Chandrani Banerjee has studied at the Columbia Journalism School, and covered the US elections, 2016. She has also filed an experience report for UN office of Drug and Crime about the Indian migrant workers, and worked with Outlook
When the ground rumbles, everything above it trembles. And the bigger the statues, the sooner they collapse. This is no idle philosophising, for this could be the emerging reality of the Modi-Shah duo, and they are alarmed.
Are the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) backed frontal organisations dissatisfied with the current ruling party, which they brought to power five years ago? Is the rising NaMo phenomenon of arrogance and ruling without consulting also a cause of concern? Amidst all speculations, RSS says sharing feedback with the top leadership is a part of a routine process and there is no dissatisfaction. Political pundits, however, disagree.
The RSS backed frontal organisations Bharatiya Kisan Union, Akhil Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, etc., have apparently placed on record their opinion about the top BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is learnt that the feedbacks were mostly negative and the party was alarmed about its disgruntled constituents.
This has left two major questions unanswered:
• How are the frontal organisations viewing the upcoming 2019 general elections and its ramifications on the ruling party? After all, these organisations had actually created the ‘Modi wave’.
• Is there a simmering dissent among these frontal organisations about the ruling party? Do they disapprove of the ways and means of the functioning of the Narendra Modi government?
Speaking to Parliamentarian, Manmohan Vaidya, appointed as one of the Sah Sarakaryavahs, among the top echelon of RSS, said: “This is incorrect. Sangh is different from the party. We have nothing to do with them. The party will decide if they are unhappy with the functioning, we have nothing to say.”
There may not be official word on the dissatisfaction from RSS, which is expected. But the buzz is doing the rounds since the Samanvaya Baithak (a very critical coordination meet) in 2017. It is believed that the RSS at length discussed the feedbacks on the working of the government.
During the meet, the RSS warned the government about the negative opinion building up among the people. The RSS pointed out to the top leadership, which was present at the meeting, that the common man is in distress over economic policies. The BJP bosses have also been told that the heightened expectations of the common man have not been met.
“See, people will never admit that something like this was discussed in the Samanvaya Baithak. But those who were there are aware that all the issues that are plaguing the government had been raised and discussed,” said an RSS leader on condition of anonymity. Samanvaya Baithaks are annual meetings of all top RSS and BJP leaders. The meetings are meant to discuss strategies and devise plans for the future. In the last Samanvaya meeting, the top leadership were briefed and alerted about the upcoming 2019 elections.
The RSS leadership keeps talking to various frontal organisations and keeps an eye on the feedback on the governance and party functioning. Uncomfortable questions, failures and criticism are usually discussed in the Samanvaya meetings.
“The dissection of issues is a part of the Samanvaya Baithaks. So there were uncomfortable questions. They (grassroots organisations) pointed out that despite Vajpayee’s popularity, BJP lost the elections in 2004, and so one should not be complacent about the popularity of Narendra Modi. That is just one factor or part of the whole process, the entire process of winning elections cannot be defined by that”, said Yojna Gusian, covering Sangh over a decade now for The Asian Age, while speaking to the Parliamentarian.
Frontal organisations have been preparing the ground report for quite some time. The uneasy feedbacks show how the government’s failed economic policies have created dissatisfaction among voters. Dissenting views and general feedback about the party and policies have always been gathered through the grassroots-level RSS functionaries, and even from well-known sympathisers.
The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh’s (BMS) constant call for nationwide agitation against the Modi government’s reforms last year, which it says have led to “extreme exploitation and harassment” of the labour sector and led to increasing unemployment in the country, had raised eyebrows. So, the speculation about the dissatisfaction grows among the political fraternity. CK Saji Narayanan, National President, BMS, one of the largest trade unions in the country, says: “We were absolutely unhappy and that has led to several protests last year. However, now the situation is different. There is an assurance that there will be consultation with the trade unions before introducing any reforms in labour laws. There are many issues that we were agitating for, which have been addressed. The only issue left unattended is ‘fixed-term-employment’. We are working towards it.”
The BMS has planned several programmes regarding ‘fixed-term employment’, demanding scrapping of the system. BMS earlier decided to stage protests in all the districts demanding scrapping of fixed-term employment, which the organisation thought was destroying the labour sector. “Currently, 67 per cent of the organised sector workers belong to this category. The trend of contract labour has increased with the elimination of permanent posts in private and public entities as well as government departments,” Narayanan added.
He stressed the fact that ‘contract labour system’ in every sector has taken away the scope of permanent employment. It is just benefitting the public sector and leaving the labour high and dry. “We have a string of events planned on fixed-term employment. We believe that this is an important issue to be considered by the government. A large section of the working class belongs to this category and they are vulnerable. Everyone looks for security and this is basic.”
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government had first allowed hiring fixed-term workers in 2003. This was scrapped by the Congress-led UPA in 2007 following intense protests by trade unions.
After coming to power, the Modi government in April 2015 again mooted the concept by issuing draft rules for amending the Industrial Establishment (Standing Order). But the move was deferred following opposition from trade unions.
Extending All Across
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech this year announced extending the facility of fixed-term employment, applicable so far only in the apparel manufacturing sector, to all sectors.
Under the rules, a “fixed-term employment” workman is one who has been engaged on a written contract of employment for a fixed period. The new rules, which provide that a temporary workman can be terminated without being given any notice has been widely condemned by all trade unions and they have been demanding its rollback. The BMS has been loudly deriding the government’s labour and economic policies and stridently opposing many of the labour reforms, which it says has led to continuous unrest in the labour class.
Narayan sited the examples of Maruti Udyog at Manesar, Hyundai and Honda industries. He said that there were intense labour unrests. Highlighting the plight of contract labour, the BMS said these workers were denied any social security, pension, medical benefits, gratuity and leave. “Social security and wage code are two issues still to be considered. I hope that will be addressed.”
RSS backed frontal organisation Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh’s (BMS)constant call for nationwide agitation against the Modi government’s reforms that it says have led to “extreme exploitation and harassment” of the labour sector and led to increasing unemployment in the country last year raises eyebrows. So, the speculation about the dissatisfaction grows among the political fraternity.
Meanwhile, it is also rumoured that there is serious concern about the rising status of Narendra Modi. It is believed that the RSS cadres have been told not to chant NaMo slogan to project Modi as PM candidate.
Speaking about all the differences former ABVP president of Jawaharlal Nehru University and an RSS follower Sandeep Mahapatra said: “The media speaks from the information they have. I am not saying that they have false information but that could not be claimed hundred per cent truth. RSS has always shared inputs. And we have a way to function and that is there till date. There is nothing wrong in sharing information. Also, it should not be viewed as differences. Party functions as they would want to, and RSS works in its own way to contribute positively towards the growth of the party and members”.
Within RSS, Modi has not enjoyed very cordial relationship with Sanjay Joshi former RSS pracharak in Gujarat and Praveen Togadia, formerly of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Modi may have forced Joshi to resign, but the Sangh is fighting hard for its own larger-than-life image.