US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

six affiliates; its is evolving to reflect the fact of its rapid growth since then and the penetration into all parts of Indian society by its affiliates. For one thing, it has become more inclusive. Christians and Muslims now participate in its activities. This does not mean that these two groups have aban- doned their suspicions regarding the premier Hindu nationalist organization in India. Perhaps the most significant development is the growth both in the number of affiliates and increased activities. The expan- sion of RSS affiliates is reflected in fact that India’s largest labor union is its affiliate, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the country’s largest student group is the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and affiliated to it is by far the largest private school system in India with several million students enrolled. On top of all this is that the RSS and its affiliates manage some 160,000 service projects around the country. Then there are the RSS-related organizations in 34 to 40 coun- tries. Does any of this growth of RSS have to do with Modi's rise in power? To an extent. His impact on the expansion of the RSS is probably more now as PM than over the many years that he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. But he is his own man, for example, he is for globalization, which is not enthusi- astically supported by the RSS and its labor-oriented affiliates. On a side-note, the interesting thing about RSS is that it does not interfere in the workings of its affil- iated organizations, which proba- bly explains the ability of these disparate institutions to remain within the RSS “family”. Increasingly, a major function of the RSS is to mediate disputes within and among these affiliates. It continues its training activities through shakas (local meeting units) to build a cadre of men who, on the basis of their perfect- ed selves, would play an influen- tial role in the rejuvenation of India. Modi went through the RSS training system and rose to its highest ranks as a full time work- er, referred to as pracharak. He stood out as a brilliant organizer, which brought him to the attention of leaders in the RSS’s political affiliate, the Bhartiya Janata Party. His assertiveness however also irritated many in an organization that values collegiality and a focus on the group. But Modi’s interaction with the RSS gets complicated. The RSS provided a kind of home for Modi, who was from a poor family and searched for a path to make a contribution to his country. He was always a nationalist, and he opted to operate through the agency of the RSS to carry out what he saw as his mission. And he respects the RSS for that. As to his current relationship with the RSS, Modi gets along well with RSS head Mohan Bhagwat. But the RSS is not the BJP despite much current opinion on the subject, and it does not want either to be like the BJP or take it over. The RSS views its goal of building a sound structure of bottom-up influence as much more effective over the long run than what the govern- ment and its top-down approach can do. At the same time, it needs the BJP to protect it from restrictions on its activities and many of its affiliates seek favor- able government policies to strengthen what they do. There is certainly some daylight between the RSS and the BJP on economic issues. The RSS has always been Center-Left. For example, it is suspicious of foreign direct investment as introducing foreign influence, cultural and economic. In a 2017 speech, for example, Mohan Bhagwat criti- cized the Modi government for not looking after the poor, the farmers etc., and that foreign economists were being brought to the deci- sion-making table in ways that weakened the country. Current polling on political atti- tudes suggests that Bhagwat was on to something - That somehow a sense that the Modi government has not done as much for rural India. While Modi remains the most popular political figure in polls, his popularity and that of his party has declined. However the macro-economic results are not bad. The economy is growing at 7.50 percent - many countries would give their right arm for that kind of growth. But India's needs are so great - how to create the many jobs for the 16 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 The victory of Modi and the growth and expansion of the RSS, has created an environment of empowerment of the radical right, which is not what the leadership of both seek because the respective leaderships realize that the radical surge from the right is a danger to the RSS, and to Modi. “

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