RSS seeks to shed its enigma: Mohan Bhagwat to address diverse audience to provide a peek into organisation’s workings

Change is in the air and it’s definitely touching the sanctum sanctorum of the Sangh Parivar — the RashtriyaS SwayamsewakSangh, or the RSS. And the change is not merely cosmetic, from changing the dress code to khaki trousers from khaki shorts for its cadres or even inviting former president Pranab Mukherjee to its event in Nagpur. The ideological fountainhead of Sangh Parivar is no longer a mysterious gargantuan organisation that works behind the scenes but is quietly evolving itself as an institution that’s contemporary in nature and allowing people to view how it operates.

The speed with which the RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh released the official reaction soon after the Supreme Court gave its historic verdict on LGBTQ on Thursday resonates the change that is taking place in the organisation. What is pertinent is that the RSS no longer keeping itself locked in a closet. It is reaching out to various sections of people in the society to give an insight to its ideologies, objectives and what it stands for.

When RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will take the podium for three consecutive days on 17, 18, 19 September at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi for the convention Bhavisya Ka Bharat: Rashtriya Sawamsewak Sangh ka Drishtikon (India of Future: An RSS perspective), he will address an audience of about 800 people invited from across various spectrum of opinion makers, outside Sangh fold. These would include foreign diplomats, retired army and security officers, writers, members from the business community, ex-bureaucrats, people from North East and other border areas, from various caste and communities, senior journalists and so on. The presence of RSS’ office bearers and workers would be limited to making logistical arrangements.

It may be noted that never in the history of the organisation before that the RSS chief has addressed an audience at length at the same function, at the same venue for three consecutive days.

On the opening day, 17 September the RSS chief would deliberate on RSS’ philosophy, its growth and its outlook for modern India.

On Day two of the convention, the RSS chief could himself take up three contentious social issues that are agitating public minds across the country – first, the SC/ST amendment bill overturning Supreme Court verdict, the debate over Dalit identity and its protection law including reservation; second, the consequent backlash from Sawarn (upper caste) communities, protests in various parts of north India including in election-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (albeit without naming these states and anything about election); and third, Supreme Court’s historic verdict on Section 377 of IPC decriminalising homosexuality to give legal cover to LGBTQ and how RSS views the subject including demands for same-sex marriages.

Given the fact that the Union government and 20 states are ruled by the BJP along with its allies, RSS chief’s views on these issues become important.

It should be noted that Bhagwat’s remarks on continuity of reservation for Scheduled Castes had created a political storm and the RJD-JD-Congress Mahagathbandhan made it a huge election issue harming BJP’s prospects. The RSS leadership is conscious of the October-November 2015 experience. This time around one can expect Bhagwat’s words to be more crafted.

On the concluding day, Bhagwat would respond to over 100 queries from the audience but sources said it may be allowed to turn into a “press conference”.

A year ago, Bhagwat had met around 50 top-ranking diplomats from Western and Islamic nations and answered whatever queries they had about the RSS. Recently industrialist Ratan Tata was invited to one of its programmes.

Before Bhagwat outlines RSS’ point of view on the amended law to provide protection to SC/STs and the consequent upper caste outrage in various pockets, the BJP too is treating this as a priority to correct public opinion in general and address to concerns of caste and communities concerned.

The issue is expected to come up in the two-day BJP National Executive meet to be held in New Delhi on 8 and 9 September.

A source said this could either come in the form of a structured agenda for discussion or Prime Minister Narendra Modi may take it up when he addresses party executives’ concluding session.

There is a feeling in the party that in view of the emerging social tensions in the aftermath of 2 April Bharat Bandh by various Dalit groups, which turned violent and the government’s decision to overturn a Supreme Court ruling and now with the BJP core social support base and the upper caste reflecting its anger towards the government’s overt tilt towards Dalits and OBC, it needs to be clarified. Over this weekend the party leadership could be taking a few steps to contain that anger and minimise emerging social tension.

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