New Delhi: It is no secret that the RSS, self-styled guardian of the country, has been making unprecedented bid to capture power at the Center through its political arm BJP. It has launched a massive drive to spread its wing by opening shakhas in every nook and corner of the country. According to The Times of India, this moribund organization has suddenly become so active that in less than three months, it has opened more than 2,000 shakhas across the country. By the end of 2013, there were 44,982 shakhas in India, of which 8,417 were in UP alone.
The paper attributes sudden spurt in shakhas to Modi effect. It stated that the numbers had peaked in 2004, when there were around 51,000 functioning shakhas. They shrunk during the UPA tenure, hitting a low of 39,283 shakhas in 2010. But as scams broke out, and UPA 2 went from one low to another, there was again a renewed interest in shakhas, with a sudden burst in post-Modi months. The outfit is creating awareness among people to vote for a ‘suitable’ political candidate,” and ‘suitable’ of course being shorthand for Modi.
The report quotes one Ravi Tewari, a 22-year-old engineering student who joined a Shakha. Ravi says “I believe in Hindutva.” “The country needs reforms. Who other than Narendra Modi can make it happen?
The organization has focused more on UP as it is a route to power because of it sheer size. However, Kripa Shanker, who heads the RSS publicity wing for UP and Uttarakhand, says that it is not a seasonal upsurge. He claims the number shakhas did not decline after 2004. “It’s just that people are becoming more aware of our work.”
A Sangh activist, who did not want to be named, says “the surge clearly shows how the attraction of power is working for RSS”. “Students associated with ABVP have joined in large numbers over the past six months. Besides, people who were inactive in the past few years have become active again.”
“Shakhas are now much more organized,” says an ABVP leader. “Most shakhas now have ‘gan nayak’ — a functionary who is supposed to wake up swayamsewaks in the morning and bring them to the park — and ‘gan shikshak’ (group teacher), who trains the members. This was not the case some time ago.”
“More and more young people are coming forward and joining shakhas,” says Atul Singh, who heads a newly established shakha in Lucknow. What do the shakhas do? “They focus on character building, idealism, discipline and, of course, Hindutva.