How the BJP chief got caught in the crosshairs
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, it is said, has a “twice-born” link over the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Since the party’s inception in 1980, he’s the first president of the rss’s political wing who’s also a Maharashtrian Brahmin. The portly, embattled politician and Purti Group boss from Nagpur is, both literally and metaphorically, “family” for the whole-timers at the Sangh headquarters. Same caste, clan, community, city, ideology. Which is why the RSS top leadership is defending their boy every step of the way, even taking on powerful leaders in the BJP in the process. As a BJP insider quips, “The local boy from Nagpur has kept up a regular supply of kachoris and mithais to the bachelor old-timers in the Sangh. Gadkari is like a son to some of them.”
The RSS, founded by K.B. Hedgewar on Vijayadashami day in 1925, predates the BJP by some 55 years. The Sangh expanded and grew in organisational depth under the leadership of M.S. Golwalkar (1940-’73). Both Hedgewar and Golwalkar were Maharashtrian Brahmins. In the RSS, the sarsanghchalak is all supreme, often holding office for decades. Of the seven sarsanghchalaks so far, six have come from Brahmin families, and five of them have been Maharashtrian Brahmins. Outside the formal structure of the RSS stands Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, never part of the organisation but who played a most significant part in shaping the Hindu right ideology. Predictably, he too was a Maharashtrian Brahmin.
The current sarsanghchalak, Mohan Rao Bhagwat, took over in 2009 after two consecutive chiefs who were not Maharashtrian Brahmins (Rajendra Singh, a Thakur from Uttar Pradesh, held the reins from 1993-2000—right after the leadership of Balasaheb Deoras who led the Sangh for 20 years and promoted social engineering for political growth—and K.S. Sudarshan (2000-09), a Kannadiga Brahmin who many say has been the most lightweight of the Sangh chiefs). In Bhagwat’s ascendancy, the Maharashtrian Brahmin has returned to the top of the parivar’s pyramid. Naturally, members of the organisation deny this: RSS akhil Bharatiya sah-sampark pramukh Arun Kumar explains it away, saying “the RSS was founded in Maharashtra. Work started there, especially from Nagpur. People from the state went to work in other states. So naturally our first generation faces were dominated by those from the state. Some of them might be from the Brahmin community but it was never in our mind to give prominence to a particular caste. We still choose our leaders on the basis of their work and performance.”
Hedgewar, Golwalkar (centre) in 1939
Be that as it may, the fact is that the Maharashtrian Brahmin reigns supreme in the backwaters of the Sangh. And the tale of this community in the parivar has interesting subplots. The No. 2 in the Sangh today is Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi, again a Maharashtrian Brahmin as is Sanjay Joshi, the former BJP organisation secretary who was trapped in a sex scandal in 2005 (and who president Gadkari tried to rehabilitate in the party). So is M.G. Vaidya, former RSS spokesperson and ideologue.
Consider the caste dynamic in the recent past and it certainly shows that it impacts inter-personal relations today. In May this year, an attempt was made to rehabilitate Sanjay Joshi. But Gujarat CM Narendra Modi put his foot down, not even attending the Mumbai national executive of the BJP till Joshi had left the venue. As a BJP leader says, “These are things we don’t talk about publicly but Modi has consistently put the Brahmins in their place.” To add insult to injury is the fact that Modi is an OBC, belonging to the Ghanchi community in Gujarat which would be equivalent to the Telis of north India. In other words, Sanjay Joshi, Bhagwat, Gadkari, all twice-borns from Maharashtra, have had to succumb to the will of an OBC!
So it’s no surprise that the Brahmins are seeing a grand design against them. Perhaps why M.G. Vaidya, unable to keep his suspicions to himself, went public with his charge. He wrote in a blog last week that he detected the hand of Modi behind the charges against Gadkari being played out. Sources say Modi was furious and called up the entire BJP top leadership to instruct them to show absolutely no ambiguity in distancing the party from the statement. It is said that himself being a product of the RSS, Modi knows how the Brahmin network operates, is impatient with them and sees them as a hindrance in his path.
Incidentally, there is an old history to these inner parivar caste tensions. In the ’90s, as part of its social engineering experiment, the BJP made real efforts to promote two OBC leaders, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati. Both emerged as strong OBC advocates of the Ram mandir movement that was a counter to the emergence of the lower castes post-Mandal. Both, however, fell out with the top leadership and at various times even accused the BJP of being managed by upper castes. Uma attacked Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Atal Behari Vajpayee (all Brahmins) and later even L.K. Advani. Kalyan had an public falling out with Vajpayee, openly calling him a symbol of Brahminical domination. Ironically, it was said in those days that Vajpayee endured even while taking on the Sangh because he was the “superior Brahmin”, master of the art of ambiguity. Similarly, it was also said that Advani could not become PM “because he was a Sindhi and not a Brahmin like Vajpayee”.
