What distinguishes the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from rest of those organizations that vouch their commitment to democratic values and norms but hardly care to follow them?
These organizations, political parties and NGOs do not waste any single opportunity to brand RSS as anti-democracy outfit. Ironically, it is the same RSS that is branded as ‘dictatorial’, ‘fascist’, ‘obscurantist’ etc. that has been following the democratic norms in conducting its organizational matters. And this is the most distinguishing feature of this largest Hindu organization of the world!
The RSS is holding nationwide conclave of its elected representatives – the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) – at Nagpur from March 13-15, 2015. Every year such a conference is organized at different places in the country. The congregation of these representatives elect the new ‘Executive head’ or ‘Sarkarywah’ in RSS parlance, every three years. This ABPS will be electing new Sarkaryawah for the next three-year term.
With the political change at the Centre after the 2014 elections followed by the repeat performance by the BJP in some important states, the RSS, in the eyes of the media, seems to have occupied the prime space. So, speculations are rife as the dates of this conference zero down. Some media channels have telecast ‘most authentically’ about the prospective changes at the topmost level while some others have quoted ‘sources’ at their disposal to forecast the ‘possible change’ in the RSS. But hardly anyone has bothered to go deeper into the matrix of this greatest democratic exercise within the RSS.
The Tradition Continues
The tradition of holding such annual conclaves of representatives started in the RSS post-1948 ban. The RSS, founded by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 at Nagpur to organize and consolidate the Hindu society by infusing in it a civic-national character, was banned consequent upon the most heinous assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace.
However, the ban was lifted in 1949 after the then government found some face saving device to cover up the injustice and injury it inflicted to RSS as an organization and to countless RSS swayamsevaks and their families. The RSS was then required to submit to the government a constitution or bye laws that would govern its internal affairs!
The First Meeting
At the meeting of the Kendriya Karykari Mandal of RSS held on January 21-22, 1950, resolutions were passed to constitute the provincial level ‘Pratinidhi sabha’ and subsequently ‘Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha’ (ABPS) as per the provisions laid down in the constitution of RSS, before its schedule meeting at Nagpur on March 12, 1950.
Another important resolution passed in that very meeting was regarding celebration of Republic Day. India opted for a sovereign democratic republic and the constitution was put in effect on January 26, 1950.
The RSS, which is often accused of neglecting these ‘national festivals’, has passed a resolution that said:
“That all things considered, the Republic Day 26th January, 1950 be celebrated as a festival in all the Sangh branches throughout the country as a day heralding severance of all connection of the British crown with the Government of the country. Appropriate meetings be held under the auspices of the Sangh and the function should include hoisting and salutation of the state Flag, speeches befitting the occasion and ‘Vande-Mataram’ at the close.” (Source)
Active and committed swayamsevaks all over the country elect their representatives or ‘Pratinidhis’ to participate in this annual congregation. Their proportion varies according to the strength of the organization. This year some 1200 ‘Pratinidhis’ are expected to attend the meeting. Besides, the members of the RSS Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM), provincial sanghchalaks and other office-bearers are part of the Pratinidhi Sabha.
Representatives of various organizations owing allegiance to RSS ideology attend the three-day conclave as special invitees. Many of these organisations are now leaders in their respective fields. The Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh is way ahead of all left unions combined together. The Vanvasi kalyan Ashram has made very deep in roads in the tribal sector. The Ekal foundation schools have actually surpassed the figure of 50,000 making it a big primary educational movement. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has contributed immensely to the uplift of neglected and downtrodden sections of the society.
Since 1950, this tradition has continued uninterrupted except for the two years (1976-77) when the RSS was banned during the infamous ‘Internal Emergency’ and during the other ban in 1993 following the demolition at Ayodhya in 1992.
Wide Spectrum of Resolutions:
Besides, transacting its organizational business, the ABPS also expresses its views and opinions through resolutions on various issues of international, national, social, political and economic importance. The list of the topics covered since 1950 is simply mind-boggling and shows the intrinsic insight and in-depth understanding of the RSS leadership regarding these issues. Some of them included about situation in Assam, Bangladesh, China, Jammu & Kashmir, cow protection, minority appeasement, education, national security, north east, religious conversions, Shri Ramjanma Bhumi, natural resources, Dunkel draft, Nepal, Pakistan, Partition of India, Punjab, social issues and so on and so forth.
