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BJP-RSS meet: UP polls, cow protection and Dalits top agenda

Atul Chaurasia | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:45 IST

On Friday, 4 November, there was a flurry of activity at the Maharashtra Sadan, situated on Delhi's Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

BJP leaders and ministers presented their report cards before the two Sah Sarkaryawahs (joint general secretaries) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal.

The meeting was all the more important because of its timing, as well as the secrecy with which it was held, as the very next day, Saturday 5 November, the BJP began its Uttar Pradesh campaign from Saharanpur, where party president Amit Shah flagged off the first Parivartan Yatra.

Shah's meeting with the RSS brass has given rise to a lot of speculation. Also present at the meeting were Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, the party's organising secretary Ram Lal and national vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also separately went and met the RSS leaders.

Both the BJP and the RSS tried their best to keep the meeting under wraps. But sources in both organisations have given out quite a few important details of the meeting. Some of these details are surprising, some could have a bearing on the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls while some are dedicated to the Sangh's own agenda.

Celebrating the 1966 cow-protection movement

In the meeting, the RSS put the final touches on its decision to observe the 50th anniversary of the cow-protection movement it conducted via the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1966. On Monday, 7 November, the anniversary will be celebrated across the country.

The RSS has decided to step up the cow-protection movement, and has directed BJP workers to take part in it with full force and make it a success. Amit Shah has reportedly agreed to this.

It must be recalled that in 1966, Hindu organisations had demanded a complete ban on cow slaughter, and had even surrounded Parliament House to make their voices heard.

Then, on 7 November 1966, Swami Karpatri Maharaj, Shankaracharya Niranjandev Tirth and other seers had led a large crowd of sadhus to Parliament House in a bid to wrest control over it. However, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had refused to heed to the sadhus' request.

As a result, the aggressive sadhus had run amok through Delhi, causing quite a bit of damage and leading to the imposition of a curfew in the city.

The sadhus had even set then-Congress president K Kamraj's house on fire. Some sadhus had lost their lives in police firing.

Now, the Sangh seems intent on using that incident to provide impetus to its cow-protection movement.

The second important discussion that took place in the meeting was about the various targets the RSS has set for the various ministers in the Union government. The review report was presented by Rajnath and Jaitley.

Dalit strategy

Another important development at the meeting was that the RSS leaders asked the BJP what it was doing to deal with issues like the Dalit movement in Una, Gujarat, and the outrage generated by Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad. According to sources, the RSS believes these incidents have weakened the BJP's electoral prospects, and also dealt a huge blow to the Sangh's strategy with respect to Dalits across India.

After the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre, both the BJP and the RSS have launched many different schemes to attract Dalits to their fold.

But the cow-vigilantes' atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat and elsewhere, as well as Vemula's death, have thrown a spanner into the works for these organisations.

Thanks to this, the BJP has had to bend over backwards to woo the Dalits - including massive celebrations of the birth anniversaries of Dalit icons Suheldev and Ambedkar. After all, it needs them to win the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls.

But at present, it seems a tall order. This was discussed at length in the meeting.

Ram Mandir issue

Another issue crucial to the UP elections that was discussed at the meeting was the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. According to sources, the Sangh was desperate to know what the BJP's public stance on the issue would be, with the polls inching closer.

It is believed that the RSS has given its backing to the issues of development and national security, but has also told BJP leaders that a core issue like the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya cannot be ignored in election season - and that the BJP should clarify its position at the earliest.

Apart from these issues, the Punjab, Goa and Manipur elections were also discussed. The ministers also briefed the RSS on the progress of the National Education Policy.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 5 November 2016, 8:42 IST