ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — III

Participation in Politics

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — III

Following Gandhi's assassination Golwalkar was arrested and the RSS was banned. Throughout the period of the ban (and after as well), the government assumed that the RSS was a political body. However, the government's assessment of the RSS's political nature was wrong, at least at that time. 


The government often considered the RSS to be the volunteer arm of the Hindu Mahasabha. But what connections the RSS had with the HM were extremely tenuous and these connections had virtually
ceased in 1940. Upto the time of the ban, many swayamsevaks were members of the Congress. Hedgewar had refused to allow the RSS, as an organisation, to champion the cause of any political
party. Until the ban on the RSS in 1948, Golwalkar gave the same advice. Members might participate in politics, but not as representatives of the RSS. The pracharaks (the full-time cadres) were, and
still are, explicitly forbidden from being members of any political party. The ban shocked the swayamsevaks. Many felt that the RSS had to transform itself into a political party if the movement were to survive. Sardar Patel, then Home Minister, himself feared that it might do this. He sought to prevent this and to bring the RSS cadres into the Congress. For a time, it looked as if he might succeed. In October 1948 the Congress Working Committee ruled that RSS members were permitted to join the Congress. The Working Congress decision immediately set off a controversy within the Congress, with the
supporters of Patel favouring the decision and the followers of Nehru opposing it. Eventually, Nehru persuaded the Congress Working Committee to deny membership to RSS men by stipulating that they
could join, but only if they gave up their RSS membership. These developments prepared the ground for those elements in the RSS who proposed more direct political involvement receiving a hearing within the Sangh that would not have been possible earlier. [In the first part of this four-part narrative the origins and growth of the RSS were discussed.  

The second part examined the relationship between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha. In the fourth and final part, to be published next week, will be examined the genesis of the Jan Sangh and the role
played by the RSS in its formation.]

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