Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat's candid views on various aspects of national politics, economic and social milieu in recent weeks have sparked a debate within the organisation's rank and file. A key point of discussion pertains to whether RSS chief has unleashed a "Glasnost" moment for the Sangh.
For the uninitiated, "Glasnost," was a policy (along with Perestroika) promoted by former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s to encourage open discussion of political and social issues within the communist republic. Gorbachev's policy was in stark contrast with existing structures of strict command and control exercised by the Communist Party in Soviet Union.
Bhagwat's recent speech (first of his three-part lecture) in New Delhi last month grabbed significant attention as the RSS chief attempted to explain Sangh's position on key ideological issues for which it has faced flak from its adversaries. One such statement from Bhagwat was that "there will be no Hindu rashtra without Muslims in India and Hindutva encompasses fraternity and unity in diversity."
Ram Madhav, former RSS spokesperson and BJP national general secretary, is of the view that Bhagwat's recent interactions and speeches are akin to a "Glasnost moment for the Sangh."
Writing in an op-ed piece "Glasnost in RSS" in the
Indian Express, which was published on September 25, Madhav says, "There is no doubt that Bhagwat has disarmed most critics through his Glasnost. But driving home the new thinking within the rank and file of the organisation, requires no less than a Perestroika — restructuring. Bhagwat’s challenge lies in that."
Madhav's view hasn't gone unchallenged and another Sangh functionary Manmohan Vaidya maintains the candour Bhagwat has shown in dealing with contentious issues has always been present in the organisation.
In another op-ed piece on the
Indian Express, titled, "RSS doesn't need Glasnost," published on October 17, Vaidya wrote that "open discussion on a spectrum of ideas is an intrinsic part of our lives."
Madhav says Bhagwat looks determined to lead the organisation in the direction he wants.
"Welcoming new ideas is the norm in the Sangh," Vaidya wrote, while adding that "critics have so far displayed no inclination to truly understand the Sangh and perhaps that is why Bhagwat’s lectures appear to be novel to many."
While Sangh rank and file debates the seemingly "glasnost" in Bhagwat's speeches, the overall substance in the RSS chief's stated position on issues remains unchanged. Take for instance, the contentious Ram Temple issue.
In his Vigyan Bhawan speech, Bhagwat had made references to the legal route but didn’t openly call for it.
“The decision to bring the ordinance is of the government’s; and the proposal to start a movement on the issue rests with the Ram Janam Bhoomi Mukti Yajan Samiti, I am not part of both. They will have taken a call on whether the ordinance can be brought in legally, whether it will be challenged and they will be asked question on whether the decision (to bring the ordinance) was taken with the elections in mind... But as a swayamsevak and the RSS chief, I feel the temple should be constructed soon.”But, on Friday in his Vijayadashmi speech, Sangh chief clearly said, "This matter of national interest is being obstructed by some fundamentalist elements and forces that play communal politics for selfish gains. Despite such machinations, the decision regarding ownership of the land should be expedited, and the government should clear the path for construction of the grand temple through appropriate and requisite law."