How Sangh shaped BJP’s victory march

For the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) big win is not only a referendum on the saffron party’s performance on national security and on economic and international fronts, but also a sign that its social engineering has been successful in coalescing Hindu votes.

The RSS, the BJP’s ideological parent, has been persistently working behind the scenes to help the party overcome caste-based polarisation that posed a challenge, especially in the Hindi heartland states that contribute a sizeable number of seats to the Lok Sabha.

Senior RSS functionaries said on condition of anonymity people had chosen a government that did not demur from taking decisions on security, policies and international affairs perceived as “drastic”. But it is the BJP’s showing in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, where caste fault lines run deep, that has pleased the Sangh.

The alliance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), relying on the caste calculus in UP, was expected to upset the BJP’s chances. This concern overshadowed all others for the RSS.

“On issues of national security, this government scored well. After the Balakot strikes [on a terror camp in Pakistan], not even China could stand with Pakistan,” said a senior RSS functionary.

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For the RSS, indications that caste-based parties are losing their grip on the electorate have emerged as a high point of the general election.

Manmohan Vaidya, RSS joint general secretary, said, “It was a contest between the idea of Bharat, which is all-inclusive, holistic and integral and the un-Indian school of thought that sees India as several identities and divides society on the basis of caste, religion etc for its personal gains.”

The improvement in the BJP vote share, a functionary said, was vindication of the party’s assertion that it is not anti-minority or against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes as was alleged by the Opposition.

“There was a concerted campaign to drive away the Dalits and the Adivasis (STs) from the BJP, even though they benefitted from the government’s inclusive policies,” a second functionary based in UP said.

Anticipating hiccups in tribal areas, in SC regions and in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP lost the assembly elections in 2018, RSS pulled out all stops to canvass for BJP. It worked to win back tribal votes in MP, where loss of their support was seen to have contributed to BJP’s reverses in the assembly elections.

Its social engineering was seen at play in Rajasthan this year, when it helped woo Gujjar quota protest leader Kirori Singh Bainsla, and in its efforts to engage with the Jats in Haryana where the agitation for Other Backward Class reservations in February 2016 put the BJP government in a precarious position.

The RSS cadre also tried to assuage the upper castes, who were against the ordinance that restored the provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act after the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests under it last year.

“The results are a sign of waning caste-based politics, which is long overdue. It is also a sign that areas traditionally considered fortresses that the BJP could not breach are also looking at the party as an option,” said a third functionary, referring to the southern states.

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According to RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi, India was fortunate to once again have a stable government. “This is the triumph of national forces. Many compliments to each and everyone who has contributed to this victory of democracy,” he said.

“We wish that with the completion of polling process, all bitterness will end and the verdict of the masses is welcomed with humility.”

First Published:
May 24, 2019 07:23 IST

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