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The Sangh-BJP interface | HT Editorial – editorials

The Vijayadashmi speech by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief is significant for it lays out the Sangh’s broader worldview, and its approach to contemporary issues. Given that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) derives its ideological inspiration from the RSS, and there is a close degree of coordination between the government, the party, and the larger “ideological family”, the speech has assumed even greater importance since 2014.

On Sunday, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat praised India’s handling of the China threat; lauded the government and society’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic; defended the Citizenship (Amendment) Act; attacked forces which he claimed wanted to weaken and divide India internally; and sought to equate Hindutva with the nation. All of this indicates that there is a high degree of synergy between the government and the Sangh. This is not surprising, for after its victory in 2019, the BJP-led government at the Centre has been committed to the core ideological goals dear to the RSS. The speech should lay to rest speculation about the Sangh’s unhappiness with the government, notwithstanding occasional differences on policy and personnel.

But the most significant element of the speech was the bit on the economy. Three things stand out. One, the Sangh is quite delighted with the focus on self-reliance, for it views this as a victory of its long-held swadeshi philosophy. Mr Bhagwat emphasised the importance of having the sites of production, workforce engaged in production, economic benefits from sales of production and rights of production under “national control”. This is a rather strong call for a return to the local. Two, in a message of moderation to the more extreme economic affiliates, he acknowledged the importance of foreign investment for technical knowledge-sharing, international cooperation, financial independence — but “on our terms” and “mutual consensus”. And finally, while supporting the government’s recent economic reforms, Mr Bhagwat emphasised that farmers must not get trapped by either corporates or middlemen, the government should provide an extra layer of protection to entrepreneurs, and development gains must percolate down — all of which marks a cautious warning. A close reading of the speech, thus, indicates that on political and cultural issues to a large extent and on the economy to a lesser extent, the government and the RSS have a close overlap.

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