Kuppahalli Sitaramayya Sudarshan, sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, gave an interview to Shekhar Gupta a month ago. He caused a sensation by saying that he was in favour of the retirement of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well as Lal Kishenchand Advani. This was perhaps the least important remark of his. If he really wanted them to go, all he need have done was to order them to, and they would have, being loyal soldiers of the RSS. What I found most interesting is what the interview revealed about Sudarshan, and by implication about the RSS style of thinking. Shekhar started with Sudarshan's unwillingness to meet the media. He gave Sudarshan a chance to explain why he had finally agreed to talk. In response, Sudarshan burst into an inspirational song which said that one should work and not show off. So why had he emerged from the woodwork' It could not be to give a message to the Hindu joint family. I think it was because he felt the need to educate the Anglophone middle class ' like the readers of The Telegraph.
Sudarshan named two heroes and two not-so-great leaders. The leaders were Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao. His choice of Indira Gandhi is comprehensible: she was the one that severed Pakistan into two. Paki-bashing is a core business of the RSS. After the death of Sanjay, Indira also became rather demonstratively Hindu; she started wearing a rudraksha necklace and visiting temples. That too may have helped her in getting into Sudarshan's good books. But Indira also declared the Emergency for purely personal gain and imprisoned the entire opposition: if democracy was ever in danger in this country, it was on account of her. She nationalized banks just to give industrialists a bloody nose. It was not because she was a committed socialist, but because they supported the old guard of the Congress.
Sudarshan had no qualms about any of this. The only faintly critical word about Indira is that she was self-centred. No wonder; the poor girl grew up in the vast Anand Bhavan, and was afraid of the ghosts in its cavernous rooms. So she saw ghosts everywhere. And then, she had a lot of servants who gave her whatever she wanted; so she became jiddi (not Sudarshan's word; it is Urdu). I would be surprised if Sudarshan minded her improprieties or even considered them improper. And why should he'
Sudarshan's other hero is Narasimha Rao, 'because he was the only one who ruled for six years without being a part of the Nehru clan'. That shows rather an extreme bias against the Nehrus. But Sudarshan is being inconsistent, having praised Indira. So why did he get sold on Narasimha Rao' Because of the reforms' Because Rao steered India deftly into a comfortable relationship with the US after the collapse of the Soviet Union'
No, stupid; because he resolutely watched while the Babri Masjid was pulled down by members of the Hindu joint family. Rather a limited qualification for greatness, but that is how Sudarshan's mind works. Sudarshan is not fond of Jawaharlal Nehru. And that is not because of Nehru's socialism, his antipathy towards businessmen, or his launching on a development path that turned sterling-rich India into a starving, bankrupt country within eight years. Apparently soon after independence, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel decided to admit RSS members into the Congress. But when Nehru returned from abroad, he stopped it. I find it difficult to believe, but Sudarshan does not. No wonder he is not fond of Nehru: but for Nehru, BJP would have been unnecessary. The Congress would have joined the Hindu joint family ' it would have become Mahabharatiya Ugrarashtrawadi Congress.
Sudarshan's least favourite leader is Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Because he did nothing to realize the BJP's core agenda ' Ram temple, Section 370 and common civil code ' and he gave Ranjan Bhattacharya free rein. Sudarshan himself says that the coalition that brought the BJP to power could be forged only by putting these issues on the back burner. But then, consistency is not his strong point. And yes, Vajpayee did nothing to help the Hindus who were being subjected to atrocities in Bangladesh. What could he have done' Invade Bangladesh, of course.
Invasions hold great appeal for Sudarshan. He thinks Azad Kashmir should be annexed by force. He thinks that the army should invade Pakistan and attack terrorist training camps. And what if there is a nuclear war' 'If it happens, it'll happen. We can't keep quiet all the time because of the scare of nuclear weapons.' But Sudarshan is not an unalloyed belligerent; he also believes in befriending Pakistan. Why' Because if India's image amongst the Pakistanis improves, they will all want to join India, and 'Pakistan will be finished'. As it is, the Land of the Faithful preserves its faith only because of India. In Pakistan, 'the Army is always in power. More importantly, they have removed all the madarsas from there. However, the chief of all madarsas has said, 'We have been banned in Pakistan but we will continue in India.' In border areas we have madarsas where Pakistanis come to study.' So would Bangladesh; its people envy us for our cheap salt, and would gladly join us for it. It is an interesting world Sudarshan lives in.
Sudarshan is against foreign investment in telecommunications. Why' Because 'you say 50 things over a phone; those 50 things should not get into the wrong hands. That would not be right. It should stay with the government'. He probably does not know that RAW is always listening in to conversations between Kashmiri terrorists and their Pakistani handlers even though they do not use the Indian telecommunications systems. And how much would it cost a foreign spying agency to plant Indian-born spies to listen in to conversations on Indian telephone lines' But of course, any Indian born in a devout Hindu family must be kosher.
Not only telecommunications; Sudarshan wants all public sector undertakings to remain in the government's hands as long as they are profitable; he is very disapproving of Arun Shourie for having sold family jewels. Which means that you must wait until an enterprise begins to make losses before you sell; at which point you will probably get less than its break-up value, whereas you might have made handsome capital gains if you had sold it while it was profitable. But profit and loss are base concerns for run-of-the-mill businessmen; Sudarshan is in the business of making the country great.
For me, the most chilling part of Sudarshan's interview was about Uma Bharti and Govindacharya. These poor lovebirds wanted to marry. But Bhaurao Deoras told them it was not good for them, and just stopped them. He sent Uma off to a sadhu in Amarkantak, who gave her sanyas diksha ' which I fear means, no sleeping with anybody. Apart from the joy of congress, marriage would have made Uma more human. But then she might not have remained the Hindu joint family's prize verbal wrestler. The nation will pay dearly for her celibacy.