The Congress and the media take great delight in terming BJP as a political wing of RSS/VHP or their mouthpiece. The Congress’ aim is to discredit BJP and label it as a Party with fundamentalist leanings; the media’s purpose in hyphenating BJP and RSS is more obscure. But is there any truth is this maligning/publicity being heaped on BJP?
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) February 10, 2014
Bharatiya Jana Sangh
The RSS did have a political arm called Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS). This Party was established in 1951 and existed as an independent entity till 1977. It was started by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Delhi. RSS believed that most members of the Congress were British educated and not very different than Brown Sahibs and the primary objective of the BJS was to provide a “nationalistic alternative” to the Congress. The BJS won three seats in the first election they contested. Being the political arm of the RSS, the BJS was right-wing, shared the political ideologies of the RSS and most of its members and activists came from the ranks of the RSS.
Come Indira Gandhi’s blot on democracy in 1975 – the Emergency. Umpteen leaders from every party other than the Congress were jailed. The period of the Emergency proved to be the single biggest binding force for political opposition in India to gain ground. When the Emergency ended in 1977, Jayprakash Narayan, the biggest non-Congress leader in the country then insisted that the Opposition Parties present a united front. This led to a hastily forged partnership amongst Left, right and centre oriented parties like the BJS, Bharatiya Lok Dal, the Socialist Party and the Congress (O) joined together to create the Janta Party in 1977. That was the year when the Congress (I) suffered a wipe out in the elections.
Birth of BJP
Ambitions, ideological differences and in-fighting were the bane of the quickly put-together Janta Party and they didn’t last very long. In the 1980 elections, Janta Party lost and was practically disbanded. Most members left and later reconvened to form the BJP. Another Party, Akhil Bharatiya Jan Sangh claims to be the original BJS. The Janta Party also continued to exist till 2013. On August 11, 2013, the Chairman of the Janta Party, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy merged Janta Party with the BJP.
When the BJP was formed, obviously there were members from the former BJS in its cadre. But when BJS amalgamated with the other parties to form the Janta Party, it ceased to exist as the political arm of RSS. Later, it was members from the Janta Party who got together to form BJP. This means that there must have been non-BJS members in its ranks too; else they would just revert to calling themselves BJS, a name that still held currency. Clearly, BJP had moved away from the hard-line right alignment of the BJS. Similarly, if it was left aligned, the BJP may have called itself the Communist or Socialist Party and would today have the unstinting support of the Communists in West Bengal and Kerala.
Having learnt lessons from the Janta Party victory and its fiasco, the members who formed BJP were more center-aligned than anything else. When the Vajpayee led government was at the helm of affairs, their focus was clearly on growth, development and liberalisation. It was the time of India Shining.
Because some of its roots do trace back to the political arm of the RSS, the BJP can be considered to be an offspring of the RSS. On the other hand, because it encompasses the Parties with left and center leanings that formed the Janta Party, the BJP is decidedly not the RSS.
By Sujata Garimella