IT doesnt take long before public jubilation turns into mass wrath. And, the Sangh parivar knows this only too well. Therefore the cautious but well thought-out moves by the RSS, the mother organisation of the Sangh parivar, to share the credit for the five world-shaking nuclear test explosionsan issue that was long held close to its heartwith its sworn political enemies.
In a rare expression of modesty, Kaushal Kishor, the all India sampark pramukh (in charge of liaison and coordination) of the RSS, told Outlook: "We admit this (the tests) could not have happened in one month. The scientists were asked to do it one month before, and they did it. The credit goes to scientists and previous political leaders."
The main impulse for the new generosity was to bring Opposition leaders within the ambit of any future criticism. The actual fear of the RSS and the BJP is that in case the public sympathy turns into discontentmentas happened with Indira Gandhi in 1974, who faced one of the most powerful mass movements in independent India just after Pokhran Iit would be really dif-ficult to turn the tide. The easiest way to pre-empt such an adverse counter-reaction from the public would be to say that Indias nuclear programme was a continuous process carried out by all previous governments. The Vajpayee government only brought it to its logical fruition.
In the face of economic sanctions and increasing pressures being exerted by the world community, apprehensions are being expressed that India might have to go through a rough patch, resulting in an angry popular movement. It was not without reason that prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee halted all celebrations within hours of the BJP declaring a detailed programme of festivities, including the plan to take (radioactive) dust from the explosion site to all corners of the country. Says Kishor: "That programme highlighted the party, not the nation and only Vajpayee could have stopped it, because he is a swayamsevak of the RSS".
Though the VHP, the aggressive face of the parivar, has declared its intention to construct a shakti peeth in Pokhran symbolising Indias might, the top RSS brass is not too happy about it. Said H.V. Sheshadri, sarkaryavah (general secretary) of the RSS: "There are different tendencies in society...its not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Its not that I am supporting the VHP, but it has never been said that shakti peeth will be a temple with idols etc."
The reluctance of the RSS can be understood by the lacklustre celebrations organised at different places by its front organisations like the ABVP. "The celebrations here were without any zeal and enthusiasm," said a young swayamsevak who had come to attend the third year Officers Training Camp (OTC) organised by the RSS in Nagpur. The camp is being attended by 1,036 senior swayamsevaks from all over the country.
However, the Sangh parivar realises that the nuclear explosions can be helpful in successfully diverting public attention from its shortcomingsinfighting in the BJPs Uttar Pradesh unit or its appeasing ever-sulking coalition partners at the Centre, to name a fewat least for a short period. But translating the euphoria into popular vote is an entirely different political ball game.
Not that the RSS wants to wash its hands of the nuclear test explosions. Speakers at the Sangh Siksha Varg are drawing parallels between Indias nuclear arsenal and astra-shastras carried by Hindu devi-devatas. Addressing the swayamsevaks, Lakshman Pardikar, sankaryavah of Vidarbh prant, said: "When Ram carries bow and arrows or when Lord Krishna holds the sudarshan chakra, it is used only for the welfare of humanity".
AN unmistakable aggressiveness is more than clear in the attitude of the Sangh parivar even as it seeks to underplay the euphoria over the nuclear explosion. As is self-evident in Sheshadris pronouncements on Pak-occupied Kashmir (POK). "If the BJP government takes any action it will have the mandate of Parliament," he says. (See interview) In fact, an all-party resolution adopted by Parliament in 1994, on the initiative of Atal Behari Vajpayee, has provided solid ground for Sangh parivars latest posture. The resolution called for the accomplishment of the "unfinished task" of taking back POKthe lost territory.
And the RSS is in deadly earnest about the resolution. Says Kishor: "We took it seriously, the day it was adopted. And we will continue to take it seriously".