RSS Members seen marching at an event in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. (Source: RSS’ Official Twitter handle)

RSS Will Be Less Involved In 2019 Election Than 2014: W Andersen  

“The image of the RSS as a monolith is wrong.”

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), often referred to as the ideological arm of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will not be as heavily invested in the ruling party’s political campaign in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as compared to their contribution in 2014, according to Walter K Andersen.

Professor of South Asia Studies at John Hopkins University, Andersen who recently launched his new book RSS: A View to the Inside co-authored by Shridhar D Damle, in an exclusive interview with Quintillion Media’s Sanjay Pugalia, talks about the RSS’ relation with the BJP, the growth of its affiliates, and how the organisation has historically distanced itself from politics.

On RSS And BJP’s Relation

Citing historical examples, the American academic says that the RSS has historically been an organisation which maintained some distance from politics and made sure that they don’t get sucked into the BJP’s ambitions.

Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed by a non-RSS person: Syama Prasad Mookerjee. He was supported by Guru Golwalkar, he didn’t want the RSS to become a political organisation.
Walter K Andersen, Professor of South Asia Studies, John Hopkins University

Citing his interaction with an RSS insider recently, Andersen said he was told, "We are not a party, we don't want to be a party."

“Even in 2014, on several occasions their head made it clear to the RSS workers working for the BJP that they are first members of the Sangh.”

Throughout the RSS there is an undercurrent that politics is corrupting.

RSS’ Role in 2019

The political scientist said that the Sangh ‘went all out’ in helping the BJP in 1977 and 2014 elections, but that kind of intensity will not be seen in the upcoming Lok Sabha election ‘unless something drastic happens’.

There is a fear of deep-state. If BJP wins 2019, then it gets two terms maybe three, there is a possibility that the BJP becomes a part of the deep state. RSS has always been suspicious of the deep-state.
Walter K Andersen, Professor of South Asia Studies, John Hopkins University

He further states that the RSS looks at policies with a bottom-up approach, but government and political parties always think top-down.

The Modi-Bhagwat Duo?

When asked about the relationship between PM Narendra Modi and the RSS chief, Andersen said that Mohan Bhagwat has a diplomatic approach which helps them both understand each other’s position.

Bhagwat understands that policy is the decisions of the PM and the party (BJP). The PM realises the RSS is important in training a cadre. Each individual understands each other. They are the same age, born in 1950. They’ve had interactions in the past in their careers growing up.