The emphatic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly polls has brought the partys relationship with its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), back in focus.
One key question for which an answer has been sought ever since Narendra Modi led the BJP to power in 2014 is whether it is Modi who dominates the RSS or vice-versa?
Some political observers have been predicting that Modi will now dominate the RSS. Others feel that with the Prime Minister and his protégé Amit Shah being in full command of the BJP and leading it to one victory after the other, it is the beginning of the end of the RSS' influence on the BJP.
This is patently untrue.
The answers to these questions lie to some extent in the organisational structure of the BJP and the RSS. But before we go into this, it would be pertinent to point out that those who are raising such questions are starting this narrative on the premise that Modi and the RSS are at loggerheads with each other. The fact is that Modi and RSS have been on the same page, especially since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The RSS' learning from its experience during Atal Behari Vajpayee's earlier BJP regime has ensured that it does not get involved in the micro-management of either the party or the government. The top RSS brass and the Modi-Shah duo have been communicating with each other almost every day, discussing crucial policy and organisational issues. The RSS has largely given a free hand to Modi and Shah and they have responded well by appointing people with strong RSS backgrounds in key positions within the government and the BJP.
An important example of the RSS and Modi being on the same page is the priority given to the north-east by the Prime Minister.
For the RSS, expanding its footprint and strengthening its influence in the north-east is top of its agenda. It feels that conversion of Hindus into Christianity has changed the demographics of this region, resulting in a threat to India's territorial integrity and this trend needs to be reversed. More than 4,000 RSS pracharaks (full-time workers) have been deployed in the region alone.
Modi's first official domestic visit outside Delhi as Prime Minister was to the north-east. No other Prime Minister has visited north-eastern states so many times in such a short span after assuming office as Modi has. In most of the central government ministries, projects in north-eastern states are being pushed vigorously.
Organisationally, Ram Madhav, an RSS Pracharak, has been given charge of the north-east. The results are visible. The BJP has made strong inroads into the region. It has formed governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam -- and now in Manipur. The party is hopeful of wresting other states in the near future.
Now, if one looks at the organisational structure of the BJP, one would realise how intrinsically the RSS and BJP are linked. Both at the national level and the state level, the second-most important post in BJP units, after the President's, is that of an "Organising Secretary".
These posts are manned exclusively by RSS Pracharaks. The Organising Secretary has the last word when it comes to organisational issues. He would sit in all crucial meetings and is part of the decision-making process at every level. In bigger state units like Uttar Pradesh, as well as at the national level, the Organising Secretary is assisted by several deputies. All of them are RSS full-timers. They generally look after the BJP affairs in states allocated to them.
To make this clearer, let us look at the case of Sunil Bansal, the Organising Secretary of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit. Bansal played a key role in the 2014 victory of the BJP in the state. He was the Man Friday of BJP President Amit Shah. At that time he was "Assistant Organising Secretary (Sah Sangathan Mantri)". He was elevated to the post of Organising Secretary after his stellar role in the BJP's performance in 2014. In 2017, he played a key role in delivering the state to the BJP.
In Uttarakhand, a similar role has been played by another RSS full-timer, Shiv Prakash, who is an Assistant Organising Secretary at the national level. He assists the BJP Organising Secretary Ram Lal, who is also an RSS Pracharak.
If one looks at the Modi's ministers, almost three-fourths have been committed RSS cadres. Before being drafting to the BJP, senior ministers like J.P. Nadda, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Singh Tomar, Manohar Parrikar, Nitin Gadkari and Prakash Javadekar have been part of the RSS. They were all handpicked by Modi.
The Chief Ministers picked by Modi such as Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra), M.L. Khattar (Haryana) and Raghubar Das (Jharkhand) have all been committed RSS workers.
Thus there is not going to be any shift in the balance of power within the Sangh Parivar as the Modi-Shah duo and the RSS top brass are not competing with each other -- they are rather complementing each other. The recent poll results are the outcome of this synergy -- and Modi, Shah and the RSS realise it well.