By LIKHAVEER | INNLIVE
Is the sudden spurt in the number of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)shakhas due to its improving ideological acceptance among the masses or due to the fact that BJP is in power at the Centre?
The RSS, BJP's ideological mentor, has witnessed a phenomenal expansion in the number of its shakhas (units) across the country in the last six years - from 45,000 in 2010 to over 57,000 as of today.
The RSS claim that this trend is reflective of the people's growing acceptance of the Sangh parivar and its ideology, and that it has nothing to do with politics.
"There has been an unprecedented growth in the number of our shakhasacross the country in the last six years. As on date, there are more than 57,000shakhas, which shows people's increasing faith in the Sangh parivar," said Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh (head of Media & Publicity) of RSS.
"In the last six years, the Sangh's reach has increased manifold, which reflects the acceptability of the Sangh and its ideology among the common people. This also goes to prove that people have ignored the rumours and negative perception spread against the RSS, and have accepted it," Vaidya said.
Rumours are abuzz that with an eye on the upcoming 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the RSS has organized its annual meeting of its regional functionaries (Prant Pracharak) at Kanpur this year.
The annual meeting will be held from 11 to 15 July, to review previous year's work and to discuss the agenda for 2016-17.
"This annual meeting has nothing to do with the BJP or politics or the UP election. It's our internal review meeting. A section of the media has been trying to juxtapose it with UP election, which is incorrect. Besides discussing the Sangh's strategy to expand its reach, the aim of this meeting is to apprise the new entrants about the role, function and responsibilities of thepracharaks," added Vaidya.
"The Sangh holds two meetings in a year and these are planned well in advance. RSS is a highly disciplined organisation and doesn't do anything without proper planning and approval. This meeting hasn't been organised in Kanpur because there's an election in UP next year. In March, we had our Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Rajasthan. Before that it was in Nagpur. It'll be too far-fetched to connect the two - this meeting and the UP election," a senior RSS functionary said on conditions of anonymity.
During its three-day Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) in Rajasthan in March this year, the prime thrust was on increasing the Sangh's cadre base.
The organisation is giving a major thrust on its rural reach. According to sources, a group called 'Mandal' has been created by consolidating 10-15 villages, which falls under a RSS unit.
"In this experiment of strengthening its rural reach, 40 percent has been achieved. In Kerala, the Sangh is making its inroads fast and connecting with the rural masses," the source added.
The present six-day meeting has broadly been divided into three phases. The first phase, from 11-13 July, is devoted to close-door meetings of Prant Pracharaks (functionaries of each region). There are 41 regions (prants) in the RSS structure.
In the second phase, the 40 affiliated bodies of the Sangh like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, etc will meet. The third phase shall have the meeting of the national executive members of the RSS and review the earlier two phases.
"During its training session here, RSS will also ensure that its cadre at the grass root level work towards consolidating Hindu votes during the UP election, similar to what it did in the state during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. It's not the BJP workers, but the RSS cadre that actually work towards preparing the ground for the party to contest and win," a senior BJP member from UP said.