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Is Mohan Bhagwat drifting away from BJP?

Arti Ghargi

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Mohan Bhagwat

While BJP and PM Modi are talking of decimating the opposition completely, the RSS chief seems to be in sharp contrast with it. Instead, almost surprisingly, Mohan Bhagwat categorically talks about “not excluding” anyone.

In 2013, standing on the dais in Pune at BJP’s public meeting, Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi gave a call for “Congress-mukt Bharat”. Thereafter, it became BJP’s war cry for 2014 General Elections which continues even today. However, five-years later head of BJP’s ideological mentor RSS has come out and has openly said that “Congress-mukt Bharat” is merely a political slogan. Considering the respect that RSS commands in BJP, the statement definitely indicates the changing winds in the RSS-BJP relationship.

Speaking at a book launch event in Pune on April 1, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said, “Congress-mukt Bharat is merely a political slogan. It is not the language of RSS.” Underlining the inclusiveness of RSS, Bhagwat even said that RSS does not believe in such political slogans which talk about excluding anyone.

The comments made by RSS chief have come in the wake of several comments made by the BJP top leadership which often refers to the “Congress-mukt Bharat” including Prime minister Modi himself.

So, Mohan Bhagwat talking of not muzzling opposition voices comes as a stark contradiction with what BJP leaders talk about. So, let us first analyse the statements of RSS chief:

“These [phrases like Congress-mukt Bharat] are political slogans… it is not in the parlance of the RSS. The word ‘mukt’ is used in politics and not part of the Sangh’s lexicon. We never use the language of excluding anyone.”

BJP’s rigorous campaign launched in 2013 was constructed around the slogan “Congress-mukt Bharat”. The campaign that led the BJP to emerge victorious with a massive margin. However, the “Congress-mukt Bharat” didn’t stop there. PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah made sure to invoke the slogan in subsequent state elections as well. Recently, Prime Minister Modi at a rally in Karnataka said, “The BJP will definitely ensure a Congress Mukt Karnataka. We do not want the Congress culture to exist in the nation.” On February 7, replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Modi said, “Congress Mukt Bharat is Gandhi’s dream. We are trying to follow the path shown by him.”

While BJP and PM Modi are talking of decimating the opposition completely, the RSS chief seems to be in sharp contrast with it. Instead, almost surprisingly, Mohan Bhagwat categorically talks about “not excluding” anyone. This might as well indicate the willingness of RSS to work with Congress if need be.

Mohan Bhagwat

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“Nation-building cannot be the work of one man. It has to be inclusive, requiring the contributions of both the ruling and the Opposition parties.”

In what can be called as a veiled dig at the ruling BJP and PM Modi who often talk about Congress having done nothing in the 60 years of rule, Bhagwat stresses on the importance of both ruling and opposition parties working together.

It can also be seen in the context of the recent logjam in the parliament. The parliament couldn’t function as the ruling party was at loggerheads with the opposition. While the ruling party blamed it on opposition; opposition almost unanimously said that the Modi government never reached out to the opposition parties.

The statement might as well be seen as a warning in the wake of Telugu Desam Party- NDA’s most trusted ally since the Vajpayee era, exiting the coalition while Shivsena-another long-term ally has announced its plan of fighting the 2019 elections separately. The cracks in NDA are now visible more than ever. We have explained how Modi-Shah duo is at the centre of this discontent among the allies in our article Was BJP fair to NDA?

 

Mohan Bhagwat

Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee always reached out to the opposition

Mohan Bhagwat

…and so did Indira Gandhi

“We have to take everyone along in the process of nation-building even if our thoughts do not agree. We need persons with a positive approach to bring about change, else we will fall prey to conflicts and divisions.”

In a defining statement, he further underlines why despite differences, the ruling party must take opposition along with them. In light of the several incidents of violence on religious and caste lines, Bhagwat’s next statement comes as an unambiguous dig at the leadership of PM Modi. Bhagwat said that those with a negative approach would think only of conflicts and divisions. “Such a person is not at all useful in the process of nation-building,” he said.

