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PLATFORM: Ideologically secure
Rakesh Sinha  

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’.

The ‘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 RSS ideology.

Unlike 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.

Secularists 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 the past.

Vajpayee began 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 ‘secularists’.

And when 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.

When Vajpayee 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.

The exercise 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.

Finally, 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.



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