The nation faces severe threats from within and without. There will be no nation left if ‘good Indians’ fail in their patriotic duty of voting for Modi and the BJP. That’s the spin the RSS has given volunteers and pracharaks deployed in Bihar, UP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and even in regions where they have negligible presence, like the Northeast. “Their attempts to make inroads into the tea gardens and tribal areas are quite visible,” says Sandhya Goswami, professor of political science, Gauhati University.
As the mother organisation, the RSS has always lent volunteers to the BJP during election time. A few pracharaks sent on deputation would even contest. But never has the organisation pulled out all the stops like it has done for General Elections 2014. “The RSS has shrunk vertically during the last few decades but has grown horizontally,” claims an old Sangh hand. He went on to elaborate that the calibre, intellectual and moral fibre of the people inducted into the RSS have declined markedly over the years. There is a problem of leadership, he concedes.
But also during this period, the RSS has made inroads into virtually every section of society, carving out a niche among government employees, policemen, ex-servicemen, farmers and so on. Today, there are over 60 different organisations, including a few mainstream ones, in which RSS pracharaks have a major say. Which is why the RSS was confident of its ability to deploy this election. It’s already formed its own booth committees, while also election-managing certain constituencies. Pracharaks were told to coordinate with the respective BJP organising secretaries and the ‘financiers’—representatives of the business/industrial houses.
This is a far cry from a similar situation in 1999 when the pracharaks had virtually revolted after a similar deployment. The usually austere pracharaks were shocked when they were asked to arrange cash and liquor for distribution in constituencies before polling day. They initially refused and also complained about the “rude and corrupt” BJP leaders ordering them around. But Nagpur seemingly put its foot down. Pracharaks were firmly told that it was not their job to evaluate candidates or BJP workers. They were even asked to visit the houses of BJP workers they had differences with, share meals with them, all for the sake of unity in election season. The pracharaks fell in line but they made no secret of their revulsion at the review meetings held post-elections. Which is why the BJP had to almost totally take over election management in ’04 and ’09.
This time, though, the RSS big bosses are in no mood to brook any disobedience. The organisation will take stock of the situation after the election but right now it is single-mindedly pursuing ‘Mission 272’ so that the BJP gets as close as possible to the magic halfway mark in the Lok Sabha. Unlike in the past two elections, the RSS makes no secret that it is in charge this time. Says a Lucknow-based journalist, “Every day some 10-20 mails pour in from RSS and BJP affiliates with either comments or with reports and photographs of protests or other electoral events they have organised. The fact that there are people monitoring the news, reading newspapers, taking the trouble of formulating the response has the imprint of the RSS written all over.” In sharp contrast, BJP leaders and ticket aspirants continue to bitch behind closed doors, trying to cut each other to size, she points out. The RSS old hand echoes those sentiments. “It’s all very fine for the RSS to deploy its army of volunteers and workers to pick the harvest. But it is the BJP which has to sow the seeds first. If the party nominees sow the wrong seeds, what will happen to the harvest,” he wonders aloud.