Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat is engaged in the task of keeping the RSS abreast of the times, and that without compromising on the core ideals of Hindu nationalism
Dr MOHAN MADHUKAR BHAGWAT was named Sarsanghchalak, the top man, of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 2009. It marked a generational change. Bhagwat was then only 59, and he took over from predecessor K.S.Sudarshan who was 77 at the time, and who was not keeping well.
The BJP had lost the 2009Lok Sabha election under the leadership of L.K.Advani. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was in the doldrums. Bhagwat had the delicate task of helping the BJP to recover its poise and become a winning team again. The RSS and the BJP maintain their separate identities, and the RSS does not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the party. BJP leaders, however, look to the RSS leadership for guidance and support. There is little doubt that Bhagwat had played a positive role in helping the BJP to finds its leader in Narendra Modi in 2013, who then led the party to victory in the 2014 Lok sabha election. Many feathers were ruffled in the process and it was left to Bhagwat as the head of the ideological family to sort out the differences and tensions. He did it quietly, without compromising the internal autonomy of the BJP.
Bhagwat was the youngest Sarsanghchalak with the exception of MS Golwalkar, who took over as head of the RSS when he was 34, and KB Hedgewar, the founder was 36 when set up the RSS. He was unassuming but it became evident quite soon that Bhagwat was alive to the challenges facing the organisation. The fact that a younger mad had taken over the reins was reflected in the positive direction he gave to the 40 and more RSS affiliated organisations, ranging from the trade union to educational institutions.
Interestingly, Bhagwat was born in the same year and month as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While Bhagwat was born on September 11, 1950, in Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Modi was born on September 17, 1950 in Vadnagar, in neighbouring Gujarat. Of course, the similarity ends there.
Bhagwat’s family was associated with the RSS for two generations before him. His grandfather Nanasaheb was an associate of RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. His father Madhukar Rao Bhagwat was a pracharak in Gujarat, and mother Malati was a member of the RSS’s women’s wing. A relative recalls that though the Bhagwats were practically members of the RSS aristocracy, “their door would be open for everyone.” The Bhagwats were known for winning people over rather than being confrontational. “Mohan has inherited the same quality.” Young Mohan Bhagwat, the oldest of four siblings, decided early to dedicate his life to the RSS.
Bhagwat completed his schooling from ‘Lokmanya Tilak Vidyalaya’ and then the first year of his BSc from the Janata College in Chandrapur. Then he went on to do a course in veterinary science. After six months as a veterinarian in rural Chandrapur in Maharashtra, he quit the job in 1975 and moved to Akola, to be the district RSS pracharak. He later served in Vidarbha, and then in Bihar. He became Akhil Bhartiya Sharirik Pramukh (in-charge of physical training) from 1991 to 1999. He was further promoted as ‘Akhil Bharatiya Pracharak Pramukh,’ (in-charge of RSS volunteers working full-time for India). All along he built a strong network and a reputation for accessibility, to become general secretary in 2000.
The RSS office-bearers met in Nagpur in March 2009 to select a Sarkaryavah as Mr. Bhagwat had completed his third term. RSS ideologue MG Vaidya, who was the election manager, says: “I was about to initiate the process of the election of Sarkaryavah when Sudershanji stopped me. He took the microphone, said that he was not keeping well, and proposed Mohan Bhagwat’s name for the post of Sarsanghchalak.”
Mr. Bhagwat at 59 was young for the top post by RSS standards. The outside world may have been surprised, but insiders say the ‘generational shift’ had been carefully planned. Bhagwat set 75 years as the age limit for office bearers across the Sangh Parivar. He began to shape the Parivar into his own flexible and accommodative nature. Nitin Gadkari, 52, and a novice at national politics, was made party president; relatively young BJP leaders took on the mantle in Parliament. He attracted the masses towards a cadre-based Parivar and opened its doors to grassroots leaders, including those from the opposition.
The RSS’s khaki shorts were replaced with trousers. Shakha timings became flexible. The Parivar learned how to use the Internet and social media. The results were all too visible in no time. The 2014 Parliamentary elections were not fought by the BJP alone but by the Sangh Parivar. The entire Sangh parivar worked like a well-oiled machine. He even deputed several Sangh leaders specialising in organisational matters to work for the BJP. A spectacular victory was like a cherry on the cake.
Bhagwat and Modi have immense leadership qualities and both have mutual respect and admiration for each other. Bhagwat has successfully brought about the transformation in the Sangh Parivar and made it look easy.
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