The conflicts arising in the society followed by communal and caste violence have shaken the country. Recently, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan witnessed communal clashes during Ram Navami while Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP witnessed caste clashes during the Bharat Bandh protest called by Dalit organization over SC/ST act amendment. Prime minister’s Modi’s silence on these issues drew criticism from all over the country. Was the statement by Bhagwat a subtle dig at Modi’s leadership? Seems so.

Currently, Mohan Bhagwat-the Sarsanghchalak is considered the most powerful extra-constitutional body as it is the mentor of world’s largest political party and has its disciples in Modi’s cabinet. Most of the BJP MPs, MLAs and Chief ministers are from RSS background. Even Prime Minister Modi himself was associated with RSS before turning to active politics. Thus, Bhagwat’s statements send open signals that everything is not well with the BJP and RSS.

Mohan Bhagwat

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Is Mohan Bhagwat distancing the RSS from BJP?
Though the RSS-BJP bond is said to be strengthened due to the quartet of Modi-Shah-Mohan Bhagwat and Joshi, we cannot forget that after Modi’s win in 2014, it was Bhagwat who told the RSS members that it is not their job to hail Modi.

The core problem here lies in PM Modi’s autocratic way of running the government. The government’s lack of willingness to build a constructive dialogue with the opposition is visible from the way BJP spokesperson deride opposition spokesperson. The likes of Sambit Patra, Smriti Irani have the least regards for opposition participation and often indulge in ridiculing the opposition. RSS, on the other hand, set an example by supporting Indira Gandhi government during 1971 Bangladesh War despite the opposing ideologies.

Mohan Bhagwat

Image source: Web

Demonetization and GST:

While BJP is political organization that works on a macro level, RSS is a cultural organization that works with ground-level people. The branches of RSS have spread across the country and many grass-root workers are connected to it. Maybe that is the reason why the RSS understands the mood of discontent among people against the Modi government. While the BJP leaders hailed Demonetization and GST as a major success, the RSS wings working for farmers and labourers had a different view.

The RSS has organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and the Laghu Udyog Bharati (LUB) which mainly fight for or the SMSEs and agro sector, it also had Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh-the Sangh affiliated labour union, has been fighting against the government’s alleged ‘anti-labour’ policies. These RSS-affiliated groups are also critical of Modi’s economic policies including FDI and import of Chinese goods.

Mohan Bhagwat

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Stalling Hosabale’s elevation in RSS ranks:

On March 10, during the annual meeting of RSS, it was declared that Bhaiyaji Joshi will be retaining the post of General Secretary of RSS for the fourth time. This put a stop to speculations that Dattatreya Hosabale would be elevated to the position of sah-sarkaryavahak. It is believed that the step was taken to prevent RSS from being completely BJP-centric. This was for the second time that the elevation of Hosabale who is said to be very close to PM Modi was pushed back.

The move might also implicate that the RSS does not want to lose the ideological command it has over BJP. Hosabale’s elevation may have threatened the distinction policy echoed time and again by Mohan Bhagwat. Like the allies who have quit the NDA, RSS too might be fearing that the dominating duo of Modi-shah will consume the organization.

Mohan Bhagwat

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The statements of Sarsanghchalak may also be the warning signs for BJP ahead of 2019. The BJP knows very well that it has lost a considerable amount of clout and believing that the party will win more seats than it did in 2014, is nothing but daydreaming. The Modi-Shah duo knows that it is the RSS grass-root workers who can help the party mobilise the masses in its favour. Thus, it wouldn’t be wise to upset the RSS leadership.

The RSS, during 2014 worked shouldering with the BJP to ensure its victory. However, Mohan Bhagwat seems to be more cautious with Modi’s BJP this time.

