Interview with Shri. Arnab Gosvami of Times Now Channel
Question: - Let me start by asking you when you took over as the head of the RSS, as Sarsanghchalak you emphasized change. You said that no organization can change as quickly as we do, we can even change our leaders and change is a factor in the RSS. Do you feel that the election results this year emphasize that need for change not just in the BJP but also in the RSS in your style of thinking?
Answer: - As I said change is the character of RSS. We keep on changing. We changed our Prarthna in 1939. But there was this comment ‘RSS is not changing-not changing’. I answered that. We are the organization most ready for the change. There are certain things which we have to keep fast, they can not change. Roots you don’t change. Everything else you can change. In RSS we can change everything except ‘Hindusthan is Hindu Rashtra’. But we have got a particular method. We create consensus and when that consensus is achieved we change immediately.
Question: -In 2004 elections the RSS explained the loss of BJP as; I think it was because of the dilution of the Hindutva ideology. Vajpayee had cited
Answer: - That is to be thought by the political party. Our Hindutva has no brand. Our Hindutva is a set of values. Unity in diversity, gratitude, austerity, simplicity and such values. They are the Hindutva. It is not concerned with politics and it is concerned with everything in your life. So it is not a particular religion or creed. It is a view, a worldview.
Question: - Hindutva is essentially today, largely in the country is understood in the political context. You say that it is a way of life but without doubt it is a political slogan today. My question to you is does Hindutva as a political slogan work?
Answer: - As a political slogan what works and what doesn’t work depends on so many factors. How you put the slogan, what is the situation prevalent then. Some times it work, some times it doesn’t works and reasons are various. But we don’t look to Hindutva as a political slogan or as political ideology. It is the nature of Bharat, identity of Bharat. Unity in diversity. One manifested in everything is the base. That is particular to Bharat only.
Question: - But as has been interpreted and projected fanatically by the BJP, by the large part of the BJP. Hindutva is seen today in its political interpretation and application as a form of political intolerance. You would not deny that Hindutva is used politically by the BJP.
Answer: - As I said, the BJP has to think about it. When we go to people in the course of our work we straight away approach the society. We never experience that type of perception. With open arms they come to us. Even Muslims. The other day one Muslim scholar from
Question: - Would you concede that the BJP has conceded Hindutva. The BJP today seems to be synonymous with certain themes for example Ramjanama Bhoomi, article 370, and uniform civil code. That seems to be the narrow understanding of the political Hindutva. Would you agree that interpretation of Hindutva perhaps is not as valid and perhaps doesn’t have that much relevance for the people of this country?
Answer: - You see, about all these issues…… 370 issue is not concerned with Hindutva. It is concerned with the integrity of the land. We are all one. Therefore we should have one set of rules. एक देश में दो विधान दो निशान दो प्रधान नहीं चलेंगे that is the slogan. Ramjanama Bhoomi is not a question of mere Rambhakti. The temple was demolished by a foreign aggressor. And we are now independent. So we should restore the emblems of our national pride. It has nothing to do with Hindus, Muslims etc. It is national. That is why I say the set of values is particular to Bharat. Muslims of Bharat, Christian of Bharat, and so-called Hindus of Bharat all are inheritors of that particular culture.
Question: - It is precisely this kind of thinking which people say is the reason why the BJP is trapped in a dogma of its own making. It is why people say that other parties have moved forward, congress perhaps has moved forward and has a greater connect with young India, where as BJP has been caught in a time warp. And the general view after the election was that if the BJP wants to move forward it needs to change, it needs to be less hard liner.
Answer: - The BJP has to think about that. You are asking me about BJP, I am Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. The BJP is having its Chintan Baithak, they will think about it. How to interpret the Hindutva, whether we have really been left behind or is it a temporary matter that will have be thought by them.
Question: - After the election results you along with two other top RSS leaders met Mr. L.K. Advani. Did you ask Mr. L.K. Advani to carry on?
Answer: - I was not there. For your information, I was on my tour for sangh shiksha Vargas. You can check my itinerary. Because Advani ji had resigned, three of our Adhikaris, went to meet him. He is our Swayamsevak; he is not only BJP leader. So they went to him.
Question: - Did the RSS leadership tell Mr. Advani not to resign?
Answer: - No.
Question: - Are you categorical about that? Because it was interpreted……..
Answer: - We did not tell anything to Mr. Advani at that time. Mr. Advani himself has said that it was his own decision. So when a chief person of a political party who is our Swayamsevak does something like this, I think it is very fair to go and meet him.
Question: - The entire media report that the RSS………because Mr. Advani has said immediately after the election results that he doesn’t want to hold any post. And after that the RSS, three top RSS leaders meet him and it was reported that the RSS leaders convinced Mr. Advani to stay on.
Answer: - This is not the subject of RSS. Advani ji told me, during my transit Advani ji met me on 1st of June in
Question: - You are saying that this was Mr. Advani’s own decision ?
Answer: - Yes. Both decisions were his own decisions.
