RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya takes the BJP to task in a hard-hitting interview with Harinder Baweja
I want to start with the concept of Hindutva. What is the meaning of Hindutva? Even senior leaders like Jaswant Singh are asking this question and you were a general secretary with the BJP when this word was coined.
There are five constituents of Hindutva. First, respect to all modes of worship. Second, there is one and the same consciousness in all animate and inanimate beings. There is nothing like inferior or superior. Therefore egalitarianism is Hindutva. Third, man is not a conqueror of nature but a part of nature. Therefore, an eco-friendly economy is what Hindutva proposes. Fourth, because of the special quality of motherhood, women have a special respect in the public welfare society. The purpose of life does not end in eating, making merry and dying, but transcends that. And finally, there is the nonmaterial value of pursuing a goal, even if it may be endless. A faint realisation or feel — that is what Hindutva is. That is what the RSS also believes in.
So how does the RSS expect the BJP to translate this politically?
The BJP must have an understanding of what Hindutva means in terms of governance, economic policies, relating itself to the whole spiral of individuals, society, cosmos and reality. They must understand the statecraft pertaining to these aspects. That is what is expected of the BJP as the political component of the same ideological family.
And you feel that the BJP has failed to translate the concept of Hindutva?
I won’t be uncharitable to them because they neither had any conviction nor did they want to understand Hindutva. Therefore they cannot be blamed for functioning contrary to their beliefs. In a way, they were the tools of pseudo-Hindutva. For example, the content and tenor of Varun Gandhi’s election speech could be endearing to some people, but it wasn’t Hindutva. It is pseudo-Hindutva of the reactionary, irresponsible kind. In response to MG Vaidya’s article, if BJP president Rajnath Singh says that he is a strict adherent of Hindutva and so is his party, he is also being opportunistic; without having the onus to prove that they are following Hindutva.
Are you saying that the current leadership of the BJP, including President Rajnath Singh, is practising pseudo-Hindutva?
Yes, because they neither have the conviction nor the commitment. They think politics is everything – from the beginning till the end. Their thought process revolves only around power. They are more of achievers than performers.
They have not succeeded in achieving either. The BJP is down to 116 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
They still have some six to seven state governments and for the post of prime minister, they had a challenger in Advani. They had enough to win with and therefore I wouldn’t attribute much value even if they had come to power. How they function and what they can deliver is more important. For example, if ecofriendly techno economic order is Hindutva as I see it, then the attitude and response of the Uttarakhand government should’ve been different to the ecodestructive hydel projects that don’t subscribe to the norms. Such an unscrupulous handling of such a pious issue like Gangaji speaks of how hollow the claim of having worked with Hindutva is. There could have been 100 ways of generating electricity to fulfil the needs of Uttarakhand and saving the surplus too without destroying the fragile eco-balance of Uttarakhand. Similarly, there were five more alternatives for Sethu Samudram Pariyojna, for which even the environmental assessment could not be carried out. They catered to the ideology of Hindutva neither as a party in power nor as a party in opposition. They could not endear to vast mass of supporters they had gathered 20-25 years back. They ran out of that capital.
How is the RSS leadership viewing the election results?
As a responsible swayamsevak, this is how I read the mind of the RSS leadership — the RSS will have a straight talk with the BJP now, and tell it to decide what kind of relationship it wants to have with the RSS. Whatever the paradigm of the relationship was till now, it needs to be discussed further. If needed, the mechanism has to be thrashed out. The RSS will tell them: if you want to go without us, don’t worry; you are welcome to take your own course. We don’t even attribute good or bad values to it. If you are taking yourself with us then we will proceed on our own path. We feel that we don’t need any appendage or extra baggage. Nor any crutches. The RSS can walk straight without the crutches of the BJP. This is the message the Sangh leadership has given to the BJP. One more thing, if at all the BJP thinks of having a relationship with the RSS, then the RSS has made it clear that it should function in terms of ideology. The Sangh will then definitely want to have a say, command and intervention. That’s what they have conveyed to the BJP.
To Advani or Rajnath Singh?
You said the RSS does not need the crutches of the BJP. But isn’t the opposite true – the BJP needs the Sangh?
I don’t know. There is a big section in the BJP – and the number has gone up in the last 15 years — that thinks that the RSS is an appendage and that if they get rid of the RSS, they will be able to fly much higher. I will just compare this with an anecdote of a soaring kite, which is connected to a thread. The kite may think that it can fly on its own, and if it thinks it better to delink the thread and soar higher, it’s okay.
Which is the section in the BJP that thinks it can do without the RSS?
I had a glance over the list of the MPs elected this time. Of them, 30 odd MPs have some link, weak or strong, with the RSS or with its ideology of integral humanism; the ideology propounded by Deendayal Upadhyay. That’s the basic ideology of the BJP, even today. But there are about 85 MPs who may not have even heard of Deendayal’s ideology. And among them there may be many who may think that the RSS is not needed. If this is the problem with the composition of this parliamentary party, then the executive committee will have the same problem. The BJP therefore is a party full of opportunists and careerists and if I were to be charitable, then I can say that it is a party full of liberal democrats. They are taking politics only as a career, or a dhanda.