Add to the tale of Brahmins and Maharashtrian Brahmins the subplots orchestrated by the Tamil Brahmins. K. Govindacharya was once the architect of the BJP’s social engineering project, but then fell out with Vajpayee and landed out of politics. S. Gurumurthy, the chartered accountant (in whose house in Chennai Govindacharya lived), has been the brain behind so many political manoeuvres. He is currently assisting the men from Maharashtra in giving a clean chit to Gadkari. But they may all find that the power hierarchy has temporarily shifted, that a Gujju OBC is stealing their thunder. But they must keep their faith, manoeuvre and pull strings to still be in charge of the affairs of their universe.
By Saba Naqvi with Panini Anand
There is a tinge of distaste for the Brahmin order in the article A Thread That Holds (Nov 26), especially regarding the Marathi Brahmins. This is not an objective lens to view any community with. This is not to say that Gadkari should not be allowed to continue; far from it, he should be held accountable by the BJP itself.
Why drag caste and religion into politics? I haven’t read any article blaming former cji K.G. Balakrishnan’s Dalit status for what he did, or the dmk boys’ obc status for their 2G antics.
P.B. Joshipura, Virginia, US
It’s amazing how Brahmins are being credited with engineering the downfall of anyone deemed a threat to their superiority. If true, I’d say the community is really smart.
The RSS/BJP is of the Brahmins, by the Brahmins and for the Brahmins. My regard for Narendra Modi has gone up a notch since he showed the higher-ups their place.
Sanket Biswas, Calcutta
I can’t remember any non-Brahmin PM other than Manmohan Singh that the secular, progressive Congress has given the country.
Abhijit Kane, Mumbai
It’s quite ironic that those who oppose the caste system the most are the ones who keep harping about it.
And this is the same BJP which stalled Parliament all of last session protesting the corruption charges against the upa.
Maansi Pandey, Bangalore
#39 Just Joking
Have a look at www.gandhitopia.org/profiles/blogs/could-gandhi-be-saved-rss
I am not a fan of the RSS because they are a bit too conservative and stuck in the last century but this 'The RSS killed Gandhi' line of thinking is a bit much.
//...RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organization as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS...
—Kapur Commission Report//
The RSS was acquitted after being put on trial.
AB Vajpayee is also an ex-RSS worker.Even the Marxists didn't mind Vajpayee.
Dr.Ambedkar was happy and surprised to see no untouchability being practised in the RSS quarters.
And I know people who were helped by the RSS when no one else & esp the government weren't willing to help.And the RSS didn't ask these poor people to convert to Hinduism either!!
The R. S. S. is perceived to be atheistic, apparently. They do worship Mother India, so does everyone. I meant to say, they are Hindu's, orthodox, and they are not an organisation which the Congress finds incredible. I respect them, for what they represent to themselves, and to what they want to represent to their nation. They are decidedly atheist, perhaps, unusual in a city where their community is known to be devout followers of a deity. I relate to everyone, in perception. We do know, that a certain person was the cause of Mahatma Gandhi's death, and what is deeply wounding is, I cannot fathom, why the R. S. S. is communal, while the people who caused the death of Rajiv Gandhi, they might not be identified by a certain organisation, and the same are seen as being worthy of understanding and compassion. Indeed they are, and in Pune, where the family of Nathuram Godse live, it seems, they are not happy. It would have been more appropriate, for the mentioned family to have also felt like the killers of Rajiv Gandhi felt, before their execution. The question is, what does the govt. represent? The B. J. P. is not the R. S. S. People are saying that the Congress is anti-India, or the ministers are taking decisions which people object to vehemently. And, if Rajiv Gandhi's killers were pardoned, why could Kasab not be sent back to Pakistan? It is extremely reasonable, because Kasab would be in his nation, and it is believing in what is bad, to say that his people would look at him with more or less understanding than Indian's, if he were to return to India, rather than Pakistan.
>>there has to be “a certain level of literacy to understand the ideology of Marxism and socialism”
why not add property ownership also as a requirement for being the responsible citizen?
Oops, communists just hug each other and money falls out of the book-shelves.
What is on Bardhan's reading list?
Das Capital and Communist Manifesto
Gulag: A History
Let me check with Soviets. They are voting for illiteracy. They can always point to the menu for ordering the their Big Mac.
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