The Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS), which claims a membership of 2 million, has asked cadres to work for the success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
This is a veiled message from Mohan Rao Bhagwat, the new chief of the Sangh. Bhagwat, soon after taking over at Nagpur on March 22, told the RSS conclave, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, that the RSS members should work to “ensure a higher voter turnout.”
The is a major shift in the policy of the RSS, which, following strained relations with the BJP, had asked its workers not to influence voters. An RSS resolution, passed at Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh, in 2005, had forbidden members from working for any political party.
Ram Madhav, the RSS media coordinator, admitted that the Sangh workers would not be passive this time. However, he claimed that “the members will mobilise voters in view of the call given by the Election Commission for 100 per cent voting.’’
Sources say the RSS is working to ensure a higher turnout, which, according to their reasoning, will result in the BJP getting 1-2 per cent more votes. The BJP’s poll managers view this as a major gain, one that could become a decisive factor on some seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
Significantly, as the BJP eyes a big share of the first-timers’ votes, which add up to around 10 million, Bhagwat’s not-so-coincidental appointment is seen as the “return of a younger leadership’’ in the RSS. Madhav told Business Standard that since the average age of a pracharak in the RSS was 35, Bhagwat, 58, was a relatively younger leader. The last three heads of RSS — KS Sudershan, Rajju Bhaiya and Balasaheb Deoras — had quit due to age and for health reasons.
“This is Bhagwatji’s first task for the RSS cadres. As he has a huge following among the cadres, it will have a huge impact,’’ Madhav said.
Bhagwat’s appointment, besides easing tensions with the BJP, is aimed at attracting new members. The RSS is facing falling attendance at its shakhas, which act as basic training ground for cadres. Today, it runs about 45,000 shakhas as against 50,000 a few years ago.
Ram Madhav says the RSS is working towards using its new chief’s appeal among youth to have at least 50,000 shakhas across the country during his tenure.