RSS pivotal to Modi’s political fortunes, says Chinese scholar

Agencies/New Delhi
May 11, 2017 NATIONAL 107 Views

Steeled by the firepower provided by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a roll, notwithstanding latent internal tensions, says a leading Chinese scholar.
In a detailed analysis posted on the Chinese website,, on the prospects of the BJP, Mao Keji, has focused on the Pracharak-based organisational core of the RSS, as the foundation for the national rise of the BJP under Mr. Modi. Mr. Mao highlights that Mr. Modi’s slogan of developmentalism, echoing the “Gujarat model” strongly reinforced the bond between the BJP and RSS, yielding tangible political benefits.
The Chinese scholar, who specialises in Sino-Indian relations, explains that Mr. Modi’s focus on enlarging the economic cake through rapid development, and less emphasis on the policy of reservations was pivotal in enlisting the organisation’s full backing for elections since 2013.
“(Mr.) Modi’s developmentalism emphasising the enlargement of the cake, rather than sharing the smaller cake, has allowed him to detour around complex competing social group interests,” observes Mr. Mao.
The author traces the recent rise of the BJP and its affiliates to two major events: the protests against the Mandal Commission report on the reservations of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in 1989, and the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992. “The Mandal report resulted in a feeling of discrimination among the middle class and the middle and upper classes seeking academic and employment opportunities. The disappointment resulted in solid expansion of support for the BJP, which advocated the removal of preferential treatment and called for equal competition.”
The religious polarisation resulting from the demolition of the Babri mosque also consolidated support behind the BJP and RSS. In terms of organisation, the two events led to the rapid growth of “cadres which even today form the power core in the BJP and the RSS.”
Mr. Mao points out that the RSS today has a core of 10,000 Pracharaks — the grassroots ideological leaders — who are intertwined with 50,000 active shakhas or branches. They absorb 6 million volunteers, and have unions for workers, farmers, women and students. “These groups provide the BJP organisational binding, social resources for mobilisation and an ability to project ideology, which other parties find hard to rival.”
After the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is set to acquire sufficient membership support in the Rajya Sabha, which will enable the Modi-government to push through stalled legislation related to land acquisition and labour reforms.
Yet, tensions between the BJP, driven by the practical political considerations, and the RSS, inclined towards greater ideological puritanism, have not entirely abated. “For example the RSS is firmly of the view that Mr. Modi’s policies towards Muslims, Christians and foreigners are too weak,” observes Mr. Mao.
Besides, the labour unions within the RSS fold are mounting a resistance to Mr. Modi’s developmentalism. “The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh — the labour union affiliated with the RSS — is mounting a fierce opposition to Modi’s labour reform politics,” says Mr. Mao.
He also points to the fracturing of some of the regional allies of the BJP, such as the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, as an expression of the fissures that have developed within Mr. Modi’s political universe.

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