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At March 15 meeting, top RSS body to draft roadmap, discuss focus areas

NEW DELHI: The annual meeting of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) highest decision-making body, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), slated to be held in Nagpur on March 15 will set the stage to draft the organisation’s roadmap for the future and identify focus areas as it prepares for the centenary celebrations next year.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat addresses a programme at RSS headquarters in Nagpur (ANI)

The meet of the RSS, the ideological fount of the ruling BJP, comes ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to be announced shortly and close on the heels of the Sangh’s two key demands being met; the consecration of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya; and the passage of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Uttarakhand, which is expected to be replicated by several other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states.

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A third ideological demand that the Sangh aggressively campaigned for, the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, was met in 2019, when Parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, bifurcating the state into two union territories and reading down Article 370 that gave the state its own constitution and decision-making rights for all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs.

According to a functionary aware of the details, the ABPS, which will be attended by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, senior Sangh functionaries, heads of all its offshoots, including the BJP, is likely to pass resolutions on the construction of the Ram Temple and the UCC, which is being implemented by a clutch of states.

The focus will primarily be on the Sangh’s activities, the expansion of the organisation and its roadmap for the future, said functionaries who spoke on condition of anonymity. No major changes in the organisational structure are expected ahead of the centenary celebrations. The Sangh undertakes elections every three years, and the last one was in March 2021, when Dattatreya Hosabale was appointed the general secretary, replacing Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi.

“The Sangh is actively working on increasing its presence and area of influence in India and abroad. While its key demands have been met; it is pursuing the Swadeshi agenda, which is also in line with the government’s Make In India programme and Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative,” said a functionary aware of the details.

The Ramjanmabhoomi movement that paved the way for the construction of the temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya was led by RSS affiliate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

“The construction of the temple is the culmination of the struggle that spanned for over 500 years…It represents the collective desire of all Bharatiyas (Indians) to have a grand temple for Lord Ram who is identified as a just ruler, a man of principles and embodiment of virtues,” said the functionary, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ahead of the January 22, consecration, Bhagwat referred to the opening of the temple as “the awakening of national pride” and said enlightened people of society must see to it that the dispute over the temple issue “ends completely”.

The RSS chief who was present for the ceremony, presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urged communities to work for peace and desist from politicising the temple construction. “Ayodhya means a city ‘where there is no war’, ‘a place free from conflict. On this occasion, in the entire country, reconstruction of Ayodhya in our mind is the need of the hour and the duty of all of us,” he said.

On the implementation of the UCC, which the Sangh has pursued for long, the functionary said, the organisation has made its stance clear that there needs to be awareness about the code. “There are misgivings about the UCC, as many have misled the minorities and other communities that the code will override the practices they follow. The code is limited to civil laws and is for the benefit of all, particularly women among minorities who do not have the same rights as their counterparts…” the functionary said.

While the Sangh claims the UCC will not be discriminatory, it has been silent on the demand from Scheduled Tribes to be left out its ambit.

“There is a need to have further discussion and deliberation on the code with the vanvasis (STs) and the Kalyan Ashram (an offshoot) is working to address concerns and fears,” the functionary said. The Sangh has also queered the pitch for revisiting reservation in jobs and educational institutions for STs who have converted to Islam or Christianity.

The other issues that could be part of the three-day deliberations are a national population policy, which has been flagged by Bhagwat on several occasions and the demand for caste-based census.

The issue of rallying support for the BJP is expected to be discussed during the presentation by BJP president JP Nadda, even as the Sangh maintains a distance from electoral politics. The Sangh and its cadres play a key role in motivating voters and creating awareness about the agenda of the BJP. At the ABPS in 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, ensuring 100% voter turnout for a significant difference in vote share between the BJP and other parties was discussed.

The then party president Amit Shah had spoken about how the party will need to increase its vote share to 50% to fight a combined opposition. The BJP ‘s vote share was 31% in 2014, which went up to 37% in 2019.

With the INDIA bloc attempting a combined coalition against the BJP, the party will rely on the foot soldiers of the Sangh to buttress its canvassing, which will be pivoted on the delivery of ideological promises and the development agenda.

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