Each resolution is drafted with utmost care and precision using perfect words to convey the meaning in most unambiguous manner. It would be of interest for the scholars to study these varied resolution as they reflect the situation of that particular time frame.
A Shining Galaxy of Sarkaryawah
As stated the top executive of RSS –the Sarkaryawah- is elected every three years by these representatives. This meeting is essentially held at Nagpur-the headquarters of RSS. The term of the present incumbent Suresh alias Bhayyaji Joshi ends this year necessitating election of the new incumbent. The 1200-odd ‘Pratinidhis’ would elect the Sarkaryawah of their choice in this AABPS.
It would be interesting to have a look at those stalwarts in the RSS who held and adored this topmost executive post. With the beginning of Pratinidhi Sabha, Shri Prabhakar Balwant ailas Bhayyaji Dani was Sarkaryawah from 1950 to 56 and again from 1962-65, the year he died of heart attack. He was succeeded by Shri Ekanath Ranade, who remained Sarkaryawah from 1956-62. He was later relieved to look after the Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The memorial there today bears testimony to the vision and far sight of Ranade.
After the demise of Dani in 1965 Shri Madhukar Dattatrey ailas Balasaheb Devras became the Sarkaryawah and remained till 1973 when he was nominated to be the third Sarsanghchalak of RSS by his predecessor Shri M S Golwalkar ailas Sri Guruji. After his elevation to that post of ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ Shri Madhavrao Muley was elected as Sarkaryawah and he remained at the top till 1979. All these people till then were the direct disciples of Dr. Hedgewar, the founder of RSS and were groomed under his guidance.
Prof. Rajendra Singh alias Rajju Bhayya replaced Muley in 1979 and his term continued till 1987 when he handed over the baton to Sri H V Seshadri who in turn continued till 2000. The present Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohanrao Bhagwat was elected Sarkaryawah in 2000 and remained so till 2009 when he succeeded K S Sudareshan as Sarsanghchalak.
The present incumbent Suresh alias Bhayyaji Joshi is holding the post since 2009.
The Pratinidhi Sabha witnessed some very emotional and touchy moments too. In 1994, owing to deteriorating health, the then Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Devras decided to step down and made his parting speech at the Pratinidhi Sabha handing over the reins of RSS to Prof Rajendra Singh. This smooth transition of power came as a surprise for many in the country and abroad.
Balasaheb Devras gave the most needed social thrust and dimension to the RSS mission. He played a very important pivotal role in restoration of democratic polity in India post-1975 emergency of politically over ambitious Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His historic speech at Pune denouncing the scourge of untouchability in most vocal terms made deep impact on the public psyche.
Prof. Rajendra Singh, who otherwise could be a world class atomic scientist, following the footsteps of his predecessor announced his retirement in 2000 Pratinidhi Sabha at Nagpur and anointed the most versatile K S Sudarshan to the post of ‘Friend, Philosopher and Guide’ of RSS.
It was during the tenure of Rajju Bhayya the first ever BJP government assumed power at the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996 to 2004.
His successor K S Sudarshan remained Sarsanghchalak till 2009. The major achievements of his tenure were worldwide celebration of birth centenary of second RSS Sarsanghchalak M S Golwalkar and opening of dialogue with Christians and Muslims.
In 2009, to the surprise of all, Sudarshan decided to step down paving the way for the relatively younger leadership to take the RSS on its chartered course unhindered, and handed over the baton to Dr Mohanrao Bhagwat at a simple yet impressive ceremony held at Reshambag ground.
The RSS scaled more heights during his tenure. The rest hardly need any repetition as the events are very fresh in public memory.
In India, where many organisations are almost a family affairs, where all major ideological movements have undergone splits over some issue or other including the left, socialists and the grand old Congress, RSS is the one which is growing in leaps and bounds and yet has been able to change the leadership sans power struggle, traits of regionalism and narrow considerations.
By: Virag Pachpore