 

Opinion

RSS conclave: Did Mohan Bhagwat take a sly dig at PM Modi?

Arti Ghargi

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In those 80 minutes of speech, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat stumped the critiques and supporters an equal number of times.

 

If yesterday’s speech of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is to be described with a phrase, it has to be a “package of surprises”. After all the antagonism and vilification thrown out at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh– the ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP, by (yet to be) united opposition, the RSS presented itself as an all-embracing, truly democratic organization. In those 80 minutes of speech, the sarsanghchalak stumped the critiques and supporters an equal number of times.

“Congress played a big role in the freedom movement and gave India many great personalities,” Mohan Bhagwat said. This comes at a time when Congress has frequently questioned RSS/BJP’s contribution in the freedom movement. On the other hand, the ruling BJP had time and again invoked Congress’ contribution in the last 70 years of independence.

Mohan Bhagwat

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The first speech at the 3-day event titled “Bhavishya ka Bharat-an RSS Perspective” seemed like an attempt by the organization to clear the alleged misconceptions about it from the minds of people. Bhagwat further made a statement on the topic of diversity. “India’s diversity must be respected, celebrated and it should not be a reason for any discord in society,” the RSS chief said. The organization has been time and again accused of causing disharmony in the Indian society by furthering the Hindutva agenda.

Calling the organization democratic, the Sarsanghchalak reiterated that the organization believes in “Yukt Bharat, not mukt” (inclusion not an exclusion). This is the second time that the RSS chief has re-established this. Earlier, at a book launch event in Pune on April 1, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had said, “Congress-mukt Bharat is merely a political slogan. It is not the language of RSS.” Underlining the inclusiveness of RSS, Bhagwat had even said that RSS does not believe in such political slogans which talk about excluding anyone.

The comments made by RSS chief have come in the wake of several comments made by the BJP top leadership which often refers to the “Congress-mukt Bharat” including Prime minister Modi himself.

Bhagwat

Mohan Bhagwat on the Day 1 of RSS Conclave

If this is not the clear sign of RSS showing a significant detour from the BJP, then what is? If there’s still room left for any doubt, then one must read what Mohan Bhagwat said further. Talking about what people think about the organization, Bhagwat said that people often tell him that the organization is becoming faceless. “We want to be faceless so that we don’t become arrogant. If tomorrow pictures of Mohan Bhagwat start getting published in newspapers, it will be a matter of concern for Mohan Bhagwat,” said Bhagwat in reply. Out of all the subtle hints that the Sarsanghchalak dropped, this particular statement has to be the highlight. Was it a sly dig at once RSS worker, now PM Narendra Modi? There is hardly any chance that it is not!

In our earlier article titled, ‘Is Mohan Bhagwat drifting away from BJP?’ we elaborated that RSS fears Modi’s omnipresence may also outgrow that of Sangh’s. The RSS insiders also say that the Sangh is not much flattered with the Modi’s autocratic leadership style. Modi’s tenure has already seen the BJP decimating the alliance parties. In the last four years, BJP’s existence has been limited to the Modi-Shah duo. Narendra Modi has become the only face of the party and the government.

RSS

There has also been a significant shift in the party’s attitude which not only it reeks of arrogance but also egomania. Remember, during Atal Kalash Yatra, every front page advertisement in the newspapers and posters had big pictures of Modi and Shah while the picture of late. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was nowhere to be seen. Was the sarsanghchalak’s comment made in this regard? Or else, was it a warning bell for the Modi-Shah duo?

Taking a significant shift from BJP-who has been constantly playing up the Mughal invasion card on the opposition, Bhagwat recalled the teachings of Dr. Hedgewar-the founder of the Sangh. He said, “Dr. Hedgewar (the founding chief of the RSS) always used to say for how long will we blame the Muslim invaders and British for our state. How did it happen that a handful of invaders from thousands of miles away conquered this nation of warriors? He used to say there is some problem with you which you need to correct.”

