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Editorial: When sound and fury signify nothing

The words of caution sound like wise words now but are no more than opportunistic admonitions

Editorial: When sound and fury signify nothing

RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat 

CHENNAI: The limpest criticism one can level at a tyrant is that he is bad-mannered. RSS leaders’ recent much-publicised mutterings about the ‘Ahankaar’ (arrogance) displayed by Narendra Modi during the election campaign must fall into the category of lame complaints coming long after any purpose can be served by them. They are the whimpers of old men, lacking either the vigour to count as rebellion or the potency to be chastening.

It was obvious after voters dealt humbling numbers to Modi that the gerontocrats of the RSS and the craven Vajpayeeites in the BJP will now be emboldened to air their criticisms of the authoritarian PM and his consiglieri Amit Shah. After a few critical videos by Yogi Adityanath fanboys signalled that the coast was clear, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat himself came up for air.

Speaking in Nagpur, the RSS chief delivered in the general direction of the humbled PM a Bheeshma pitamaha-like sermon full of first principles: the need for decorum in electoral politics, the public servant’s duty to shun arrogance, the imperative of probity and the wisdom of treating the opposition as a challenger rather than as an enemy.

It was a refrain soon picked up by other senior leaders of the Sangh Parivar. Senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar spoke out in the vein that the BJP’s tally in the elections was limited to 240 due to Modi’s arrogance. Other RSS mavens have written op-eds in the right-wing press urging the BJP to respect coalition dharma if it should serve its third term honourably. The stage is now set for a game of chess between BJP’s spiritual sponsors and its beleaguered monarch.

The words of caution sound like wise words now but are no more than opportunistic admonitions. Throughout the first two terms of Modi’s BJP, RSS was a silent spectator to the PM’s authoritarian ways, be it the misuse of governmental agencies to harass and intimidate the opposition and civil dissent, the corruption of electoral laws to subvert democracy, the decision to let the fires of Manipur burn, the brutal marginalisation of Muslims and the projection of Modi as philosopher king.

There was a purpose behind the RSS’s decade-long complicity. The Modi-Shah duo delivered to the Sangh Parivar two of its long-cherished objectives: Reading down Article 370 and the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. In the runup to the elections, there was a promise of two more such majoritarian goals: a Uniform Civil Code and the final drive towards a Hindu Rashtra. Modi and Shah reckoned these attainments would require major amendments to the Constitution for which a two-thirds majority in Parliament and a submission of state governments were necessary. They went hell for leather in blind pursuit of brute numbers, throwing to the winds all norms of democratic functioning.

The people of the republic stopped this assault on the Constitution in its tracks. The election results make it clear that voters will not countenance any ploy to bowdlerise the Constitution, that they will beat back any attempt to tinker with reservations, and rebuff any leader harbouring delusions of a king.

As post-facto mutterings in the RSS get louder, we must ask whether these patriarchs would have been disappointed, as they pretend to be now, had M/s Modi and Shah got the numbers they desired and delivered those two final goals in 2025, the centenary year of the RSS?

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