Just in case you think Elections 2014 was all about Narendra Modi painting his own victory, here’s another thought: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) invested as much in his mission as Modi’s own team in Gandhinagar and the BJP in Delhi. The way Modi approached this election and crafted his victory has changed the parameters of Indian politics. But one cannot ignore the roll of the RSS. According to insiders, never before have the RSS pracharaks worked so hard in the field in converting the wave into a mandate as in the Modi’s case. While Modi’s ‘think tank’ was the political brain, the RSS was the 'backbone' of this victory.
The RSS resolutely worked for Modi’s ascendancy. One reason could be the UPA government’s constant dig at the RSS. Many senior UPA leaders like Digvijaya Singh and P. Chidamabaram came out openly and criticized the RSS role in anointing Modi as the PM candidate. There were allegations of saffron terrorism. But such remarks further made the RSS determined to work for Modi.
Mohan Bhagwat, Bhaiyaaji Joshi, Suresh Soni, V Satish, Sheodan Singh, were the men who played crucial roles in pushing, projecting and personalizing, first Modi’s name and then his election campaign. The invisible hand was instrumental in drawing a road map providing perspective and structure to the entire campaign. They identified the weak points of the BJP, the not-so-strong booth base of the party and to overcome it, it deployed full-time RSS workers in those areas.
For every region, a key functionary was sent to work and oversee the election campaign. Suresh ‘Bhayyaji’ Joshi, Sangh Parivar’s number two, stayed on top of it all and was the Chief Coordinator. He was the man to be reported. He remained in constant touch with all the kshetra and prant pracharaks ensuring that the entire cadre was galvanised into action. Down the line, vibhag pracharaks and zila pracharaks were also busy conducting meetings of the swayamsevaks in their respective territories. They were assigned key duties. Other Sangh functionaries like baudhik pramukhs, etc., were asked to ensure that the differences between the party leaders were buried well in time.
V Satish, who was the sickle in breaking the ice between Modi and the RSS, was asked to oversee South India. In Karnataka, he played a major role in getting Yeddyurappa back to the party, and then in Tamil Nadu he helped in striking a chord with the small regional parties. He was also the mover in Maharashtra and mollified Uddhav Thackeray. Then he moved to Hyderabad and played a key role in making an alliance with the TDP.
Up North, in caste-based UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, the BJP was not strong. But the RSS supplemented it by sending its pracharak (full time), like VD Sharma to these states. Krishna Gopal, who is the Joint General Secretary of the RSS was asked to supervise Uttar Pradesh. Dattatreya Hosbole was given the charge of Bihar and Jharkhand, apart from Karnataka. Sheodan Singh was asked to first mobilize workers in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, and later on he was asked to move his foot soldiers from these states to Eastern UP.
People consider Amit Shah, as Modi’s Man Friday but the truth is - he is first an RSS worker than a politician. He planned and used the RSS machinery very efficiently. To assist him, Sangh took the services of Sunil Bansal. Amit Shah relied and worked based on feedbacks received from the RSS workers and trusted the words of the RSS rather than the BJP’s district-state office-bearers. Meanwhile, Suresh Soni, the mild-mannered and nondescript RSS Joint General Secretary, was to be the RSS eyes and ears in the BJP. His main organisational assignment was to take care of the BJP's relationship with the RSS, to smoothen out wrinkles in an equation which swings widely.
But in all this, the herculean task upon the Team RSS was to convert the hype, the noise and the wave into votes. The most important task of the committee members was to ensure that the people, to whom this outreach is extended, are brought to vote in the respective booths on election days. And to achieve that, the RSS deployed a cavalcade of foot soldiers who went to every house in the village to get the voters out to vote, especially the youth. Despite the caste and local factors in play, the reason for receiving such a huge mandate in UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand etc. was largely due to converting the hype at booth-level into votes by the RSS workers. Even though the RSS continues to remain an ‘apolitical’ organisation, the organisation’s sway within the party remained strong throughout the 2014 election.