reaching out to the rural masses and striving to spread the saffron network is in a way an indictment of the BJP leadership. It sends a strong message that as the leadership has failed to expand the support base of the party, this task has to be accomplished by the RSS chief. The Bhagwat mission also makes it clear that the BJP is trying to negotiate the jarring geo-political track in Bihar on the RSS crutch. In the assessment of Sangh, the organisation is quite week in Bihar and keeping in view its strategic importance its needs to be strengthened. One thing is quite apparent that the BJP cannot aspire to enlarge its base with the support of upper castes, especially the Bhumihars, Rajputs, Brahmans and Kayasthas. It would be also naïve to believe that these four castes would rally behind the BJP. No doubt a section of OBCs are with the BJP but their antagonistic relations with the upper caste has been adversely affecting the political interest of the party.

Yet another reason for RSS becoming proactive is the move by some national leaders to disparage the importance of the Sangh. The Sangh leadership is cut up with the role played by BJP president Amit Shah and Narendra Modi in ignoring Dr Murali Manohar Joshi for the President of India. They threw their weight behind Ram Nath Kovind, who does not have the background as RSS Swayamsevak. Bhagwat strongly shares the views that the RSS cannot play second fiddle to the BJP in key decisions.

In recent months the leaders of the party in various states have been trying to identify with the RSS but at the same time they have been finding it a major challenge to balance their relations with the BJP and its leadership. The BJP leaders are in fact desperately trying to bring in some RSS leaders closer to them to occupy key positions in the organisation. In their desperation, these people have also been trying to put the blame of the defeat of the party’s candidates in Rajasthan on the Sangh.

The RSS has in fact drawn its strategy of expansion in Bihar soon after the defeat of the party in the 2015 Assembly polls. It had stepped up the “socio-religious” work in selected areas to strengthen the Sangh Parivar. Ramdatt Chakradhar, veteran pracharak, zoology gold medalist from Gwalior University, had replaced Swant Ranjan as the chhetra karyavah (regional head) of Bihar-Jharkhand. Ranjan was promoted as the head of the RSS’ all-India intellectual cell and was entrusted with the task of “searching” for academic professionals to man key positions such as chancellors, vice-chancellors and directors of academic institutions across the country.

For organisation purposes, RSS has divided Bihar in two parts; North and South Bihar. RSS is operating 1037 shakhas in North Bihar and the target has been set to increase the number to 1,500 by 2020. It has registered significant growth in the last two years, during which around 225 new shakhas were added. The major task for the swayamsevaks is to educate every family of North Bihar and connect them with Sangh ideology.

Arun Srivastava
©IPA Service 

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