What about the better-known leaders of the BJP like Advani, Jaswant Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Yashwant Sinha. Does the RSS consider them as careerists and opportunists?
There is not just one group. There are subgroups. There is a phenomenon of ego conflicts and personality clashes. Such factors are there in the BJP and this has created many complications. Suppose the person speaks in favour of Hindutva, it does not mean that the person is actually in favour of Hindutva. For him, it may be suitable at the moment. Among other parties also I have seen many people who privately say that they are strong Hindus but don’t say it openly. I have found these double standards in some BJP leaders also. For example, if one says Ram Janmabhoomi is a cheque which can be encashed only once, what does it mean? Similarly, there are innumerable examples, anomalies, conflicts, duplicities. So what I feel is that 20 to 25 MPs can talk on ideology. Whether they can function as a lobby needs to be seen.
As far as the RSS is concerned, you said it is okay if the BJP goes a separate way, but if they don’t, what would the RSS expect of the BJP?
Perhaps some people of the RSS and the BJP must be sitting together to chalk out a roadmap on how to bring the BJP back on the roads of ideology and idealism. It may also happen that the RSS may think in terms of promoting new names from the lower rung of the party cadre and also freshly induct from other organisations.
Was the RSS totally behind projecting Advani as the BJP’s PM candidate?
Did he make a mistake by running a presidential style campaign?
I didn’t keep the track of the election. I saw it from a distance. I think the basic premise of the election campaign itself was on a wrong footing. It said, ‘mazboot neta, nirnayak sarkaar’. People’s issues could have been projected better instead of entering into an arena of competition.
Do you refer to Advani harping on Manmohan Singh being a weak PM?
That is one issue. Similarly, in the realm of mazboot neta or strong candidate, the issue of Kandahar kept coming up. It was really a competition between two weak prime ministerial candidates. On the one side, there was Manmohan Singh and on the other side there was Advaniji. Both of them were weak. As home minister, Advani’s comparison can only be made with Shivraj Patil. There was nothing much to choose from.
Do you think the BJP runs the risk of losing its space as a national party?
In the present scenario, BJP exists as a competing political force more at the state level than at the Centre.
‘BJP leaders are tools for pseudo-Hindutva. They are opportunists who use Hindutva as a vote plank. For them, politics is a career, a dhandha’
So it is no longer a national force?
It is not a national party in terms of ideology, policies, and conviction. I feel the Congress and BJP are both pro-US and pro-rich. This does not go in favour of Bharat. Take disinvestments — when the UPA mentioned it, Arun Jaitley said that was also their position, so both BJP and Congress become pro-disinvestments.
One of the things that created quite a stir is what Sudheendra Kulkarni wrote for TEHELKA. He said that the RSS and the BJP made a strong man like Advani look weak and helpless.
He shouldn’t have made the RSS a scapegoat. In no way was the RSS involved in any kind of election strategies. Only BJP people occupied the war room and they should be held responsible for all this.
Jaitley was a member of the war room. Is it okay that he is now the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha?
See, Rajnath Singh has come out with a dictum – that the BJP take collective responsibility. That does not allow for individual accountability. That, in fact, gives an escape route to everybody, including the BJP president. In Rajnath’s own home state, Uttar Pradesh, there was a pathetic performance. But now I see that he is enacting the same strategies and taking the very steps he took in Uttar Pradesh as its state president (when Kalyan Singh was the chief minister). Those strategies did great damage to the party at that time.
Has the RSS asked for accountability?
No, the RSS does not involve itself unless asked to. The BJP comes for advice. The RSS says if you are fine with it, do it. Face the music.
But then the RSS can’t be happy with Rajnath Singh as the president.
No, the RSS will not analyse in political terms as I am analysing now. I analyse because I have been in the BJP.
But Mr Vaidya’s article enters the political realm.
He only says very sarcastically that if you want to get rid of the RSS, you are welcome. Go ahead, if you dare. And face the music afterwards.
I am quoting from Kulkarni’s article that a lot of the BJP’s allies went away because of Gujarat. Do you agree?
I don’t agree with it. Because the allies have come closer to the BJP for two reasons. One, when they don’t have to protect a Muslim base because there is no Muslim vote base in their state, be it Orissa, Punjab, Haryana or even Tamil Nadu. Two, when they think that the BJP’s vote share is more than the Muslim vote in their state, they just measure it in terms of loss and profit and then they ally, like in Bihar. Therefore the BJP is easy to ditch, like the Telugu Desam Party did. They are all opportunist political groups. Ajit Singh and the TRS had no qualms going against the BJP or coming towards it as the occasion demanded. They are just opportunist groups that take advantage when required for political gains.
The BJP is introspecting the whole business of Hindutva. Do you feel that maybe Hindutva is out of tune with today’s India?
Their perception may be out of date or irrelevant. But Hindutva is a steering wheel for the post-industrial society in the world. Hindutva is tomorrow’s ideology, not just yesterday’s. So the introspection is because of the lack of knowledge, and conviction about Hindutva. So if anybody says that they don’t know anything about Hindutva, I don’t know what they mean.
