The RSS’s imprint got deeper on the Narendra Modi government with as many as six parliamentarians with strong links to the BJP’s ideological mentor finding place in theexpanded union council of ministers .
While veteran RSS pracharak Anil Madhav Dave got Independent charge of the environment ministry, five others out of the 19 new ministers have roots in the right-wing organisation.
The RSS – which played a crucial role in the BJP’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls — was pleased with the choice of new ministers but maintained it was “the prerogative of the government.”
“They have several compulsions, could be elections or other political decisions, which have to be borne in mind while accommodating people. It is not for us to comment. Yes, Dave was a pracharak. He has worked very closely with the Sangh,” a senior RSS functionary said.
He, however, added that Dave has been a BJP member for a long time and a Rajya Sabha member as well. “It will not be right to call him a Sangh karyakarta anymore.”
When the Modi government took oath in May 2014, the RSS influence was evident from the induction of at least nine Cabinet ministers and at least three ministers of state who were RSS pracharaks, those who are given the task of spreading the organisation’s ideology.
There were at least a dozen others who were not full-time RSS pracharaks but were associated with the Sangh through its students’ wing, the ABVP.
On the last count, more than third of the 66 members in the council of ministers –before the expansion — had an RSS background. The proportion continued in the latest expansion as well.
With the Prime Minister himself being an RSS pracharak, his ministers have never shied away from projecting their association with the organisation.
Among the newly inducted ministers with RSS background is Mahendra Nath Pandey, the new minister of state for human resource development who was an active participant in the movement for constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Inducted as the new minister of state for textiles from Uttarakhand, Ajay Tamta, also has a RSS background and participated in the Ram Janmabhoomi temple agitation before plunging into electoral politics.
Rajen Gohain, the new minister of state for railways, was one of the founders of the BJP in Assam.
A die-hard Sangh activist, he was a known RSS face at the organisation’s training centre in Hojai of Nagaon district. At RSS rallies, he was regularly spotted in the outfit’s trademark khaki shorts.
Faggan Singh Kulaste, another newly inducted junior minister from Madhya Pradesh, was also an RSS activist.
BJP ally Shiv Sena, however, was critical of Modi’s choice.
“In Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s cabinets, there used to be stellar ministers with people like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar to Babu Jagjivan Ram and Yashwantrao Chavan. A portfolio like human resources development (HRD) gained prominence only because of PV Narasimha Rao; similarly, the world learnt of India’s finance ministry only after Manmohan Singh helmed it,” the Sena said in its mouthpiece Saamna on Wednesday.
“But now, such leaders of such caliber are not to be found. Hence, Modi has to shoulder the burden of his responsibility all by himself.”
There were signs of discontent within the BJP, too.
“I do not know why I was dropped. I never had any issues or problem with Modi or party president Amit Shah,” Mansukhbhai Vasava, who was dropped as minister of state for tribal affairs, said.