These statements force more eyeballs to turn as they come in the light of Lok Sabha Elections. The importance of the booth-level RSS worker is tried and tested. Not only in Lok Sabha elections of 20114 but also subsequent assembly elections and even Tripura Assembly Election where the saffron storm took over the red bastion. Thus, RSS which has only grown in size since independence hinting at a shift in its political approach is a major political development in waiting.

Will RSS back Modi again? The chances are very scarce. Is it trying to cozy up with the opposition? Maybe. The opposition’s response to the invitation of Sangh’s event by turning it down says volume. However, the three days RSS event is sure to gather more steam.

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Should student elections be limited to concerned Universities?

Arti Ghargi

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It is not wrong if one may see student elections as the Launchpad for mainstream or national politics- a ticket to have a national exposure.

The recently concluded Delhi University Student Union Elections and Jawaharlal Nehru University Elections were among the topmost news last week. So much so, that the results of DUSU Elections were a top trend on the social media sites like Twitter. #DUSUElection2018 was trending all over the Twitter. For someone who has been part of Universities other than Delhi University or JNU, the amount of coverage and impetus the Student Body elections get, comes with a package of astonishment and a lot of important questions. Why in the first place, the DUSU, and JNU election get so much importance? There are total 819 odd universities in India enrolling lakhs of students. Why is it that we rarely hear about the student elections from any other university? And most importantly, do the student elections from Universities really matter in a national political arena?

Left

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India has a long history of student movements and indeed a very successful and powerful one. Right from India’s freedom movement in which youth and college-going students took part in large numbers to the most recent Anti-Corruption Movement led by Anna Hazare, the student involvement was something that was at the core of why the movements gained importance. Thus, student politics and student elections remain a point of fascination. There are even people who readily equate the outcomes of DUSU Elections and JNU elections to that of national politics and mood of the nation at large. Whether these arguments hold water or not is a different question altogether.

It is not wrong if one may see student politics as the Launchpad for mainstream or national politics- a ticket to have a national exposure. After all, a leader like Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken, Delhi’s former BJP president Satish Upadhyay are among the many national and state-level politicians who began their political career from the student politics and the elections. The student elections are also an opportunity for the existing political parties to reach out to the young voters brimming with enthusiasm. If looked at it from this perspective, it is easy to understand why student elections thus become a matter of prestige for political parties and their student wings.

student

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For now, let us take the example of DUSU elections that happened this year. The largest central university in the country has more than one lakh students. Out of which 44.5% turned up for elections. It was a clean sweep for BJP and RSS backed student wing ABVP. While ABVP won 3 seats including that of president’s, BAPSA won 1 seat. On the other hand, JNU which has been in controversy for a few years due to various reasons, saw a red storm taking the center stage.

Being the largest central university and the most controversial university in the national capital which is the center-stage for national politics, the student elections tend to reflect the national political culture at the student level. The politics at this level is heated and as much amount is splurged in these elections as in Municipal Corporation elections. The student elections in recent years have been marred by the incidents of violence, poll code violations, and expensive campaigning. Thus, the elections that are a week’s affair suddenly gain national importance.

Left

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But for those, sitting away from the politically charged Delhi environment, this treatment to student elections is alienated. In country’s economic capital Mumbai, student elections hardly make it to the news headlines, let alone the front page. The elections in Mumbai University which houses more than 5 lakh students and is affiliated to as many as 700 colleges, rarely see the kind of coverage that DU or JNU student elections get.

At a time, when student body elections have become a part and parcel of national politics, the one who stands at the losing end is a student. While the topics as OROP, Triple Talaq, Rohingya Muslims take the center stage in the presidential debate, issues that worry the students in their academic and campus lives are rarely addressed. We also have heard a lot of students complaining about the disturbance in their classes and invasion of privacy in the days of student body elections. The solution is not taking the politics out of institutes. The politics which is deeply entrenched in our system is equally necessary for education institutions to hold the authorities accountable. The need is to decide what should be the degree or level of politicisation being allowed.

