Mumbai/New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organization that takes pride in discipline, plunged into a crisis in Goa on Wednesday with its local office-bearers threatening to resign en masse after the sacking of its local unit chief.
The Konkan unit of RSS fired Subhash Velingkar, who also heads a Sangh outfit focusing on promoting local languages, after he said he will form a political party to fight the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Velingkar’s threat came after the BJP went back on its election promise to end grants to English medium schools in the state.
Members of the RSS have demanded that the organization should either reinstate Velingkar or they too will campaign against the BJP in the coming assembly elections. At a meeting on Wednesday night called by the Sangh’s Konkan unit in Panaji, all RSS office bearers in the state offered to resign, unless Velingkar was reinstated.
The path chosen by Velingkar is surprising because RSS does not allow its office bearers to take part in political affairs, while its members called swayamsevaks can do so. This is the first time in RSS that an active member who is also an office bearer has threatened to form his own political party and fight BJP. The state polls in Goa are due in March 2017.
Members and office bearers of the Goa unit argue that since RSS removed Velingkar for engaging in political activity, the same action should be taken against them and they too should be removed. “We want that either Subhash Velingkar should be reinstated or we (over 300 volunteers) all should be relieved along with him," said a senior RSS member in Goa.
Velingkar, convener of Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) has been agitating to promote regional languages as medium of instruction, a stand supported by the RSS. However, the ruling BJP refused to withdraw grants to English medium schools, annoying BBSM. When Velingkar decided to launch a party to fight BJP, the RSS stepped in.
“The convener of the BBSM Subhash Velingkar has been relieved from his responsibilities as the Goa Vibhag Sanghchalak. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is of the firm opinion that all efforts should be made to strengthen the system for primary education in mother tongue in all parts of the country. RSS has supported and will continue to support the cause of agitation in Goa by Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) which is in consonance with the aforesaid opinion of RSS. As part of the agitation, BBSM has made announcement about formation of a political party. RSS, since its inception, has never been involved in politics, and hence, RSS would have no role in the political endeavour of BBSM," the RSS said in a statement.
When contacted, RSS All India Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya said Vekingkar does not have many swayamsevaks behind him. “The RSS does not believe in individual worship or loyalty. We believe in loyalty to ideology and principles. Right now, some Swayamsevaks are supporting Velingkar, but after some time, they would resume their normal RSS work which is most dear to them above all individuals," Vaidya said.
Political analysts said that the Goa unit of RSS supports Velingkar because he was only reiterating what the BJP had promised before the elections.
“Velingkar carries nearly the entire RSS with him in Goa. The RSS here feels that Velingkar has not been waging a personal war against BJP but only reminding the party of its electoral promise. Even the RSS statement issued on Wednesday says that the organization supports the cause of mother tongue in Goa and that is what Velingkar has been demanding as the convener of BBSM. Not sure if this could be called rebellion but the sentiment among the RSS cadres is very intense on this issue," said Paresh Prabhu, editor of Goa-based daily Navprabha.
Prabhu said the RSS cadres in Goa were quite annoyed with the way the organization had treated Velingkar.
PTI contributed to the story.