headline: The new BJP leader will be from outside Delhi”
At a time when the bjp is going through its worst existential crisis, the man with the walrus moustache and a mischievous glint in his eyes has become the most sought-after oracle in town. Mohanrao Bhagwat, the 59-year-old boss of the rss, plays the role to perfection, and every word of his continues to be worthy of Page 1 nowadays. The media savvy Bhagwat’s ascension as the head of the House of Saffron has marked a generational as well as cultural shift in the organisation. He is the moderniser, the 21st century face of the rss. As the bjp seems to have abandoned its core ideology for the sake of coalition politics, Bhagwat has brought Hindutva back to the national agenda. As the bjp suffers from the absence of a leader who can take the party out of the wreckage of defeat, the sixth sarsanghchalak has become the supreme guide and the wise counsellor. As the party retreats from the national mindspace, he styles himself as the last apostle of the nationalist cause. As its ambitious but discredited leaders struggle for the spoils of a lost war, he tells them: behave or be damned. Still, the Brahmin bachelor from Chandrapur in Maharashtra finds time to read the new Dan Brown. Like the symbologist hero in The Lost Symbol, Bhagwat too has to think smart and act fast to save the Parivar he heads. In a candid conversation with Editor prabhu chawla for the Seedhi Baat show on Aaj Tak channel at the rss office in Jhandewalan in Delhi, Bhagwat talks about subjects ranging from the future leadership of the bjp to Vande Mataram, from Chidambaram to Modi, from Pakistan to China—and more. Excerpts.
Q. What do you think about the Deoband reaction against Vande Mataram?
A. Vande Mataram is for all Indians. It was part of our freedom movement and history. There was a time when both Hindus and Muslims sang it.
Q. The Muslims say it is against their religion.
A. I don’t think any religion is against desh bhakti. To say Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Mataram is not like a religious puja or idol worship.
Q. What is the Sangh’s view?
A. (Thumps the table) Vande Mataram kehna hoga (Everyone in India will have to say Vande Mataram).
Q. Do you think the minorities felt threatened after the Masjid fell?
A. I would say that the wishes of the Hindu samaj were ignored by the government. The anger against the system was taken out on the structure.
Q. But your strong take on the Babri Masjid, the Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 makes minorities
A. Just tell me why is there no
rational dialogue regarding such matters. For 90 years there has been no court judgement (on the Ram Mandir). And when nothing happens, the average man loses his balance.
Q. V.P. Singh had a formula to build both mandir and masjid at Ayodhya. As a responsible organisation why don’t you show some magnanimity?
A. This will not create unity. If a Ram Mandir is built peacefully, it will end Hindu-Muslim fighting. A mosque can’t be constructed at the same site. Let them construct another mosque at some other place and the Hindus will extend all possible help.
Q. The Congress apologised for the anti-Sikh riots and Advani said the demolition was a national shame.
A. The Sangh did not say “demolish the structure” but the court’s delay on the verdict angered the people.
Q. Do you agree with Advani that it was a national shame?
A. I don’t agree with Advani on this issue. Why didn’t they give legal permission for kar seva when so many people had collected for it?
Q. Why is the Sangh unwilling to do something which makes minorities feel safe? Whatever happened in Gujarat also added to the gap between the Sangh and the minorities.
A. Violence is wrong wherever it happens. Don’t just look at one side. What happened in Godhra should not have happened. No one talks about the killings at Godhra.
Q. Should Narendra Modi apologise for the Gujarat carnage?
A. He is the head of a state, he has full knowledge of what happened and is capable of giving his reaction. If he thinks that something that needs an apology has taken place, then he will apologise. I am sure. I have also been told the speed with which the riots in Gujarat were controlled is commendable. Why should he apologise if he has done no wrong? That is not the way.
Q. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were not responsible for the 1984 riots but have apologised. It increases their stature. If Modi or the rss do the same, they will stand to gain.
A. At that time there was a comment, ‘When a big tree falls, some things are bound to happen.’ No such statement was made in Gujarat.
