RSS and Hindu Rashtra

S. Sethuraman

It is now official - the call given by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat for amending the Indian Constitution to make it reflect "Indian" values. But Mr Bhagwat leaves no one in doubt that Hinduism being "the only true religion" in the world, our constitution and legal system should be aligned to its (Hindu) ethos, whatever it could mean for secularism or inclusiveness.
In short, a "Hindu Rashtra", which RSS gloated to be within reach when BJP swept the 2014 Lok Sabha poll and took over the Central Government. Be it said to the credit of RSS Chief however that he favours a comprehensive national debate and a consensus on changes in the Constitution and jurisprudence in tune with Indian value systems, now that seven decades have passed since independence.
This is in refreshing contrast to the abrupt and authoritarian manner in which the Modi Government has enforced some policies and been taking decisions far from friendly to the common people affecting their day to day life, e.g. note ban and Aadhaar.
On record though, RSS maintains it operates on its own and so does BJP but the latter's build-up thus far is solidly on the foundation of Hindutva, the promotion of which now goes along with "development", twin objectives as lately coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the aftermath of his capturing UP for BJP rule.
BJP owes its win in many regions to the ground work put in by RSS cadres in their thousands, Mr Modi had himself proudly acknowledged his past as a Sangh Pracharak. That need not imply that at every major step, he has RSS at his back.  Unlike his Ministers, Mr Modi has no need to look around to make his policy statements. With his 'maximum governance and minimum government' theory, his is the only authentic voice of government.
And he walks warily on certain issues, especially on reshaping India into a Hindu Rashtra, which has to be an evolving process, however firmly committed to it as he is. It could depend on achievements for Government in the near to medium term. His Government from day one started working on saffronisation of academic and cultural institutions, used state power to block funds to civil society that does not toe the Government line and tightened control over media.
The country is now going through a tense atmosphere of intolerance and a free rein to abusive trolls, given the Prime Minister's penchant for tweeting and openness to social media. But the evolution of his first term as PM so far - with hardly twenty months left to take the call in 2019 - has not earned any credibility for his democratic professions, the way he has aggregated power to himself with a naked contempt for the opposition, however fragmented it might be, and repeated declarations of his "Congress-mukt Bharat".
It might appear he would not be averse to a single-party dominance if that resulted in coming polls as it could help overcome obstacles to an imperial exercise of power in order to achieve his unfulfilled agenda. As of now, unfortunately for his Government, there is nothing remarkable in terms of results on ground for all his pronouncements and chest-thumping reforms.
Lack of economic growth and jobs with no revival of private investment has become the bugbear for his three and a half year old government. This is now a matter of utmost concern for the trumpeted world’s fast-growing economy dented by demonetisation.
The license that his admirers and BJP backers are giving themselves in attacking liberals and critics of questionable policies of Government has gone to abominable lengths that even RSS Chief Mr Mohan Bhagwat has been constrained to distance the Sangh from “hate messages” pouring via social media.
The Prime Minister, though given to enigmatic silences, had also not thought fit to condemn - whoever the assassin -- the murder of a forthright journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore as she was entering her home, by unidentified gunman on September 5, which has triggered nation-wide protests against the violent turns that growing intolerance is taking..
Hindu extreme outfits lynching beef eaters or vigilantes running amok with moral codes and killings remain uncontrolled, whether by the state or central government.  Not long ago, foreign press had begun to take note of the challenge to stay alive for liberals and secular voices. The series of killings of rationalists over the last three years has not gone unnoticed, now climaxed by the murder of fearless journalist Gauri Lankesh.
As attacks and threats keep alive the atmosphere of intolerance and hate - something that does not seem to have caused any worry for the Prime Minister, whose own image and popularity have not taken any beating so far, - there are emerging signs of disenchantment in general over his Government's failings.
This could get reflected in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll and some uncertainty is not discounted in the way the Modi-Shah duo remain focused on intervening state elections in order to alter the balance in BJP favour. 
The Prime Minister in several ways has exhibited his plans for what he calls "transformative changes" for India and his five-year New India Plan (2017-22) is designed to proceed in the direction of some achievable social and economic goals in sectors like housing, electricity and rural infrastructure while large-scale modernisation programmes especially urban could drag on.
Mr Modi has to achieve a greater degree of credibility and authenticity by delivering on the old and new promises that he would make for 2019 Lok Sabha election. Already, there are warning signals from RSS cadres conveyed to government managers ground reports of distress from job losses post-demonetisation, unrest among farmers, and people raising disconcerting questions. (IPA)

Sunday, 1 October, 2017