For starters, we can keep student elections, an affair limited to the concerned university rather than blowing it up as a reflection of the nation’s mandate at large!

 

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In Uttar Pradesh, government’s Maternity Benefit Scheme is still in the womb

Arti Ghargi

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uttar pradesh

With such a high IMR and high TFR, Uttar Pradesh spends a meager Rs 452 per capita on health.

On the eve of New Year 2017, Prime minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation. Amongst all the other schemes and their benefits, he talked about a scheme that was launched nation-wide for pregnant women in the country. The scheme named Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana aimed to provide a prenatal financial assistance to pregnant women. In his speech, PM Modi said, “This scheme will help reduce the maternal mortality rate, in a big way. This will help ensure nutrition before and after delivery, and improve the health of mother and child.” Prime Minister also cited that under the pilot project, the scheme had already benefitted women in 53 Indian districts who were given assistance of 4000 rupees each.

 Almost two years after the highly-touted project launch, not a single woman from Uttar Pradesh has benefitted from PM’s Matru Vandana Yojana, an RTI has revealed. According to the RTI filed by IANS, not a rupee of government money has been spent on maternity benefit scheme till August 2018 in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state also has the highest fertility rate among the Indian states.

The RTI further revealed that out of the states whom the funds were allocated under the scheme, Uttar Pradesh received the maximum. Out of total Rs. 2,049 crores in 2017-18 sanctioned and approved by the central government, Uttar Pradesh received the largest share of Rs. 336 crores.

Though, the positive picture states that as many as 34 lakh women across the country out of the 44 lakh enrolled stood as beneficiaries of the scheme, only 184 women enrolled in PM MVY and none of them received the benefit since its inception in January 2017.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana:

Image Source: Web

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013. It was launched as a replacement of Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana which was launched in 2010 by the then UPA government. The objective of the scheme was Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the women can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child. The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behavior amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers. All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for the first child in a family can receive the benefit.

The fertility rate of Uttar Pradesh:

Source: NITI Aayog Website

Uttar Pradesh, out of all the Indian states registers one of the highest fertility rates. A NITI Aayog report published in 2016, the state recorded Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 3.1. This is second highest following Bihar which has TFR of 3.3. The TFR in Uttar Pradesh is way higher than the ideal Fertility Rate suggested by the central government which is 2.4. If we look at the details of TFR district-wise, the picture is even worse. According to the data released by Health ministry in July this year, as many as 11 districts from UP have a fertility rate of 4. Nineteen districts have a total fertility rate of between 3.5 and 4, while 28 have a total fertility rate of between 3 and 3.5.

Infant Mortality Rate of Uttar Pradesh:

 

Image Source: NFHS 2015-16

According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, UP’s Infant Mortality Rate is now the same as the strife-torn West-African nation of Mauritania (65), worse than another poor, chaotic African country, Burkina Faso (61) and only just better than Afghanistan (66). The state now also has India’s worst under-five mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births which are comparable to that of Mozambique (79), an African nation with half of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This is an 18-point reduction in under-five mortality from 96 per 1,000 live births ten years ago.

However, with such a high IMR and High TFR, Uttar Pradesh spends a meager Rs 452 per capita on health. India’s most populous state spends 70% less than the Indian average on health. It means one in two children in the state is not fully immunized. As well as, the state has India’s second-highest maternal mortality rate i.e. 258 deaths per 100,000 live births.

At a time when UP government spends only Rs. 452 per capita on health, the Yogi government spent Rs 65 crore on the ‘makeup’ of Lucknow to host the mega Uttar Pradesh Investors Summit 2018. The mere lip service and fund allocation will not ensure that maternal benefits will reach the needy. It has to be streamlined in a process with appropriate auditing of the fund allocated and spreading awareness of the same.

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