Q. Does it mean the rss will never compromise on its core issues?
A. India’s unity and integrity is non-negotiable. So is the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya and a Uniform Civil Code.
Q. If I understand correctly, you still believe in Akhand Bharat and not in the two-nation theory.
A. It is all part of India. Pakistan is transitory and will become part of India sooner or later.
Q. What about Afghanistan?
A. Pakistan and Afghanistan are a part of us and will return one day.
Q. You claim that the rss has no direct control over the bjp. But it sent 35 pracharaks to the bjp and they report to you.
A. It is not compulsory that they report to us. We only want them to stick to their principles. We don’t interfere in their work.
Q. There have been reports of rss pressure on the bjp, that Vasundhara Raje was removed because of pressure from the rss.
A. The rss had nothing to do with it. This is an internal matter of the bjp.
Q. Four months ago you talked about a change in the bjp leadership. The bjp lost three state elections and no change seems forthcoming.
A. Change will happen but at its own time. I only said what I have been told (by the bjp), they have a plan in mind and it is rolling on.
Q. There is a strong feeling that the rss is intervening and imposing
itself on the bjp.
aA. The rss never intervenes, only gives advice when asked.
Q. But you have said that the new leadership will be someone other than these four (Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar).
A. Yes the new leadership will be someone other than these four. This is what I have been told. That is what has been agreed on and I believe the process has begun.
Q. You will get someone from
outside Delhi between 50 and 55 years of age?
A. They will get someone from outside Delhi.
Q. In the last five-six years, several people who are media creations with no affiliation to the Sangh have come into prominence in the bjp. Has this lead to a dilution in ideology?
A. The Sangh is not against anyone, we don’t look at anyone whether he is a swayamsevak or not.
Q. Are you worried about an image of corruption amongst the swayamsevaks who have joined
A. Politics is a slippery ground but still we don’t want to see one of our swayamsevaks slipping. We talk to them but it is up to the bjp to take action against them.
Q. The bjp is a visible face of the Sangh Parivar. Are you worried when you send workers to the party? They also get affected by the personality cult and the individual becomes more important than the organisation.
A. Yes we are worried and we do talk to them about it.
Q. Would you prefer that the party is led by someone who believes in the rss ideology?
A. Who will lead the party is something they will decide. What we want is someone who articulates our ideology, believes in teamwork, encourages the younger generation and the difference in ‘a party with a difference’ should be visible to all.
Q. There are some outfits that are not part of the Sangh, yet there is a perception that they belong—like the Sri Ram Sene of Karnataka... Pragya Thakur. Why don’t you disassociate the rss from them?
A. I have already said that I have nothing to do with the Sri Ram Sene. There is no such thing as Hindu terrorism. No Hindu will support terrorism.
Q. Yet you supported Pragya Thakur.
A. No, all we said is that don’t do a media trial. Let the courts decide.
Q. I saw a recent statement by the Sangh saying that P. Chidambaram is doing good work.
A. He is saying a lot of good things, but if he delivers on these, we will definitely praise him.
Q. Are we soft on China?
A. I have my doubts if the Government is alert on China. It has a well-defined strategy of encircling India. China has surrounded us by wooing our neighbouring countries from Maldives to Pakistan. We have to liberate our neighbours from the clutches of China.
Q. Have the Chinese defeated us at diplomacy?
A. Overtaken, not defeated. We can still do something.
Q. Regarding Pakistan, the bjp seems confused. What is the rss view?
A. Pakistan exists on the premise of being anti-India. Pakistan needs to be given a decisive reply for all its mischievous actions, we need another military victory over Pakistan. That is perhaps the only way by which we can prevent a 26/11 and terror attacks.
Q. Have we lost an opportunity to score a military victory?
A. When Parliament was attacked and then after 26/11. Our government failed us then. We lacked the will.
Q. Do you agree that a strong and stable Pakistan is good for India?
A. If Pakistan is mentally healthy and gives up anti-India sentiments only then it’s good for India. n