The RSS, or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is the new reality in Indian politics. The organisation that used to remain in the shadows is now in the open. It is a well-known fact that the body that used to claim to be cultural organisation with no political ambitions is responsible for the growth and sustenance of a new brand of aggressive right-wing politics in India.
Although RSS as an entity was born before Independence, its political appeal remained untested. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the early 1990s brought it to the centre-stage. But the outfit continued to stay in the background and the movement was fronted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP. Similarly various other agitations, movements, campaigns and social activities were led by various RSS outfits with one single objective: promoting the appeal of Hindutva.
Following the stunning victory of BJP in the parliamentary elections of 2014 and its repeat performance in 2019, the RSS no longer hides under a ‘mukhota’, or mask. The organisation, its leaders and activities are now in the open. Though the growth of the RSS and its political outfit, the BJP, is stunning, there are very few independent studies available on the organisation.
Professor Badri Narayan, a social scientist who has been tracking the RSS and its activities, believes that the organisation has completely transformed. He says what we are seeing today is a ‘New RSS’ whose ethos remains the same but workings have changed. He says a large section of the political class, intellectuals and analysts have not understood the power of the organisation.
In a recent book, Republic of Hindutva, he says the RSS has already transformed the nature of Indian politics. According to him, while the RSS over the decades laid the path for Hindutva, it is the BJP that has reaped its benefits. BJP leaders, he says, now need not make any major efforts to polarise the population. In his view a large section of India’s population is already polarised to such an extent that the BJP simply has to press a few buttons here and there to make it work.
Badri Narayan says the RSS has created a new ‘Hindutva Common Sense’, which has made the politics of Muslim ‘appeasement’ irrelevant. The nature of politics, he says, has already shifted to such an extent that leaders propagating secular politics are forced to visit temples and celebrate Hindu identities before they start their election campaigns.
Badri Narayan does agree though that the RSS is changing fast and has to face many challenges and contradictions that are inherent in Indian politics. The book, while examining the RSS, discusses caste politics, social engineering and its electoral fallouts in contemporary India.
Watch the full interview below: