The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh eyes smart look
- Khaki shorts and vest could make way for jeans and t-shirt

Mumbai, July 23: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is preparing a fashion statement.

Sources close to some of the outfit’s ideologues say the RSS could discard its khaki shorts and vests for a more trendy jeans and T-shirt. This, it is felt, would be in keeping with the sartorial trend of the 21st century and increase the Sangh’s appeal to the younger generation.

A source close to general secretary Mohan Bhagwat said the outfit is planning many changes and could trade in its starched, oversized khaki shorts and vests, possibly for some trendy trousers paired with colourful Tees.

“There is a worry in the Sangh that while its other affiliates like the BJP, Mazdoor Sangh and the VHP are gaining in influence and reach, the RSS has been losing out steadily on this count,’’ Dilip Deodhar, a Nagpur-based RSS watcher, said.

“Many within the organisation’s ranks feel it is time for a complete changeover. Already, RSS workers going to attend shakhas in foreign countries do not wear the traditional attire but replace them with jeans and T-shirts.’’

There is a growing feeling within the Sangh that it has not moved with the times like the BJP and is becoming a tad “unreal’’ for the youth with its emphasis on loose shorts, spartan shakhas and septuagenarian leaders.

The BJP can boast of leaders who are relatively young and dress trendily like Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ravi Shankar Prashad. The VHP also has men like Praveen Togadia at the top. But a Ram Madhav is rare in the RSS.

“We should, however, not trivialise the process of change by merely harping on the sartorial,’’ a source close to the headquarters in Nagpur said.

“The debate is on for a more sweeping change. The leadership realises that while the leaves and branches have flourished the roots have remained buried and underground. After all, the RSS is the nucleus of all Sangh outfits.’’

The outfit is also said to be considering allowing pracharak couples to work together in rural areas.

Changes in Sangh jargon could also be on the way with emphasis on a more contemporary and youth-friendly idiom.

“The jargon is outdated and mythical, it has to be modern and academic,’’ a source added. The idea is to make it appeal to youngsters in order to survive. The shakhas, too, may move from open spaces and sports fields to college and university campuses. “The youth are just not keen on the RSS any more, they have to be attracted,’’ he said.

There is already speculation that RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan may show the way by anointing Bhagwat, a relatively young 52, as sarsangchalak, to take over the reins in 2006. “That will be a very positive sign for the organisation,’’ Deodhar said.

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