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Comrades in arms

Comrades in arms

Rakesh Sinha
The Hindustan Times
April 11, 2000
Title: Comrades in arms
Author: Rakesh Sinha
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: April 11, 2000

The agony of K.M. Shrimali (Saffron socialism, April 7, The Hindustan Times) can be well understood. He is not alone among those who have been fervently wishing a 1979-type action replay by the socialists in the National Democratic Alliance.

The RSS question had been the reason for the collapse of coalitional experiments in the past. In 1967, alleged RSS infiltration in educational institutions and in the administration had caused commotion within the coalition governments in the States; for instance, it led to a change of portfolios of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) ministers in UP. In 1977-78, the charge of "dual membership" wrecked the Janata Party. Thus, for the secularists, the RSS has been like an unprogrammed creation of surrealist art which can be used for their political agenda as and when they want. However, the alleged "hidden agenda" of the RSS has failed to create a similar crisis in contemporary times. This is because there are very few contradictions between the socialists and the RSS.

Recently, Saifuddin Soz has written a letter to the BJP allies stating: "Now the BJP's hidden agenda is unraveling itself and your continued silence is interpreted as your agreement to what is happening around in pursuit of the RSS agenda." A week later (January 27), Congress leader (now a rebel) Chhabildas Mehta sent a similar letter to the allies: "The country will have a fascist system by your support, directly or indirectly." The CPI has been more categorical. Its party organ New Age (February 13) attacked Mr Fernandes, Sharad Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan as "power hungry" and "fair weather cocks."

The fact is that unlike 1977, there is no Charan Singh aspiring for the Prime Ministership or Madhu Limaye acting as a destructive instrument within the formation on behest of the communists. The secularists are perplexed to find that the RSS has no longer remained the cause of embarrassment for non-saffron politicians. For Prof Shrimali and his ilk, the pro-conversion campaign is also a brand of secularism and any deterrence to it or even an appeal for a debate on it becomes communal. Not only Mr Fernandes, but Gandhians too have backed the Sangh parivar on the issue of conversion.

The strategic balance achieved by the "RSS-socialists" combine must be understood in the ideological evolution of both the streams. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh rejected the dichotomy between the Left and Right in the Indian context. However, the "cow alliances" which it pursued with parties like the Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad (RRP) and the Swatantra Party in the fifties gave it the image of a Rightist formation.

But things radically changed by the mid-sixties. The BJS refused to merge with the RRP since, "its roots do not lie in the cottage of Swami Karpatrijee (founder of the party) but in the palace of zamindars and Marwaris."

(Panchajanya, January 25, 1953). Moreover, the party expelled 11 legislators who opposed the land reform bill in Rajasthan. Its disapproval of the Masani (Swatantra Party leader) line pursued by one of its founder leaders, Balraj Madhok, on issues like the nationalisation of banks, privy purse and trade union strikes brought it nearer to socialists.

The socialist alliance with the RSS is a logical ideological evolution because the RSS has not been founded on the principles of caste or class. That is why its pracharaks, the epitome of the organisation, are indoctrinated to achieve egalitarianism. The Sangh weltanschauung focuses on an individual's qualities rather than on social or economic status. K.B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, presumably aware of the role of the money bag Hindus, (whom Swami Vivekananda called a "living corpse") in social and political movements, evolved a unique method of Gurudakshina for donations. That is why Deen Dayal Upadhyay said, "It is sheer foolishness to believe that the Sangh aims to perpetuate capitalism or zamindari. Are thousands of educated youths dedicating their lives, leaving their homes and hearth, for a handful of zamindars?"

Socialists reciprocated the RSS' perception on minorities, secularism, the language question, on relations with Pakistan and on the issue of Indian nationality. Ram Manohar Lohia inculcated cultural elements like the Ramayan Mela, in his political programmes.

Jayaprakash Narayan characterised the RSS as "revolutionary" while veteran socialist Achyut Patwardhan said that "there seems to be no ground to sustain the charge that the RSS is opposed to a radical orientation of state policy in matters economic and political. The charge that the RSS is fascist which Indira Gandhi and the CPI had repeated ad nauseam, has recoiled on them with ignominy, and Madhu Limaye does less than justice to his own sagacity in repeating it in the company of the old sinners of the CPI."

Thus George Fernandes is no exception. His actions and perceptions reflect constructive socialist agenda. His formal link with the RSS begins with his meeting with M. S. Golwalkar in 1958. The RSS activities among the tribals has brought him closer to it.

Decades ago, he inaugurated the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram's London branch. Like his predecessors, he too realised the need for a rational outlook towards secularism instead of being guided by vote bank politics. Never perhaps was the metamorphosis so happy. If Prof Shrimali cannot denigrate Lohia, JP and Patwardhan for supporting the RSS, how can he accuse George Fernandes?
 



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