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Tactical shift: RSS may go soft on Ram Temple, reservation. Here's why

Sameer Chougaonkar | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:55 IST

The annual meeting of the RSS' Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagaur, which concluded Sunday, made headlines for shedding the trademark Khaki shorts. But its more substantive decisions were conveyed more subtly.

Here are the key strategies that were devised at the 3-day meeting:

Also read - Sedition, quota, caste: what engaged RSS on the first day of Nagaur meet

1) Lower the decibels on Ayodhya, Article 370

The RSS leadership has apparently agreed to refrain from raising issues like Ram Temple, Article 370, Ghar Wapsi and Love Jihad. According to sources in the Sangh, the decision came in response to BJP chief Amit Shah's plea to show "restraint" on such contentious issues.

Shah, who was at the meeting for two days, reportedly assured the Sangh elders that the Narendra Modi regime was "committed to the RSS agenda", including these contentious issues, but "raising them at this time may pose problems for the government".

The sources said the Sangh leaders assured Shah that they would not "cause any crisis" for the government, but demanded detailed action plans on some of these issues.

One well, one temple, one crematorium - the plan RSS is reviving to end caste discrimination

Instead, the Sangh would focus on supporting social welfare issues - Clean India, National Mission for Clean Ganga. The organisation would also "help the government provide drinking water in rural areas and curb pollution in cities".

Indeed, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat praised the Modi regime's social welfare schemes and directed his cadres to help ensure such programmes usher in "a prosperous society based on equality".

2) Keep hammering away on 'nationalism'

The raging debate on nationalism kept the Pratinidhi Sabha engaged through the meeting. On the first day itself, the Sangh leaders expressed concern over "anti-national" activities on university campuses. A review report read out at the meeting called for "strict action" against " the anti-social forces in the country's universities". It stressed that "slogans calling for breaking up and destroying the nation cannot be tolerated".

3) Soften opposition to caste reservation

In recent years, the Sangh Parivar has gone out of its way to shed the image of being an upper caste organisation. But the controversy over Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide and the Jat agitation in Haryana have set back such efforts.

In an attempt to limit the damage, the Pratinidhi Sabha passed a resolution "stressing the need to end caste discrimination". It also decided to give "fresh impetus to its ambitious plan of "one well, one temple, one crematorium" for all Hindus. The local RSS shakhas have been assigned the responsibility to ensure the plan's success.

Smarting from the damage that Bhagwat's call for reviewing the reservation policy had done to the BJP's prospects in last year's Bihar election, the Sangh has softened its stand lest it hurt the BJP in the impending Uttar Pradesh polls as well. In the country's electorally most significant state, caste equations often determine the outcome.

While the Pratinidhi Sabha said there "should be no injustice towards or oppression against anybody", it insisted that "violent agitations in Gujarat and Haryana for reservation are not only a challenge to the administrative machinery, but they will also weaken our social harmony and trust".

BJP chief Amit Shah assured the Sangh elders that the Modi regime is 'committed to the RSS agenda'

It added, "It is not right for the affluent castes to demand reservation. It's a matter of great concern to the society. The RSS wants that the upper castes should drop the demand for reservation of their own will. The government must ensure that benefits of the quota system are reaching the right people," senior Sangh leader Bhaiyyaji Joshi told the media after the meeting.

This stand though is at odds with Haryana BJP regime's promise to provide reservation to the Jats.

Also read - For appearance sake: RSS may finally be ditching its khaki shorts

4) Back demand for women's entry into temples

The ban on the entry of women into certain temples was also discussed. Although it called such bans "unfair traditions", the RSS insisted that the controversy over the issue was being stoked by "elements inimical to the well-being of the society".

It further said that such matters "should be resolved by changing mindsets through discussion and dialogue", and not agitations.

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First published: 14 March 2016, 8:01 IST