Rush to douse RSS army fire

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP on Monday scurried to douse a controversy generated by Mohan Bhagwat's remarks that seemed to suggest that Sangh volunteers were more efficient than the army, betraying concern that a politically harmful signal may have been sent out.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 13.02.18
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Indian Youth Congress activists protest against RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat over his controversial remarks, in New Delhi on Monday. PTI Picture

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP on Monday scurried to douse a controversy generated by Mohan Bhagwat's remarks that seemed to suggest that Sangh volunteers were more efficient than the army, betraying concern that a politically harmful signal may have been sent out.

Addressing workers in Bihar's Muzaffarpur on Sunday, RSS chief Bhagwat had sought to draw a comparison between swayamsevaks (volunteers) of his outfit and the Indian Army.

"Ours is not a military organisation. But we have discipline like the military. If the country needs it and the Constitution permits... it takes six or seven months to prepare an army. But swayamsevaks, if asked, can do it in three days. This is what we are capable of," Bhagwat had said.

As the remarks kicked up a row on Monday with Congress president Rahul Gandhi slamming the RSS chief for "disrespecting" martyrs and soldiers and demanding an apology, the RSS rushed to issue a clarification and some ministers came out to defend Bhagwat.

" Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's speech in Muzaffarpur is being misrepresented. Bhagwatji had said that if the situation arises and the Constitution permits, the Indian Army would take six months to prepare the society whereas Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in three days, as swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly," RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya said.

"This was no way a comparison between the Indian Army and the Sangh swayamsevaks, but it was a comparison between the general society and the swayamsevaks. Both are to be trained by the Indian Army only," he added.

Junior civil aviation minister Jayant Sinha defended Bhagwat, saying his statement was "misconstructed" and that the RSS could never insult the army.

But BJP insiders expressed fears that Bhagwat's statement would send out a wrong message and inflict political damage in election season.