Vivek Deshpande, Indian Express, Saturday, June 03, 2006
Attack on RSS HQ comes at crucial time for Parivar going through rough patch.
" The attack on RSS headquarters in Nagpur shows that the Islamic militants are targeting a particular community.”
This ticker from a viewer of a TV channel, which had invited reactions from the public on the question “whether we are communalising terror”, is precisely the kind of sentiment Sangh Parivar has been trying to evoke among Hindus. But the wars within its various factions, the BJP-vs-VHP battle in particular, leading to BJP’s ouster from power had badly sapped the Hindu militant organisation of its vital energy over the past three-odd years.
For the first time in the organisation’s 80-year history, it had started betraying signs of desperation and panic. So much so that, after harping on scientific temper, it decided to invoke Vaastu Shastra to rebuild its headquarter building to ward off bad omen. From this perspective, Thursday’s terrorist bid on its headquarters at Nagpur may prove to be a galvanising factor for the entire Parivar, bringing the RSS back to the national centrestage.
It would be too early to say that the attack will help the Parivar regain the sympathy it has lost by washing its dirty linen in public in recent times, but the TV message above could be the new mantra to weave its future Hindutva fabric with.
And the Parivar leaders have already started making the right noises. ‘‘If we have to defeat the jehadis, we must defeat their local supporters first’’, says VHP leader Pravin Togadia. BJP president Rajnath Singh stressed on his pet ‘‘appeasement policy’’ charge against the Congress-led UPA government. The RSS supremo called it part of the series of attacks on religious places.
More indicative, though, of how the attack can help the Sangh is the manner in which Congress leaders rushed to react ahead of others, including the BJP. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among the first to condemn it. Sonia Gandhi followed suit. That they were forced to issue such reactions for an organisation they have long labelled communal and divisive tells the story. Maharashtra’s Congress Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh beat his Gujarat counterpart, Hindutva’s poster boy Narendra Modi, in declaring a reward of Rs 10 lakh for the policemen. Deshmukh even tagged Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple with the RSS HQ, saying they had sentimental value for Hindus.
In Nagpur, District Guardian Minister Satish Chaturvedi of the Congress visited the RSS HQ hand-in-hand with BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde, and called it a shraddhasthan and temple of Hindus. Clearly, the Congress doesn’t want to be seen as being anti-Hindu by not condemning the incident.
Given the RSS’ style of operation, it wouldn’t be surprising if it builds on the terror attack issue to return to the centre-stage of national politics. The BJP, having learnt a bitter lesson by shedding its Hindutva garb to project itself as a progressive, secular party of development, is slowly but surely returning to its core ideology as is evident from Advani’s Bharat Suraksha Rath Yatra. A progressive leader like Pramod Mahajan, who privately used to admit that alienating Muslims won’t augur well for the BJP, had later publicly wondered if elections could be won on the development plank and had started resurrecting the Ram temple issue in his speeches during Advani’s latest yatra. Thursday’s attack provides an opportunity to rally around the emotive magic of Hindutva.
Recently, the party’s supreme leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee expressed the wish that those who left the BJP could come back. As late as on Friday morning, the most firebrand of them all, Uma Bharati, visited the encounter spot near RSS HQ before leaving for her journey to Wardha. Not for nothing does Uma continue to enjoy support from within the VHP. So the unifying effect of Thursday’s terror attack on the estranged Parivar followers is already becoming visible.