Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale. | Mohan Bhagwat (PTI), Dattatreya Hosabale (@indfoundation via Twitter)

By / Scroll

The all-important Dussehra speech of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat on Wednesday must have come as surprise to commentators who barely four days before had been taken aback by statements of the organisation’s general secretary , Dattatreya Hosable, painting a grim picture of the Indian economy.

Hosabale reeled out damning statistics to make his point. He even cited a United Nations’ report to back up his contentions – even as the Bharatiya Janata Party government headed by Narendra Modi has vehemently rejected all claims that India’s economy is on a downslide.

In sharp contrast, Bhagwat said that the economy was recovering fast and is slated to improve even further.

The mutually exclusive positions taken by the organisation’s topmost leaders appear all the more baffling given the impression held by some observers that Hosabale is the Modi-Shah pick in Sangh parivar and Bhagwat is one with whom Modi has no real connection.

The question, therefore, is: what is the real view of the RSS, which is the parent of the BJP?

The answer is: both.

The method

That may sound odd but there is a method in this apparent madness. It is simply the proverbial carrot and stick policy. When Hosabale spoke about poverty, unemployment and economic disparity at an event organised by RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch, this was clearly aimed at signalling to the Modi government that it must take notice of these problems ahead of the 2024 elections.

On the other hand, the RSS chief’s annual Dussehra speech in Nagpur, where the organisation was founded by KB Hedgewar in 1925, has never been the occasion for sermons to be given to citizens or to the outfits that constitute the parivar, the broad family of political groups that owe allegiance to it. It has, instead, always been the platform for the RSS to engage in grandstanding, to project itself as the philosopher king pontificating on India’s problems – and suggesting possible solutions.

So it isn’t surprising that Bhagwat did not persist with the line that Hosabale had taken only days before.

The RSS is adept at confusing its critics and observers by its equivocality on issues. It has done this several times before. For instance, in 2010, when the media had speculated that the RSS was about to change its uniform from khaki shorts to trousers, the Hindutva organisation simply put the plan off for another time. Similarly, when there was speculation about seven years ago that Hosabale was slated to replace Bhayyaji Joshi as general secretary, the organisation continued with Joshi despite his health problems.

The idea is to prove critics wrong and just keep them guessing. That is one of the chief strategies the organisation has employed throughout its existence of 97 years.

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