A debate has been sparked off by Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s assertion last week that the construction of a
Ram temple at Ayodhya where the Babri mosque once stood was the "expression
of national sentiment which remains unfinished". While some political
pundits have read this statement as an appeasing gesture to the ‘hawks’ of
the Sangh parivar, others — particularly the intelligentsia from the Left —
have questioned Vajpayee’s credentials as a ‘moderate’.
‘secularist’ strategy to rein in and ruin the RSS and its affiliates by
drawing a line between Vajpayee and the RSS has proved to be a failure. Vajpayee
has been the best communicator the parivar has ever produced. He has been
groomed in the Sangh shakha, spent his days as Sangh Pracharak and edited the
RSS mouthpieces, Panchajanya, Rashtra Dharma and Swadesh. Sangh ideology has
never been a dilemma for him.
When in 1978 he
suggested in an article that the term ‘Hindu Rashtra’ be replaced by
‘Bharatiya Rashtra’, it was presumed that he was departing from the
traditional RSS line. The inference made by ‘secularists’ was based on their
little knowledge of Sangh dynamics. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak, Balasaheb
Deoras, initiated a debate on the change of term within the Sangh itself even
before Vajpayee wrote the article. The Sangh treats both terms as
interchangeable and synonymous.
A popular story
which has been transmitted in the shakhas for decades is RSS founder
Hedgewar’s disapproval of naming a colony in Mumbai ‘Hindu colony’. And
one must remember that he preferred the term ‘Rashtriya’ instead of
‘Hindu’ when it came to naming the sangh after its formation. It is also an
incontrovertible fact that there exists a symbiotic relationship between
Vajpayee and the RSS. He has played an important role in the evolution of the
Congress culture, in which organisational discipline precedes ideological
discipline, the RSS gives paramount importance to ‘ideological purity’. A
movement’s impact and durability depends on its ideological commitment and its
capacity to augur changes. To be a part of the saffron movement, one does not
necessarily have to be a part of any organisational mechanism. What is mandatory
is the ideological discipline.
want to treat Vajpayee as a ‘secularist with a saffron tilt’. It suits their
hypothesis that RSS shakhas are breeding grounds for Godses and Dara Singhs.
These self-proclaimed ‘secularists’ unhesitatingly cooperated with Pakistan
against the VHP’s claim for an NGO status. While in the past, an anti-RSS
campaign was confined to only India, now the movement has spread to other parts
of the world. It is such propaganda which led Singapore’s former Prime
Minister Lee Kuan Yew to believe that India is now less secular than it was in
his political activism as a chosen messenger of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee when the
latter entered the prohibited land of Jammu and Kashmir to spread his message.
He stoutly confronted the dual membership issue during the Janata regime in
1978-79. His exhortation for a debate on conversion and reinforcement that the
RSS is a cultural organisation were responded in a strident manner by
Vajpayee described himself as a swayamsevak during his visit to the United
States, he didn’t reveal anything new about his life. It was only an attempt
to squelch secularist propaganda against him. Before embarking on his American
tour, Vajpayee — along with Home Minister L.K. Advani and others — attended
the gurudakshina function of the RSS in New Delhi. It is considered one of the
most important programmes of the sangh where every swayamsevak reaffirms his
loyalty and oath before the orchid flag. Thus, Vajpayee has repeatedly
proclaimed his association with the RSS loud and clear.
Fear of the
Muslim vote bank reacting against the NDA Government is regularly used by the
leaders of the invisible Third Front to blackmail the allies of the BJP-led
Government. The BJP must stand up to what it believes. It is not a
‘post-ideological’ phenomenon that it practises. It largely believes in the
ideological formations of Hedgewar-Golwalkar. The present chant of
‘secularism’ is not only hypocritical but also arises out of pure cynical
opportunism with both eyes on the vote bank.
says that there is a consensus for a Ram temple at Ayodhya, one recalls the
reconstruction of the Somnath temple in 1950-51. The task was completed with
active cooperation from the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad, the then
Home Minister, Sardar Patel, and K.M.Munshi. The work on Somnath was carried out
during the Congress regime. It does not mean in any way that the Government of
the time was keen on a showdown with the Muslim community.
undertaken at Somnath needs to be repeated at Ayodhya. A single gesture from the
Muslims will unravel a new era in Indian politics and culture.
Vajpayee’s differences over the 1990 rath yatra did not deter him from the
real issues at stake. In an interview with Gentleman magazine (February,
1991), he frankly stated: "It is important that the temple should come up.
It is a vow which is all the more important because there was a temple which was
destroyed and a mosque was built in the place of the temple. So if we want
Hindu-Muslim unity, then these irritants have to be removed."
No need for any
semantic investigation here.