Shri Madan Das, Sahsarkaryavah of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is widely respected for his wide organisational experience and deep understanding of national issues. In the last five years he has been responsible for the Sangh coordination with its various other affiliates, including the political wing. The excellent coordination that the Sangh and the BJP have developed in recent years is largely attributed to his efforts. Organiser correspondent, Pramod Kumar spoke to the RSS leader on the coming general elections and on six years? performance of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government as well as other issues concerning the nation today. Excerpts:
The Sangh has a dream for the country. What has the NDA government done in the last six years in that direction?
The Sangh'sdream for the country is paramvaibhav, i.e. progress in all aspects of life, both material and cultural. We want to make India a powerful, the rich and the most respected cultural nation so that it can set an example to the entire world. In this respect the government'sresponsibility is to create such an atmosphere that India can become great. I feel this atmosphere is being created.
Today India is one of the leading nuclear and scientific powers in the world. Nobody can say that India is a primitive nation. The country has a strong economy with respect to foodgrains. The growth rate has reached the level of developed countries like China, where the growth rate is more than 8 per cent. By and large, the required infrastructure like roads, power, etc. is being developed rapidly. Water would be provided by linking all the rivers of the country. Overall, there is a vibrant atmosphere everywhere. We have to keep in mind the background of the last 50 years and we should not expect miracles to take place. We have to put in hard work and should not allow any section of the society to lag behind.
Are you satisfied with the overall performance of the government or something more should have been done?
Every time every government wants to do more. In that sense the government is also not satisfied. A more important fact is that a coalition government has proved and shown that concrete work can be done. To that extent we are satisfied.
Do you think if BJP alone gets absolute majority in the House, it can perform better?
Why not? But BJP has decided to remain in NDA even if it gets absolute majority on its own merit. This coalition experiment will continue. The BJP is not thinking on any other line today. But, definitely the country needs a one-party government so that it can enforce discipline and create an atmosphere of change. Only such a government can bring unity and stability in the country.
Some feel that the Sangh work gets affected at the shakha level when BJP is in power?
Both are not dependent on each other. The Sangh depends upon the efforts of its Swayamsevaks; it is not a place where people come automatically. The Sangh work continues with its Swayamsevaks who are active, who give time and present their ideals before other people. It has nothing to do with any political party. One thing is clear: we live in surroundings, be they favourable or unfavourable, which have not much of an impact on the Swayamsevaks. A few people come to the Sangh for getting their work done or drawing nearer to the centres of power. These are unnecessary activities, which even the Sangh has to go through. Moreover, the Sangh work always depends on its own efforts. One thing is sure, the government now does not create hurdles in our work. The Sangh Swayamsevaks are engaged in many constructive activities and these do not get affected because of government hurdles.
A number of people belonging to other political ideologies are joining the BJP. How do you see it?
The BJP is emerging a mass-based party. People who belong to other political ideologies are naturally attracted to it. They have also now realised that BJP is not what they were thinking it to be; it is different. They find in the BJP the concept of justice to all, appeasement to none. BJP'sekatmamana-vavad is not only for Hindus; it is for all citizens of the country. All can work with the BJP. People are trying to understand BJP on different fronts. Secondly, they realise that the BJP will be in power in the coming days. When new people come, the BJP has to give ideological orientation and training to convert them into its own ideology. Even in the Sangh shakha, new persons come daily. They have no ideology. It is an assimilation process, which continues over time.
When new people come and join the party, practically the old and committed workers start feeling neglected. Why does it happen?
Why should they feel neglected? Rather, they should welcome the newcomers. When the party base expands, naturally new persons are bound to join. If they are real workers they will feel happy. There is space for all in the party.
What would be the role of Sangh Swayamsevaks in the coming general elections?
Just as a Swayamsevak. A Swayamsevak has to play a role in all the national affairs. Elections are very important in a democracy. The Swayamsevaks are voters and they have an understanding of the social and national situations. They go to vote with that understanding. Since they are voters and are active and possess the organisational skills, naturally they become canvassers too. They make people to vote without fear. Similarly, they encourage the people to choose the proper party. The Sangh Swayamsevaks work in all situations including calamities. Elections are an opportunity for informing the people about their rights. They make people participate in making democracy a success.
The coordination between the Sangh and the BJP as well as the Central Government has improved in the last few years. How has this been possible?
Every government has its own machinery that keeps contact with the Party. The Party keeps contacts with various sympathetic organisations. The Sangh is a sympathetic organisation of BJP. It is the BJP that has to see that all sympathetic organisations including the BMS, Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, ABVP, Vidya Bharati, etc. who have experience in their respective fields and have some suggestions to give on different policies of the government, have a proper dialogue. It also has to ensure that changes are carried out and policies are amended as far as possible. It is nothing extraordinary, but a natural phenomenon. The government also expects that the people should participate in its functioning. It is all a part of the ruling party. The Party has to create such a situation that the people get involved.
