If you feel that the NDA government is floundering and the "Modi wave" is ebbing, you are in eminent company. None other than the Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat too feels that way. Or at least that's what was reflected in the air of despondency that pervaded his Vijayadashami address this year.
The Sarsanghchalak delivers a speech every Dussehra at the Sangh's headquarters in Nagpur. Since the BJP came to power in 2014, these speeches have been telecast live by the national broadcaster Doordarshan. In these speeches, the RSS chief usually speaks about matters of import to the Sangh and its ideals; eminent deceased personalities are remembered, anniversaries of RSS' heroes are commemorated, the organisation's achievements are celebrated, and broad outlines of future activities are presented.
The speech is essentially an exercise in boosting the morale of the millions of RSS workers throughout the country, reminding them of their goals and urging them to stay firm on their path. In his first Vijayadashami speech after the formation of the Modi government, Bhagwat said on 3 October 2014, "This year the environment is quite different and everyone can feel it." He began with a tribute to the "grand success of our scientists in sending our 'Mangal Yaan' into the orbit of Mars", saying it "tremendously generated respect for us and has added to our self confidence".
Some other highlights of the speech were:
He congratulated Indian athletes who had won medals at the Asiad games in South Korea.
He said Indians have also "made the world realise that the common citizen of Bharat takes part in the process of future building of her/his nation through execution of her/his democratic responsibilities with maturity and enthusiasm as equal, if not more, to the prosperous and well educated citizens of so called developed countries".
He noted that the "enthusiasm and resolve exhibited by the Bharatiya diaspora across the world towards Bharat is a welcome omen for the proud and prosperous Bharat".
He said "a new horizon of victory is clear to us, as is our goal of developing Bharat into the guide and torchbearer of the whole world".
He noted that the "drastic change in the government" that the "people of Bharat" had brought about was not even six months old, but "positive signs are emanating" that gave hope about the "emergence of Bharat on the international horizon".
He praised the Modi government, saying that in a "very short period, some policy initiatives taken by the central government... have raised good hopes".
He mentioned the floods that had devastated Jammu and Kashmir that year and commended the "central government" for its "swiftness, efficiency and open heartedness" in providing "relief and help to the affected people".
The optimism conveyed in 2014 went up by several notches in 2015. Bhagwat was almost jubilant throughout the speech. Some highlights of the speech were:
"When we ponder over the present situation in the country, we get a very optimistic and soothing view."
"An atmosphere of disappointment and lost faith, which existed couple of years back, has evaporated."
"An atmosphere of expectations has come to fore, generating a sense of optimism that such expectations shall be fulfilled."
"It is becoming evident to all that Bharat's esteem in the world has gone up many-fold in the last couple of years."
"Many proactive steps have been taken to improve bilateral relationships with the neighboring countries, with successful results. It seems that the world is being introduced to a new modern Bharat."
"The world is experiencing a Bharat, which is full of self-respect and self confidence."
"Bharat is reincarnating itself into an all together new manifestation and the world is enchanted to see Bharat's new Avatar with utmost optimism."
"All the developing nations of the world are looking forward to Bharat's leadership to emancipate them from the undesirable influence of the so called world powers."
"It is pleasurable to note that the manifesto of Niti Ayog is giving clear indications in the same direction."
"Mudra Bank, Jan Dhan Yojna, voluntary surrender of cooking gas subsidy, Swatch Bharat initiative, and skill development are some useful initiatives of the present government, in the same direction."
"For the last 90 years, the RSS has been constantly trying to galvanise the energies of Hindu society for nation building...Today, everyone can see the impact created by Swayamsewaks coming out of the easy and simple modus operandi of the RSS. Now they not only get respect and affection from a grateful society, but also the recognition of the whole world."
In 2016, the tone of Bhagwat's speech was drastically different.The dominating feeling was of concern as opposed to the jubilation conveyed in the previous two years. He said:
"If we carefully study the situation that we have been facing for the last one year, we will certainly be convinced of the need for us to follow the teachings of our great masters."
"The political parties, who could not make it to the echelons of power, are busy formulating strategies for their political gains, to focus on the shortcomings and inadequacies of the government and the administration."
"The picture we have been seeing in the past one year, giving us a clear vision of the dirty tricks being played, is a matter of grave concern."
"Those who take even a cursory look at the situation prevalent in our country and the world at large, know that the fundamentalist, extremist, divisive, and selfish forces in the world, for whom an efficient, united and self-confident Bharat with an able government is an eyesore, are busy spreading their tentacles all over the country."
"These inimical elements, with the idea of maligning the government, administration and the benign forces like the RSS, which are capable of thwarting their evil designs, are dragging them into unnecessary controversies so as to create a bad impression about them in the minds of the people."
"The aspirations and character of these forces, which are at loggerheads and even fight among themselves, clearly show that they even join hands to achieve their common or individual selfish aims."
"So, there is an urgent need to take necessary protective steps to guard against walking into the trap of their deceit and subterfuges, aimed at creating an atmosphere of division and antagonism in the society."
"Undesirable elements...are raking up the issue of cow slaughter or spreading unfounded rumours about cow slaughter" and "are busy serving their narrow personal or political ends".
"Some sections in the media also, in the hope to enhance their commercial gains, are in the habit of sensationalising the reporting of such issues by blowing them out of proportion."
"The present conditions in the whole of Jammu & Kashmir make our concern all the more confounded."
"The diplomatic moves made so far at the international level, and the strong resolve of the government and the parliament in the matter are welcome steps but to implement the policy with firmness is also important."
"There is an urgent need to promote, consolidate and establish nationalistic activities and forces in...major areas of the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh" that are "less disturbed".
"To rein in the internal and external forces of disruption active in the disturbed areas, it is necessary for the central and state governments to work in tandem, adopting a common policy, with a definitive attitude."
"Some groups active in the border areas of Bharat, which have different countries of the world as the hub of their operations, indulge in subversion, violence, terrorism, smuggling of drugs and narcotics, and are hand in glove" with subversive elements "promoted from across the border".
"The terrorist attack on our army camp at Uri has underscored the need for continuous preparedness on the part of our combat forces."
"Full cooperation of the law and order machinery of the states is also essential."
It is not just the situation on the national security front alone. Bhagwat also expressed concern about the education sector. He noted that "a committee was appointed to go into the matter and the committee has already submitted its report...but it remains to be seen whether the recommendations of the committee are in sync with the wisdom of the educationists and activists in the education field".
He added that "the blueprint of a suitable framework required to bring about a shift in the direction would be available then only, or else the consensus will remain a mere pipe dream". He lamented that "different programmes, festivals and campaigns organised to impart social education and culture" may "lose their spirit and turn into hollow and meaningless rituals".
He ended with a prayer to the people "for the soothing shade of your love and encouragement for the national mission taken up by the RSS" and their "increased cooperation and participation".
The dip in morale within the Sangh is clear. But what is the reason behind it. Bhagwat did not talk specifics, he only suggested that the opposition parties and international forces "inimical" to the RSS were conspiring to bring India a bad name. Is he thus admitting that the Modi government's reputation has taken a hit because most of the challenges it was expected to overcome are still largely unaddressed?