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Modi’s Mentors: Bachubhai Bhagat, the RSS mainstay for five decades

Author: Aakar Patel
Publication: firstpost.com
Date: February 14, 2014
URL: http://www.firstpost.com/blogs/modis-mentors-bachubhai-bhagat-the-rss-mainstay-for-five-decades-1389147.html

In this strange, disjointed profile, Narendra Modi pays homage to the man who for five decades was the mainstay of the RSS in Ahmedabad, Bachubhai Bhagat. Modi indicates Bhagat did not hold any senior office in the Sangh, but was respected enough that two Sarsanghachalaks (Golwalkar and Deoras) came to Ahmedabad for the weddings of his daughter and son.

Modi took charge of the RSS in Ahmedabad—the single most responsive city to Hindutva in India—when only in his early 20s. Bachubhai was the man who helped and perhaps guided him. This is even though, as Modi writes obliquely, he (Modi) was in charge.

One constant in the faith of the Hindus has been the veneration of the Ganga.

Ganga-darshan... Ganga-snan... Ganga-aachman (ceremonial drinking).

Every Indian has this in his heart - in my last moments, let me have a sip of the holy river. How deep this belief is!
 The Ganga is the eternal witness to the ebb and flow of our history and of our progress. It is not new for us to worship this mighty river.

But have you ever thought of the Ganga's ghat? Or read of or even heard of something about this riverbank? It is difficult to think of a poet who has sketched for us the words "Ganga-ghat" and we can go back in time and not find such a reference.

But countless are those who have come to the banks to be blessed by the river, and so:

"They came here to wash their bodies
 They came and cleansed their minds
 Some lit incense, and others a lamp
 Others would have lit up a few lives
 Or rubbed a little sandalwood paste.
 Some rubbed themselves and gave off
 A fragrance of their own to us
 Making this their life's entire work
 And some, like Tulsidas, told us of them."

Witness our mighty cultural inheritance! Is it necessary that the ghat necessarily be near the Ganga?
 In the flow of the Sangh-Ganga in Gujarat, the role of the bank was Bachubhai Bhagat's.

The RSS was not a river, and hardly a stream, when Bachubhai immersed himself into it as a student. Whether the Gujarat Prantpracharak was Madhukkaraoji, Rajpalpuriji or Vakilsaheb Lakshmanrao Inamdar, or indeed someone from contemporary times, the one constant was Bachubhai, trusted by all.

Officially, the Sangh karyalay in Manekchowk (Ahmedabad) was where the action was. But it was really his house which had been the karyalay for years.

One could never witness the ups and downs of Bachubhai or his troubles and pains. He gave the shelter for many Swayamsevaks to experience from his shores the Sangh-Ganga, and from there to progress.

It was inconceivable that he would suggest something to the Sangh and it not be done. Equally, it was true that he never interfered in the Sangh's matters. He only stood by and helped.

It might seem an ordinary thing, this line he drew, separating himself from the Sangh. But consider that fact that he did not cross this Lakshman Rekha for half a century. What control over himself he must have had!

We accept that countless families sacrificed themselves so that the Sangh-Ganga could flow. But if we were to set aside these words and consider what they really mean, the sacrifices will shake us to the core.

The current RSS Sarkaryavah Mohanrao Bhagwatji's father Madhukarrao Bhagwat had come to Gujarat for Sangh work. He was influential in Bachubhai initiation into the RSS, especially after the demise of his father Biharilal, when he was only 19. The RSS so possessed him that he wasn't able to concentrate on the business the father left behind. Two houses of the family in Manekchowk had to be sold. One remained but had to be mortgaged and it was difficult for Bachubhai to study. He quit in the second year of his B.Com. He then got a Government Commercial Diploma and was employed on a salary of Rs 270.

The debt was to be paid off and the family cared for, all in this sum, but his work with the Sangh didn't suffer, nor did anyone learn of his troubles.

Such was the intensity of his devotion that when his father's corpse was still at home, he left, saying "I'm going to pray at the Shakha". And it isn't as if he had this only in his youth. Much later, his wife, an elder sister to all of us in the Sangh, died just before a major RSS conclave. In fact her termu (AP: 13th day observance) was on the day of the meeting. Bachubhai was himself unwell, but he finished the rituals early in the morning and was at the conclave by afternoon. In 60 years, there was not one such meeting that he was absent from.

One hour for the Shakha and 23 hours for the Sangh - this was his mantra, firmly embedded. Professionally, he was a consultant for sales tax and income-tax. There hasn't been a single case where he would have done some "give and take" to wrap up a matter. He was respected by the officers. In one case an officer wrongly showed Rs 46 as unpaid from one of his clients, Tribhovandas Choksi. This is a small sum today of course, but Bachubhai did not accept it. He went into appeal and won the case.

In his student days, he was down with typhoid. In that period, the father of Sanjivanbhai Deodhar, Shri Gajananbhai was very respected in the Sangh. He treated Bachubhai and cared for him.

This affection he passed on to Bachubhai and whenever someone in the Sangh was unwell or in need, Bachubhai's instincts would inevitably awake. He would be at the hospital day and night and there are innumerable instances of this.

Bachubhai always said he had three centres of faith. The first was Guruji Golwalkar, the second was the Karnali Akhada's Mahant Dadaji and the third was Vakilsaheb Lakshmanrao Inamdar. His wife introduced him to the Gita Mandir sect and to Dadaji. It showed Bachubhai's essentially inclusive nature that despite his attachment to the Sangh, he had a warmth for the Gita Mandir. But it isn't as if his faith was blind.

At the weddings of neither his daughter Manda nor his son Kaku was the mahurat observed. The day for Manda's wedding was chosen based on Guruji Golwalkar's schedule. Kaku was married based on Balasaheb Deoras's schedule.

He had only two friends close enough to call him 'Bachu', his first name, Maheshbhai Nanavati and Nanubhai Mehta. In the Sangh, he was close to Keshavrao Deshmukh and Nathabhai Jhagda. These men would always set off to watch movies together. Bachubhai was famed as a carom player in the lawyer's bar.

The Sangh saw many upheavals in his time, whether it was the ban on it (AP: after Gandhi's assassination) or the small and big skirmishes in Ahmedabad. Bachubhai would stand firm through all of this. He wasn't combative as such, but he was resolute. In the Sangh, the details and those who execute them are important, particularly those who look after arrangements.

If there is a person who can be the inspiration for the RSS in Gujarat on this front, it is Bachubhai, who raised the tradition. On Guruji's 50th birthday (AP: in 1956) Bachubhai would have been barely 25 or 30, but he took along some of the gentry and executed his tasks perfectly. Four decades ago, the RSS's headquarters in Gujarat, Hedgewar Bhavan, was set up. If it wasn't for Dr Vanikar's enthusiasm and the execution abilities of Bachubhai, there would be no Hedgewar Bhavan.

All those who have seen the Sangh-Ganga go by over five decades in Gujarat have been touched by Bachubhai.
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