Saturday, 14 September 2019

2019 general elections: The victory of an ideological vision

(This article was first published in Seminar journal) 

The Indian general elections of 2014 spelled a resounding shift in the power dynamics of the country with a decisive win for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled his vision and party’s mission for a New India over those five years. The BJP, with a confident leader and successful track record, went to the 2019 elections for continuity of this vision and mission. The election of 2019 was a battle of two ideas of India – one championed by Modi and the BJP, and the other by Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Various facets of these two narratives and the reasons why voters had invested heavily in one while rejecting the other, makes an interesting lens to look through to understand India’s current political landscape.
In the run-up to the 2019 elections, two clear narratives had emerged. On one side was the Congress-led coalition of forces who opposed Modi on all counts, claiming that he was inimical to the democratic ethos of the country. On the other hand, the BJP supporters campaigned on the strength of Modi’s personal integrity that had remained untarnished, and that he had succeeded in pushing the growth agenda while constantly identifying with the masses.

Decoding the ‘Sewa’ Dimension of RSS

(This article was first published in Organiser)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is more than just an ideology, it is a methodology,” said RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat while addressing a three-day lecture series at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi in 2018. With the BJP emerging as the biggest political party of the country and resolutely occupying power in states and the Centre, the RSS itself has come under considerable spotlight. It can be safely said that RSS today is no longer an alternative discourse, it is, in fact, the main discourse of the country. With millions of ‘swayamsevaks’ involved in voluntary work across the country and overseas, it has also become the subject of curiosity, conjecture and myth.

Going back to the early years of RSS, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had labelled the RSS as a communal organisation as early as in 1946. Nehru later ruled the country for 17 years and left behind a legacy of Nehruvian ideology, which talked about secular nationalism, non-alignment and Socialism. This Nehruvian ideology brought greater acceptance to the idea that RSS was a communal organisation. As a result, the RSS came to be seen within an insulated secular-communal framework and no need was felt to go beyond that understanding. No critical approach was developed or empirical studies were conducted on the works of the RSS other than in the pre-fixed context of secular-communal dualities. Barring the work of rare academics like Walter Anderson and Pralay Kanungo, no serious attempts were made to develop an understanding of the work and approach of the RSS based on academic enquiry and data. The subject was always approached with narrow pre-arrived conclusions on the ideas of RSS and Hindu Rashtra. The outcome was that RSS was labelled as a radical ‘Hindu Right-Wing’ organisation with ‘Fascist’ objectives and all views were restricted to this narrow typecast setting.