Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers participate in a march in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India Image Credit: ANI

The Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS), the mother ship of the Sangh, the intellectual fount of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will complete a 100 years in 2025. And its grateful “pracharaks” (communicators), who form the top echelons of the Modi government, are all set to give giant sized “guru dakshina” (gifts to the teacher).

The RSS has been banned four times in its history - once during the British Raj and thrice in independent India. From the ignominy of being banned, the RSS has come full circle.

Its adherents and nominees occupying the full spectrum circle of power — from Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and the traditional seats of power North and South Block.

Today the RSS enjoys an ideological sway as the dominant ideology that animates India as it continues to contest the Nehruvian idea of India.

The RSS has continuously pushed for a majoritarian Hindu view to guide India and it seems to have achieved its stated goal of a “Hindu Rashtra” perhaps not as an explicit stated idea but certainly as far as a majoritarian polity is concerned.

Sangh’s huge organisational reach 

Senior RSS ideologues who I spoke to for this SWAT analysis expressed huge satisfaction that the RSS had been able to nudge the polity towards a majoritarian ethos. “No party today even the Congress can upset the majoritarian consensus. We have worked for nearly a 100 years to achieve this fundamental change but today a Hindu has garv (pride) owing to Sangh’s efforts. The quiet work we have done in shakha (branch) after shakha”.

The RSS today is the biggest cultural society with Shakhas branches across all India.

For the upcoming 100 years' celebration, it plans a massive organisational expansion and critically a review of the Indian independence movement (the RSS is often accused by the Congress of not taking part in the movement for Indian independence).

Pan-India presence
The RSS currently holds daily shakhas in 5,683 of the 6,483 blocks in the country, which is a huge organisational base anyway you look at it

The “glorious” Ram Temple in Ayodhya which the RSS hails as a potent symbol of Hindu resurgence will be ready by 2025 and lots of celebration of 'RSS @100' are being planned. The RSS’s second most important decision making body — the Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal — has decided that the organisation needs to expand its base of personnel in a big way.

The RSS currently holds daily shakhas in 5,683 of the 6,483 blocks in the country, which is a huge organisational base anyway you look at it.

Representing Hindus?

The RSS is the fount of the BJP, one of the biggest political parties in the world. It has been in power in New Delhi from 2014 and also enjoyed multiple terms in the politically most important state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

The BJP, under former pracharak Narendra Modi, has set the ideological discourse close to the RSS’s heart and virtually done a reset of the Indian polity. Issues close to the RSS ideology are today the lived reality of India.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat in New Delhi. Image Credit: ANI

Under Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Sarsanghchalak (chief), who is a veterinarian by qualification, the Sangh has sought to broad base itself and made a huge push for a unified “Hindu Samaj” (united Hindu community).

From originally being an organisation that attracted the upper castes, today the RSS has made huge inroads into Dalit and tribal base, also offering them a brand of inclusive Hinduism.

This is apparent in the voter base of the BJP, which has attracted huge sections of the Dalit and other backward caste (OBC) vote bank in critical states like UP and Madhya Pradesh in the Hindi heartland of India.

Says a senior RSS ideologue, “if it was a contest between Mandal (caste-based identity politics) and Kamandal (mixing caste-based identity politics in the Hindutva project), we have won convincingly. Nobody represents the Hindus like we do and that is why RSS@100 is transforming India. For the next 100 years, we will be in power”.

Fighting words, as the 100 years of RSS will come just after the big fight of the general elections, slated to be held in 2024.