The VHP and the BMS still criticise some policies of the government?
They are committed to their ideologies. If their aspirations are not fulfilled, naturally they will agitate. In a democracy, there is freedom of speech. You can agree or disagree on some points. Some people may also have some reservations on certain issues and others may insist on those issues. This is an expression of freedom. The advantage is that a proper communication or dialogue is encouraged and sensitivity is shown to each other'sproblems.
Vajpayee vs Sonia is the hottest issue in the country. How do you consider the future of the Congress Party?
I think Vajpayee vs Sonia is not an issue now as Sonia is not claming the prime ministership. She is leader of the biggest opposition party, i.e. the Congress. It is the Congress that has to decide whether she is an asset or not. It is not our concern. So far as Vajpayee is concerned, he is leader of the BJP and NDA and is the most popular leader as well as a very respected leader of the country. His personality has enhanced during the last five years because of his taking up of various policies of lasting effect. The future of the Congress depends upon its leaders and how the Party functions. We should not underestimate them.
Do you think the Sangh'sdialogue with Muslim leaders will be fruitful and help in solving the Ayodhya issue?
Yes. A dialogue is always good in every case. Two societies cannot adopt a rigid stand and add to misunderstandings between each other. Dialogue is meant to remove the misunderstandings and make the parties understand each other. The Ramjanmabhoomi issue is a genuine and national issue. The fact that Ram temple was demolished by an invading foreigner to insult the national pride, can be understood by all. In that sense, even Muslims should understand this feeling, as Ram is also their ancestor like that of the Hindus. Similarly, Muslims are a part of this nation, culturally, by heritage and by nationality. They are not foreigners. This is to be understood and mutual respect should be created between each other. Only a dialogue can do it. This experiment is going on. I think it will deliver good results, both from the social point of view and other issues like Ramjanmabhoomi.
General elections are always a prominent issue in the country. Will there be any such particular issue to be discussed at the Pratinidhi Sabha?
There is nothing new to be discussed there. The Swayamsevaks have to play their own role. Since the Sangh is not a political party, Sangh Adhikaris are not supposed to contest or share the dais of any political party. Even though in a democracy, during the elections, they may prefer one party to vote or canvass for, but this does not mean that candidates of other parties are enemies of the Sangh. The entire Hindu society belongs to us. This understanding is already present among our Swayamsevaks. Apart from other things, some time may also be set aside for discussing the elections.
Do you think that the cricket match between India and Pakistan will improve the people-to-people contact between both the countries?
Apparently, with the beginning of the dialogue process and removal of several restrictions, the people-to-people response is very warm. People on either side of the border want to know each other and do not want to remain in isolation. There is a bigger section of society in both the countries that wants to learn from each other. So far as Pakistan is concerned, because of the State-oriented terrorism people cannot immediately change their mindset. There may be some trouble, but we have to go ahead with the cooperative attitude without interfering in each-others? territory or internal matters. I think there could be some obstacles, but the relations should improve.
There was a proposal to send some Sangh Pracharaks into BJP. Comment.
It is not the proposal from Sangh. Always the workers who want to join BJP, they go. When they want some Pracharaks at some places, they talk to us. It is not our desire to send Pracharaks there. Same is the matter with all the organisations started by the Sangh Swayamsevaks. They know that they can get good and trusted workers from the Sangh. It is a case of mutual trust in all the organisations. The Sangh has to look after everybody and the Sangh Pracharaks are involved in all activities of the society. It is a natural phenomenon.
People have a question in their mind that the BJP left all the issues on which it had been banking after coming into power. Now it has again started taking them up?
In 1999 the BJP fought elections on the NDA manifesto, not on its own manifesto. This time also they have decided to fight on the NDA agenda. But they are preparing a vision paper in which all these things would be mentioned. The BJP as a party is committed to all these issues; only their priority may vary. Whenever possible, with consent or cooperation, they will be resolved. But without the consent of the allies and without a common consensus, nothing can be done. This is the understanding of the Party. The other organisations, also have kept aside some of their planks.
If BJP gets absolute majority in the House, can we expect it to solve all these issues?
Even without an absolute majority we have to solve these issues. Supposing BJP is in power and the Muslims take a particular stand, then it may become difficult to solve the problems. So, consensus, court decision or some other modalities will be required to come to a unanimous approval. In a democracy we must have the support of the majority over every issue.
The government now does not create hurdles in our work.
There is a bigger section both in India and Pakistan wanting to know each other.
Candidates of non-BJP parties are not enemies of Sangh.
It is the BJP that has to see that all sympathetic organisations including the BMS, Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, ABVP, Vidya Bharati etc. who have experience in their respective fields and have some suggestions to give on different policies of the government have a proper dialogue.
Dialogue with Muslims will yield good results.
Vajpayee versus Sonia is not the issue.