Question: - A bitter criticism of the way the BJP handled the election campaign has come in RSS mouth pieces, and I can even quote for you what was said. It was said that the politics is fought at the grassroots and connect to the people at the grassroots and not in the air-conditioned chat rooms with reference to Advani’s website and internet connect and a sort of urban way of fighting and election. That was the criticism that came in the RSS. Do you stand by that?
Answer: - You see, many persons express their views. Official view of the RSS is put forth by the Sarsanghchalak, Sarkaryavaha, and the six persons nominated to speak with the press. But our Swayamsevaks are free to express their views and there are many types of views which have been put forth. This is one type, there are another types also.
Question: - So what is your explanation?
Answer: - I am not expert of politics. Our Swayamsevaks are there in politics, in BJP. They should think about this and if they find some reality in this criticism they should make amends.
Question: - You are constantly distancing yourself from BJP while there is an open relationship. The link between RSS and BJP is an open fact.
Answer: - Links between RSS and BJP are the Swayamsevaks. BJP has our Swayamsevaks at very high places but as a party BJP is a separate political organization.
Question: - ? Do you see Mr. Advani ji to carry on for five years?
Answer: - They will have to decide it. If they come and ask for our suggestion we will give it to them.
Question: - What was your suggestion?
Answer: - I don’t suggest anything unless I am asked. I will never suggest anything unless asked by them. I have never done it.
Question: - You are the youngest - if I am not mistaken - chief of the RSS since Hedgewar. So are you happy with the situation when the top tier of the BJP’s leadership varying between 70 or 75-85 where as the second tier of the BJP is between 60-70.
Answer: - The BJP has to decide about it. You see it is not the question of what we think. They have to manage their party. It is a universal rule. Young generation must be placed. But when and where that they have to decide. Today you say BJP top hierarchy is like this. But before thirty years, it was a reverse situation. Now that generation, after working for 35 years, has become old. So they will have to think how to bring up the younger generation in the party. The modus operandi, when, where and how, is there decision.
Question: - But the transition is necessary?
Answer: - Not only in BJP, everywhere that transition is necessary. In RSS also after 10-15 years we will have to think.
Question: - Do you think that the transition can wait till the next general election? That is my question.
Answer: - They will have to judge.
Question: - No. But you are of the view that the transition is necessary. For the BJP to go into next general election they would need to transit to younger generation. Do you admit that?
Answer: - Yes, when and how to do it that is their prerogative.
Question: - Have you communicated this to Mr. Advani?
Answer: - We have been saying this since 2003. Whenever they asked us how their party should be. We say you have sufficient young workers. Bring them gradually forward. It was published also.
Question: - Only at the top level of the party or across all levels of the party?
Answer: - Transition is at all levels. See there is average age group at every level, that average age group must be maintained.
Question: - What should that average age be?
Answer: - I don’t know about politics. But in Sangh at my level we say 60; 55-60 should be the average age group.
Question: - So the next leadership of the BJP also in your view, the details can be worked out, the time place when where can be worked out, but there should be an attempt to find the next leadership within 55-60.
Answer: - 55-60 is for Sangh. What age group should be in politics they are the best judge. I do not judge that. I am not a political person.
Question: - But certainly not in the eighties?
Answer: - That also they will have to judge.
Question: - BJP is the party with which, Mr. Bhagwat, you have had long links. You have an association with BJP. The BJP has said it is proud of its association with RSS. You had meetings with the BJP on several occasions. You are involved in politics in an advisory role, may be not a direct role. How do you view what is happening in the BJP of late? I want you to be frank with me. How do you view this factionalism?
Answer: - I have been very frank with you hiding nothing. I think BJP has received a nasty jolt, unexpectedly. So it was a bit destabilized, lost its balance. They will have to regain it. What ever has happened was not very good. And not only am I saying it, in their national executive, ample expression of this have come out. And I know that all the leaders in BJP feel bad about it. They have to get that balance back quickly, and make amends to everything. How it happened, what was the mistake that they will have to give thought in their Chintan Baithak, and they will do it. I am sure.
Question: - So it is time for all this factionalism to stop?
Answer: - It is now too much. Now it must stop immediately.
Question: - Mr. Khanduri went because of this, in
Answer: - All that should be……., this is due to the imbalance, lack of procedure. All that all should be restored. And I am sure, because I meet them frequently, during my travel our transition, they expressed their angst about this. So they are keen to restore it but they should do it quickly.
Question: - When you speak about leadership are you speaking about individual leaders or general leaders, BJP top leadership?
Answer: - Top leadership, not particular leaders.
Question: - I am only putting two and two together. The situation can arise, and correct me if I am wrong, out of three situations, either there is nothing like inner party democracy, secondly a weak top leadership – a weak top leader - or thirdly there is a lack of collective leadership at the top and there is factionalism at the top. Possibly it could be all three. But which one do you think is most important.
Answer: - I have not given thought to the internal situation of BJP. That is not my job. I tell them to sit together, hatch the things out and do necessary amends. . ……………. See, their party has a mission. That mission should be kept in view and they should think where we have gone wrong. If they have gone wrong they are the best judge. I don’t know anything about politics. Its actual working in day to day politics, in elections. I don’t know about it.
