Mohan Bhagwat’s epiphany: Such virtues as inclusion and pluralism
By all accounts, the Bharatiya Janata Party remains a bullish creature. Its president had, just the other day, stated that the BJP would not be haunted by the spectre of lynchings and will continue to win elections in spite of its failure — some allege it is tacit endorsement — to check murder by the mob. But the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, supposedly the ideological mentor of the BJP, seems to have sensed that muscle would not be enough to win minds with a few months separating India from an important general election. It is thus time, in the RSS’s scheme of things, for a different kind of assault — a charm assault. Little wonder then that Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, has suddenly remembered such virtues as inclusion and pluralism. Speaking on the occasion of a three-day lecture, Mr Bhagwat seemed to hold out an olive branch to the RSS’s opponents who have been critical of the organization that Mr Bhagwat heads for its alleged support for, among other vices, sectarianism and majoritarianism. Mr Bhagwat said that Muslims — they have been targeted repeatedly in New India — would have their place in the Hindu rashtra and that — this is most touching — the RSS remains committed to upholding the principles that are safeguarded by the Constitution.
Mr Bhagwat’s mellowness can be attributed to the anxiety that the Opposition’s refrain of the sangh parivar’s pursuit of a divisive agenda has struck a chord. This is not implausible. Violence against minorities, communal incitement, assaults on institutions that function as the vanguard of democracy and economic stagnation seem to have soured the national mood, forcing the RSS to step in. But Mr Bhagwat is on slippery ground too. For the shadow, inevitably, falls between word and deed when it comes to the sangh parivar. In Chicago’s World Hindu Congress, Mr Bhagwat had described those opposed to the interests of ‘Hindus’ — essentially Hindutvavadis — uncharitably. Which avatar of the RSS should India believe in, Mr Bhagwat?