It is not easy to comprehend Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The main reason is that the RSS does not fit into the available models of political parties or social institutions and organizations. Some people used to say that the RSS has a dictatorial style of functioning. Others claimed that it enjoins hero-worship. The truth is absolutely otherwise.
No personality cult
The founder of the RSS adopted a style that is miles away from hero-worship. There is no personality cult in the RSS. Following the Hindu tradition, it has a ‘guru.’ The ‘guru’ is the saffron flag, a symbol of sacrifice, purity and valour, before which the Swayamsevaks present their offering once a year. The position of an individual does not depend, on how much he has offered. There is no catch-phrase to eulogize any individual. The only slogan in the RSS, which every Swayamsevak at the end of the prayer voices is ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jay’.
Secret of Discipline
People wonder about the strict discipline that they see in the RSS. When I was RSS spokes-person in Delhi (i. e. during 2000-2003) one foreign journalist asked me about the secret of discipline in the RSS. I thought for a moment and said, “that it might be due to the absence of any arrangement for resorting to anti-disciplinary action.” I don’t know whether that correspondent was satisfied or not. But he did not prod me further. I myself wondered at my reply. Has any body ever heard about the RSS taking any disciplinary action against anybody, in its eventful life of more that 88 years? Can you imagine that no Swayamsevak would have committed any breach of discipline?
‘Of’ and ‘Entire’
There is one more fundamental truth about the RSS. RSS is an organization of the entire society. Mark two words ‘of’ and ‘entire’. It was not found to have an organized group or an organized tribe, within the society. And the society is a complex existence. It works through manifold spheres of activity. Politics is one such sphere, but not the only one. Education, agriculture, trade, industry, dharma, and many other areas in and through which society functions. Organization of the entire society means, organizing all these spheres of social activity. So Swayamsevaks were allowed to work in different fields. First, for the studends, it was the All India Vidyathi Parishad. In 1951, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherji met the then Sarsanghachalak Shri Guruji (i.e. Shri M. S. Golwalkar) and asked for some workers from the RSS. Pt. DeenDayal Upadhyay, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpeyee, Shri Nanaji Deshmukh, Shri Sundersingh Bhandari, Shri Kushabhau Thakre and some others were the Sangh Pracharaks who helped Dr Mukherji found the Bharateeya Jan Sangh. Another eminent Pracharak Shri Dattopant Thengdi wanted to work in the labour field, and he was allowed to do. As regards the Dharma sphere, Shri Guruji himself took the initiative and founded the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), but he did not become its President or any office-bearer. In some cases, some social-service oriented persons started their work of social upliftment and then RSS supplied a few workers. Vanwasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) is one such organization. What I want to stress is that politics, though an important sphere of national activity, is not the only sphere. Therefore the RSS cannot be equated with any political party. What the RSS emphasis is that in any sphere that its Swayamsevaks work should not forget that we are a cultural nation, and all their attempts, should be to strengthen and glorify this cultural nationhood, in their sphere of activity. The historic name of this culture is Hindu.
Dharma & Religion
Hindu is not a religion like Islam or Christianity. Even Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has remarked that ‘Hinduism is not a religion; it is a common-wealth of many religions.’ But I want to add that Hindu is a name of Dharma; and Dharma has a very broad connotation. It is both spiritual as well as temporal. In English language, there is no adequate eqivalent of Dharma. But we must understand that Dharma is not a religion. Religion is a part of Dharma. Take a few words in our language. Is ‘dharmashala’ a religious school? Is ‘dharmarth aspatal’ a hospital for religions? Is ‘dharmakanta’ a balance to weigh religions? This Dharma is the basis of our culture; and culture means value-system. One essential quality of this value-system is its appreciation of plurality of faiths, thoughts, and beliefs. So Hinduism or Hindutva is a vast umbrella to give shelter to many a faith and beliet.
Independent & Autonomous
I wonder, whether I have digressed a bit. Coming to the multiplicity of our social functioning I have to say that, every field of activity infused by the RSS workers is independent and autonomous. These fields have their own constitutions, their own methods of funding, their own methods of work. The RSS does not involve itself in them. But it is available for guidance and deliberation. The representatives of these organizations are invited at the annual session of the Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha, where they take part in the deliberations and also give useful information about the activitics of their organization.
The Moot Question
Now about the moot question raised by Shri Hartosh Singh Bal, viz. “How can the personality cult that surrounds Narendra Modi in the BJP be reconciled with traditions and culture of the RSS.” My answer is, electionering is a special occasion. It needs an icon to attract voters. Shri Narendrabhai has provided that icon. This icon has proved fruitful. See how many eminent personalities have joined the BJP in recent days. From ex-commander-in-chief like V. K. Singh, the eminent police commissioner like Satpal Singh, to the renowned journalist like M. J. Akbar and so many others have joined the BJP. The cerdit for this must ungrudgingly be given to Narendrabhai. But let us understand that Narendrabhai knows the limitations of iconism. He had been a RSS Pracharak and must be aware of the fundamentals of the RSS culture. He is a talented person and knows the differance between what is eternal, (shaashwat), what a occasional (samayanukul) and what is exceptional (aapat-dharma).
Appendix to my article titled ‘RSS and Hero Worship’
After I had dispatched my above article, to the Caravan magazine, I received from the editor an additional question. The question is :
‘When the BJP in the past under Vajpeyee enjoyed great electoral success without building a personality cult under the leader, why is there a need now for a personality-centred campaign around Narendra Modi?
My answer is as follows :
I had stated in the original article that electioneering is a special oceasion. It needs an icon to attract voters. Even Shri Vajpeyeeji was named as a prospective Prime Minister months before the actual election. This too was done by no less a person than Shri Advaniji. Besides, Shri Vajpeyeeji did not need a new introduction to the people of India. He was Foreign Minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet in 1977. He was the founder President of the BJP. He was also the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha for many yeras. He was always leading at the centre-stage. But Shri Modi, was confined to the state of Gujarat. He was and still is the Chief Minister of that State. To bring him to the centre of Indian politics, he was declared, a potential Prime Minister before the elections were declared. This declaration helped the BJP project his personality and his achievements, before the entire country. If you are referring to the present commotion, the credit or discredit must go to the overwhelming media hullabaloo. I personally feel that this should not be construed as an attempt to set up any personality cult.
– M. G. Vaidya