The cracks within
The recent removal of the Goa RSS leader was followed by the unusual development of a spate of resignations by his followers. What was ostensibly done to save the state BJP from embarrassment months ahead of elections, might just have an unexpected political fall-out.
It is a little hard to believe that there can be a revolt of sorts in an organisation like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the mother organisation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which runs the federal government in India.
The decision of the RSS to sack its stalwart in the western state of Goa, famous for its beaches, has sent shock waves across its affiliated organisations and supporters. Subhash Velingkar was by no means an ordinary office bearer of the RSS in a state unit.
Velingkar’s importance can be gauged from the fact that his list of protégés include the country’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, among others. He was, until differences cropped up, an advisor to Parrikar when he was the chief minister of the state.
It is not an everyday occurrence in an organisation like the RSS that a leader’s removal is followed by the resignation of 300 members who are upset with the diktat of the central leadership.
Their response was largely because Velingkar was the man who built the RSS in the state from scratch, which later led to the growth of the BJP to the point of it forming a government. The RSS is, to the uninitiated, a highly disciplined organisation that believes in Hindu discipline and culture.
The organisation has never hesitated to remove the best of organisers from positions of leadership and dump them in the doghouse, so to speak. Like a couple of years ago, the organisation removed a man who was next in line for the top-most post because he had a relationship with a woman.
The organisation believes that only a celibate should hold the post. Surprisingly, there were no resignations because the office-bearer had crossed the so-called ‘moral barrier’. But, in the case of Velingkar, the situation is quite different.
Velingkar formed a forum five years ago to fight for a change in the policy of medium of instruction in primary schools. The agenda was to ensure that government grants for schools which provided education with English as the medium of instruction should be stopped in favour of regional languages. It was based on the belief that only schools run by the Church became eligible for this facility.
The forum, obviously, did not see the point that the students going to such schools were overwhelmingly non-Christians. To oppose this policy of the then Congress party government, the forum received support from the state BJP, then led by Parrikar.
Sooner than later, the BJP representatives realised that elections were approaching and it was politically prudent to tone down the protest. The move fetched results for the BJP. For the first time, the BJP won seats in the Christian dominated areas which gave them the edge to form the government.
But Velingkar continued to fight for his cause even after the BJP came, obviously, to the point of embarrassing the government. That called for his removal. Velingkar is smart enough to say that the forum will continue to fight for its cause but the old loyalist will report directly to Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS.
His actions are bound to embarrass the BJP more because he does not want to change his stand until the assembly elections due early next year. The impact of his actions are bound to be felt by the BJP though a lot would depend upon how well the Congress, the main opposition party, will exploit the situation.
Interestingly, the problems that the BJP faces in Goa are not very different from what the party has faced in the past in a state like Karnataka when it was in power.
The party government, the first-ever to be formed in south India, was hauled over the coals by the opposition because one arm of the Hindutva brigade nurtured by the mother organisation had attacked women in a pub and young people on Valentine’s Day and another organisation attacked Catholic churches.
Conflict of interest among various fraternal members may not be uncommon, but within the Hindutva family, that too, headed by the RSS, is rather strange. It impacts social harmony as much as the political fortunes of its own fraternal organisation, the BJP. Riding a tiger is one thing but getting off does not seem to be easy.
PM as brand ambassador?
These appear to be trend setting times. And, it is not only the young who appear to be creating waves. A conglomerate has set a new trend by virtually making the Prime Minister of the country the brand ambassador of its telecom venture.
At least that is how an advertisement of the company announced its new ‘free calls, pay only for data’ plan the other day on the front page advertisement jacket of major newspapers. Of course, the company chairman had made the announcement at the launch event that the company was dedicating its product to the Digital India plan that had been initiated by the Prime Minister.
Dedicating a product in a speech is one thing but making the Prime Minister the face of the product is quite something else. It is well known that the company chairman is close to the Prime Minister. So close that he is the only person in the last two years or so to put his arm, like a school pal would, around Modi’s shoulders at a televised public event held some time ago.
This is normally not done even by politicians, however, close they may be to the person in the seat of power. It is more out of respect to the position that the person holds than anything else. But the richest man in the country, obviously, thinks otherwise.
India, like a good erstwhile colony of the British empire, has a law to prevent improper use of names and emblems. The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, sets conditions under which official emblems and names can be used by a private individual for business. Companies, normally, do take prior permission before using the photographs of people holding power.
It is quite possible that there has been some exchange of communication between the company and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the latest instance, too.
Perhaps, that is why there has been no denial of reports in the media by the PMO. The question that remains to be seen is what the government would do if other companies whose chairmen are not on friendly terms with the Prime Minister seek to carry his photograph by dedicating their product in his name. Will it then call it improper?
Mother Teresa was named Saint Teresa of Calcutta by the Roman Catholic Church several years after she was described as a saint by the people of India. Perhaps, none of her predecessors from India faced so much criticism on being canonised as she has.
It could well be because she was a public figure of recent times and people saw her work during an era when information became power. But an anecdote narrated by her biographer and former Chief Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla is quite interesting.
He had once asked Jyoti Basu, the longest serving Communist chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal, as to why he supported Mother Teresa’s work despite criticism from his own party workers as well.
Basu is said to have told Chawla that his party workers also wanted him to stop supporting her. So the grand old Communist leader told them he will stop supporting her the day he finds them ‘cleaning the wounds of the leprosy patients daily’ as Mother Teresa did and her Missionaries of Charity continue to do.
[The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Muscat Daily or Apex Press & Publishing]