In politics, there is always a space for contradictions and besides, there are ample reasons why Rahul Gandhi should accept the invite by RSS.
All hell broke loose back in India when two days ago Rahul Gandhi compared the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the Muslim Brotherhood while on his UK visit. Rahul Gandhi, being controversy’s favourite child occupied the prime time slot again with a slew of people slamming his remarks on foreign soil about “nationalist” organizations. The ruling BJP, of whose RSS is considered a parent organization, went on to call him “immature” and demanded an apology. All the hullabaloo shifted to Rahul Gandhi’s another controversial remark about 1984 Anti-Sikh riots and the RSS vs Congress issue seemed fading into oblivion. But just when the issue seemed to put to rest, the RSS came up with an unpredictable spin that left everyone topsy-turvy.
मुस्लिम ब्रदरहुड और आरएसएस के बीच काफी समानता है। वे सत्ता पर कब्ज़ा करने के लिए लोकतांत्रिक प्रक्रियाओं का सहारा लेते हैं : कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष @RahulGandhi #RahulGandhiPressMeet pic.twitter.com/aXkVf6KwOz
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 25, 2018
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh increased the curiosity quotient of political individuals on Monday when it hinted that it would send an invite to Congress President Rahul Gandhi to attend its event named ‘Bhavishya ka Bharat’. The three-day event will take place between 17th September to 19th September. The news left many astounded as just two days ago the Congress President had stepped up his attack on RSS alleging that the Hindu nationalist organization is seeking to capture each and every institution that existing in India. Though there hasn’t been any official confirmation of the invitation, the issue gave enough fodder for the news-hungry minds.
The political discussions have now sparked whether Rahul Gandhi should accept the invitation by RSS (if at all it offers one). Going by the recent mood in the Congress, it is not difficult to assume that Rahul Gandhi may eventually turn it down. But, in politics, there is always a space for contradictions and besides, there are ample reasons why Rahul Gandhi should accept the invite.
First and foremost is the number of eyeballs that it will attract. Not to forget last time when former President Pranab Mukherjee attended RSS event in Nagpur, it was live telecasted by all the national channels and had grabbed the front page headlines in almost all the newspapers next day. The debates and discussions over it, lingered for quite a significant period. Pranab Mukherjee and his ideological adversary Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat sitting beside each other was the rarest of the rare event. Recently, Mohan Bhagwat and industrialist Ratan Tata sharing the stage was covered by the media. Now, if Rahul Gandhi and Mohan Bhagwat share the same stage, expect the media go berserk and be sure that it will be treated as a defining moment before 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Secondly, the platform can be the best opportunity for the Congress President to get his message across, consolidating Congress’ stand before the mega battle. In his media interactions, Gandhi has often criticised the BJP for curbing the space for genuine dialogue. Recently, in an interview to a German Newspaper, he stressed that Congress believes in conversation. Which can be the best opportunity than this to establish that the party and the chief walk the talk? If Rahul Gandhi pulls off this feat, he might well see the tag of immature or reluctant politician start being wiped off from his name.
Thirdly, it will be a perfect cue to appeal to the Hindu majority base that Congress has lost owing to the minority appeasement allegations. After the 2014 debacle, Congress has realized that alienating the majority has hit the party’s performance. The rise of BJP should also be credited to the party capturing the imagination of Hindu majority. Congress understood it well, which is why it turned towards soft Hindutva. Then be it, “Temple-run” during Gujarat, Karnataka elections or the “Janeudhari”, “Shiv-bhakt” identity Rahul Gandhi had to establish.
As much as Congress has grasped this reality, it is high time that it accepts the fact that a large amount of Hindus are associating and identifying with the RSS. It can no longer be termed as a fringe organization (RSS). In 70 years since independence, the organization has only grown bigger in size. The BJP’s electoral success and booth level mobilization has also much to do with RSS cadre. Tripura is the perfect example of how with the RSS cadre power the BJP captured the communist fortress.
On the other hand, it is no more a secret that RSS, especially its chief Mohan Bhagwat is drifting away from BJP. The subtle signs of it have been visible since long. In April this year, Bhagwat in a stark contradiction with BJP top leadership (including PM Modi) said that Congress-mukt Bharat is merely a political slogan and it is not the language of RSS. “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,” said Bhagwat. This came on the backdrop of PM Modi claiming that Congress-Mukt Bharat is BJP’s aim during a rally in Karnataka.
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. The RSS legitimately fears that Modi’s omnipresence may also outgrow that of Sangh’s. Thus, we can safely decode the moves by the organization as an attempt to explore more political options.
Moreover, there have always been some RSS supporters who were happy with BJP. Sharing a stage with Mohan Bhagwat is a perfect opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to turn some fence-sitters to his side. Though the Congress strategy regarding RSS has so far been defined in black and white Rahul Gandhi must also recall a historical anecdote that even Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had sought RSS’ support in the past. At a time when Congress is battling to keep itself relevant, attending RSS invitation can prove to be a turning point for Congress.
Will Rahul Gandhi accept the invitation if RSS offers? Well, the answer is hidden in the near future. Till then, let the curiosity sword hang over our heads.