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When high office submits to indignity

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Sep 6, 2015, 11:05 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 10:35 pm IST
While BJP heads the NDA, it also has a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: PTI)

This must be RSS’ finest hour. The Hindu-supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the shadowy outfit which has spawned the BJP and other bodies as its front organisations, is unlikely to have imagined that a day might come when the elected Prime Minister of India, and his top Cabinet colleagues, would come to its door to collect a report card after a viva voce examination.

They did just that over the past three days, with the PM showing up on Friday to be given pass marks. None of this is envisaged within India’s constitutional framework. The elected government is only answerable to Parliament, and this is underlined in the oath of secrecy that ministers take. But in this case the PM and his ministers showed up at the RSS’ three-day coordination conclave in New Delhi where they were quizzed and reportedly offered answers.

 

Like Mr Modi, former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee too was a “swayamsevak”, or RSS “volunteer”, but he had not submitted his government to the kind of indignity that Mr Modi had to undergo. In the process the current PM voluntarily agreed to whittle the status of the constitutional office he holds.

It is inconceivable that the PM and his ministers would make presentations before any other private individual or organisation — even if they are ardent supporters and have a following. Indeed, the present PM routinely ignores even Parliament by not showing up at all for long stretches. He also refuses to make statements in the House or offer answers even when the public mood is anxious or agitated. Of the press, the less said the better. Mr Modi calls the fourth estate “news traders”, an outlook that encouraged one of his ministers to coin the expression “presstitute” for the media.

 

While BJP heads the NDA, it also has a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha. It is clear that this is why it can, for once, be brazenly transparent about its umbilical link with the Hindu-supremacist outfit that seeks to conceal its political aims by asserting for public consumption that it is only a “cultural” organisation. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first home minister, was not been taken in by RSS’ nationalist avowals. He saw it fit to place a ban on the RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, which was lifted when specific commitments were made.

 

It is foolish to mechanically equate the RSS-BJP equation with that of the Congress party and the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (since dissolved) during UPA rule, as some do. The NAC was a temporary, and open, policy-advocacy grouping which yielded the RTI Act and pro-rural poor policies, not a structured 90-year-old outfit that promotes state capture to establish a “Hindu Rashtra”.

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