Question: - I know you will keep saying it. Because you are RSS Sarsanghachalak, you can not say that you are interested in politics in public. I completely appreciate that. But at the same time my direct question to you would be, what do you think of Rajnath Singh’s leadership of the BJP? If you want to compare, you have seen several leaders of the BJP in the past. You have seen the BJP through ups and... highs and lows …and you are fully aware that there has never been a level of open factionalism and squabble as there has been before and after the general election. Should the top leaders not take responsibility?
Answer: - Instead of attributing all this to a particular person, one or the other, general condition of the party should be paid attention to, by all these persons. I do not see it as a result of Rajnathsinghji being there, or Advaniji being there, this man being there, or that man being there. I see it … a general debility has affected the party. They have to restore it.
Question: - There is a level of infighting among top leaders.
Answer: - They will have to resolve that. They have to think about the party. No leader can afford to think about himself only. Because party is supreme.
Question: - You had a meeting with Mr. Advani in August. You have been asked about it and I will ask you again, did you ask Mr. Advani to resign?
Answer: - I have categorically said, I did not ask anything of Mr. Advani on that day. I did not issue any directive on that day. He came to me, he wanted to meet me, I was not in
Question: - Do you see a role for him in bringing together this change or … What role do you see for Mr. Advani in the BJP? A role of a mentor? As a person who guides the change?
Answer: - He is a very senior person. Well respected person. If he asks something of the workers he should surely be obeyed.
Question: - Mr. Bhagwat there is also a serious speculation and I want to ask you something. The RSS wants to affect changes in the BJP at all levels. The people in the BJP are little worried about it. Some people in the BJP. But that you want to bring in talent at different levels. At the state level, at the district level, at the national level. Some people say it could be something like Kamraj type of overhauling plan? I am asking you this because you have two options, and I fully respect the fact that you are saying that I am not involved in politics but you can influence this party at least, the principal opposition party. What would you see your role in this process in the BJP?
Answer: - We have been asking our Swayamsevaks in BJP 4 -5 things. He should be reasonably sound and articulate about the ideology. Secondly a collective work pattern, team working. Thirdly you should have dialogue with all the... say fellow travelers. There are many well wishers, there are many other organizations where Swayamsevaks are working, there are many others who are not Swayamsevaks but they agree with BJP, they should have a system of continuous dialogue with them, there should not be any disconnect. Fourth, they should be a party with a difference. Actually I will put this on second. And fifth, gradually they should bring the young generation fourth. These are the things which I have been asking of the Swayamsevaks in BJP. BJP as a party has to do it. BJP as a party is not run by RSS. They have to find the way. They have to agree to this or disagree. They are free. But our Swayamsevaks always belong to us. We are telling them this.
Question: - That’s almost like as if the BJP disagrees. I see from what you are saying that the RSS will be more politically involved, or more involved, at least in guiding the BJP. Do you see any resistance from the BJP?
Answer: - No.
Question: - You don’t see it?
Answer: - Until now that has not happened. And I don’t see that it will happen in future also. Because we have very good relations with non- Swayamsevaks also in BJP.
Question: - This is very interesting. Because I do see from what you are saying a greater exercise of influence. Before I wrap up this interview, Mr. Bhagwat let me take the opportunity of asking you a few direct questions today. You know that 55 percent of this country is below the age of 35. And I think a much higher number will be below the age of forty. Do you think this population identifies with what Varun Gandhi said? It is a straight question. The Varun Gandhi kind of speech, is that kind of political speech which young
Answer: - My experience with the young generation, when we go to them with our appeal of Hindutva, patriotism and service is that these have the highest appeal in the young generation now. We get very good response. What Varun Gandhi said I have not examined in details. What actually he intended … 2 or 3 sentences of him were projected. What was the reference, I have not studied. So I don’t know this brand. Those 2 sentences or 3 sentences that were projected, of course, we don’t agree with them. But if there is any Varun Gandhi brand, what is that brand I don’t know. I know the RSS brand and we go to college students with it.
Question: - I said that was my last question, but I have one more question. My last question to you is who is the next BJP president?
Answer: - They will have to decide.
Question: - OK. Let me … I was prepared for that answer. I will follow it with a question. Is the next BJP president limited only to the four? Arun Jaitely, Venkaiyya Naidu, Sushama Swaraj, Narendra Modi? Can there be a fifth, or the sixth or the seventh or the eighth?
Answer: - That also depends on the BJP. If BJP wishes to look beyond these four, I do not think they will lack able persons in party. If they want to choose from these four, then it will be one of them. It depends how they take it.
Question: - If there are so many Swayamsevaks in BJP, is the talent limited to the four?
Answer: - No, no. That is what I am telling you. If they choose to see beyond these four, for some reason if they think these four should be kept in there own places, we want someone else, they don’t have dearth of proper persons.
Question: - You have anyone in mind?
Answer: - I will have to quote 75 to 80! So that will take long time!
Mr. Arnab Goswami :- It has been a pleasure talking to you. You have spoken very frankly and I am glad that you gave us time. Thank you so much.