In what could mark a paradigm shift in the core Hindutva ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), there seems to be no place in its future agenda for the once emotive Ram temple issue.
Ironically, the shift has come at a time when the RSS top brass is busy pushing back its political offshoot, the Bharatiya Janata Party, to the Hindutva agenda. A letter by RSS chief KS Sudarshan has come as a bolt from the blue for the hardliners in the Sangh Parivar, the name for the ideological fraternity of the RSS and its allied groups including the BJP.
In his four-page handwritten letter, Sudarshan has spelled out the future agenda of the RSS and its frontal organisations. Officially, the letter has been written to inform swayamsevaks (senior RSS activists) about the programmes to be undertaken as a part of the birth centenary celebrations of MS Golwalkar, the RSS’ second chief, also known as Guruji. The yearlong celebrations are scheduled to begin on February 24.
Sudarshan says in his letter: "There are certain common programmes for all the organisations of Sangh Parivar. It includes organising district level ‘Hindu Conferences’ all over the country." He has directed RSS activists to take up one of four subjects in these conferences. These include: the changing demographic profile of India, Swadeshi (nationalism), social justice and Guruji’s philosophy.
Issues like a Uniform Civil Code for all communities in India and the removal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution providing a special status for Jammu and Kashmir – which till now were considered the other two main issues on the Hindutva agenda besides the Ram temple – also do not figure in the letter.
RSS spokesman Ram Madhav, when asked about the omission of these important issues from Sudarshan’s letter, reacted sharply and snapped, "Can’t you think beyond these issues? Every programme cannot have the same issue."
But when asked whether the RSS finds these issues not even worth mentioning in the year-long centenary celebration programmes, he said, "The issues mentioned by the RSS chief in his letter are going to be the main areas of focus. Though issues like Ram temple and Article 370 may not have been mentioned in the letter, they will be discussed during district level Hindu conferences."
Commenting on this new agenda, a senior RSS functionary said, "I am surprised but I cannot say anything more as we do not question but just follow the orders of seniors in this organisation."
A BJP leader added, "Surprisingly, the RSS has accused the BJP in the past of ignoring the issue of the construction of the Ram temple when it ruled the country. And now the issue doesn’t find any place in the agenda of the RSS itself?" Hindu activists had razed the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992 and had hurriedly built a makeshift Ram temple on the ruins.
Since then the RSS and other Hindu groups have repeatedly sought the construction of a grand temple at the site. The BJP has more than once lent its voice to the demand. In fact, former deputy prime minister and senior BJP leader LK Advani had to step down from the post of party president for allegedly going soft on the Hindutva agenda last year.