Jaswant Singh said on record that he does not know.
He should have specified as to what he thinks of it. I know personally that he also thinks about Hindutva on the same lines as Govindacharya. If he were given the opportunity to complete his thoughts he would have done it. I am confident about it. Because he is a practicing Hindu.
Does the BJP appear like a party of yesterday because of Hindutva?
It’s because of its opportunist approaches – of treating Hindutva as a vote plank rather than a comprehensive vision and ideology, complete in itself.
‘Many in the BJP think the RSS is not needed. The BJP has 85 MPs who may not have even heard of Deendayal Upadhyay and integral humanism’
Why is the BJP such a divided house?
Because it could not evolve the scientific form of functioning required. The Congress could evolve in a manner that is power-centric. And the Left could also evolve in a style whose history goes back to 1848. When the BJP started out as the Jan Sangh, function methodology was a feeble thought. They thought more about ideology than the style of functioning. I feel personally that the BJP’s main problem is that it lacks a style of functioning. That is why today it appears to be so divided.
Is that why you say there are too many ego problems?
Naturally. If ideology and idealism take a back seat and the style of functioning doesn’t enforce those components, then naturally politics becomes just a power game. You cannot avoid ego-politics and ambition clashes. There has to be something more moral and superior as the chief parameter. When that goes missing, only vote gaining and fund raising capacities matter. Gradually, the degeneration starts. Sycophancy and conspiracy take front seats. Dedication, sacrifice, hard work – they will not matter.
‘The election was a competition between a weak Manmohan Singh and a weak Advaniji. The slogan“mazboot neta, nirnayak sarkar” was wrong’
Was it a mistake to project Narendra Modi’s name as the PM?
It was certainly by default. Not by design. Arun Shourie held a press conference in Ahmedabad and said that Modi has all the capabilities of becoming a PM, which was thoroughly unwarranted. But the war room should have taken immediate initiative to instruct all the responsible office bearers of the party to not engage or respond to this question. But they just sat. So this issue was raised by the opponents and also by the media.
Is there a feeling within the RSS that perhaps it’s time for Advani to retire?
The RSS, unless asked to think and advise on these aspects, will not apply its mind on such issues.
That’s not true because some years ago, Sudarshanji said on camera that there should be a retiring age.
As a person, he may have said that, but it was never discussed in any forum of the RSS. It was not a collective feeling.
Is there such a thought now?
Advaniji has definitely expressed the will for a retired life. He desires it and deserves it also. He doesn’t deserve this kind of lampooning and cartooning from either the media or from within the sections of the BJP. He deserves a happy and serene life.
‘Advani wishes a retired life; he desires it and deserves it also. He doesn’t deserve to be lampooned by either the media or the party’
So why defer it till December?
I don’t think there is any such decision. I don’t think there will be any change except that the working time of Rajnath Singh is ending in December. Advani has never said anywhere that he is going to quit in December. This is rumour, conjecture.
Who will make a good president of the BJP after Rajnath retires?
I don’t want to spoil the chances of that person by naming him. He will be unnecessarily targeted.
So are you a ruling out a ‘she’?
What do you think of Yashwant Sinha’s letter?
Yashwant Sinha had all the time at his disposal in the last 10 years. He should have deliberated upon these matters with all the responsible people concerned.
Somebody like AB Vajpayee, who was considered to be more moderate, was able to lead the party to power at the Centre. There’s something that needs to be said about the moderate face. Does the RSS also need to introspect?
At that time Atalji was the supreme leader. He never adhered to Hindutva.
That’s my point. If the BJP, without adhering to Hindutva, could be in government for six years…
But they could not win on the basis of disconnecting themselves from Hindutva. Because of Hindutva they rose from 2 to 182 seats in the 1980s and when they left it, they came to 137, and now 116. Let them experiment. They are more than welcome. But don’t blame Hindutva.
There is something called a youth vote now and in contrast, the BJP came across as a communal party. That’s why I am asking, should the RSS too not introspect?
Don’t attribute the whole success to Rahul Gandhi. What happened to his karishma in Bihar and Orissa? It is a cumulative effect of various factors. Elections are a complex game.
Does the RSS need to reconsider the way it remote controls the BJP?
The fact of the matter is that it should have controlled remotely but it hasn’t. That you can deduce from Sudarshanji’s interview. He sought the resignation of Brajesh Mishra but he couldn’t. So there is no pressure like that. At best, the RSS plays the role of an elder person giving suggestions. It is the BJP that has come to the RSS, twice or thrice. Once at the inception of Jan Sangh, then after the defeat in 1984, and then in 1991, when they asked for more pracharaks. Even in 1984, the RSS told the BJP to return to the ideology of integral humanism. The same as they are being told today.
Given the divisions in the BJP, the way it is rocked, how do you see the future of the party?
I leave it to the wisdom of the leaders. If things go as they are, the party will be reduced in the arithmetic of elections, and then they won’t even hold as many states in power as they do today.