The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) highest policy-making body will hold its seven-day annual meeting in Odisha next week for the first time in its history, in what is being seen as an effort to shore up the BJP.
The Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal’s meeting will be attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, around 400 functionaries from different states and affiliated groups in a privately-managed university of Bhubaneswar between October 14 and 20.
Working president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), JP Nadda, too, is also likely to be present at the meeting.
Mohan Bhagwat will preside over several discussions with 45 RSS-affiliated bodies such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Shiksha Vikas Samiti, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and Dharma Jagaran Samiti and on October 12 address intellectuals from the state.
“The holding of the meeting of the RSS’s highest decision-making body in Odisha shows the remarkable growth and strength of the Odisha unit over the last two decades,” Sameer Mohanty of the RSS’ Odisha (East) chapter said.
Political observers point to the significance of the timing of the RSS meeting in Odisha, coming at a time when the BJP is making rapid strides and has emerged as the main opposition party in the state.
“The RSS has considered Odisha its laboratory for Hindutva ideas for a long time,” said Gyana Ranjan Swain, who teaches political science at Cuttack’s Ravenshaw university.
“However, their members were part of several other political forces like the Congress and BJD (Biju Janata Dal) and not exclusively of the BJP. But now, it seems as though the RSS wants to aggressively mobilise more support for the BJP through its affiliate organisations,” he said.
The BJP made impressive gains in Odisha by winning eight of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 23 of 147 assembly seats at assembly and Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year.
In the general elections, the party had secured 38.37% of the votes polled and registered a rise of 16.49 percentage points from its earlier figures of 2014. It secured secured 32.5%, a gain of 14.3 percentage points from its 2014 statistics, in the assembly election.
The BJP’s member of Parliament from Bargarh Suresh Pujari said that with two lakh swayamsevaks and 2000 shakhas in the state, the RSS has been a quiet yet robust force that worked for the success of the BJP.
“Though it’s not very visible, the growth of the Sangh Parivar has been quite remarkable. Odisha now has more than 1000 RSS-affiliated schools popularly known as Saraswati Shishu Mandirs that have been producing fabulous results in the high school certificate exams. During times of disaster, the RSS-affiliated disaster relief body, Utkal Vipanna Sahayata Samiti is always at the forefront,” Pujari said.
Leaders of Odisha’s ruling BJD were circumspect in their remarks and senior MLA Pratap Deb said he would wait for the RSS meeting to get over before commenting.
“In 2017, when the BJP held its national executive in Odisha, everyone started saying the party was about to come to power. Did that happen in 2019? Let’s wait for the RSS meeting to happen and see what the Sangh Parivar is planning,” said Deb.
Political observer Swain said to be successful in Odisha, Sangh Parivar has to tweak its strategy of going aggressive on religion.
“The aggression may have worked in north Indian states, but in Odisha, the predominant culture is the syncretic Jagannath culture,” said Swain.
“To make the BJP the ruling party in Odisha, it has to transform into a modern political force that talks of development and fights against corruption. Mobilisation of people on the basis of their Hindu identity will not work here,” he added.
Oct 12, 2019 09:22 IST