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RSS views now more aligned with Modi's? Mohan Bhagwat says Sangh not opposed to FDI, liberalisation

Rahul Kanwal New Delhi, November 2, 2013 |

For an organisation perceived as having an economic vision rooted in dogma, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat tried to allay apprehensions about the Sangh's economic agenda, when he reached out to top intellectuals at a function organised by the RSS in the capital. 'The RSS is not opposed to liberalisation, privatisation and FDI. We are not bound by dogma or stuck on any -ism. Times change and views should change with the times as well. The RSS is not stuck on any one philosophy.' The RSS which counts organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch among its affiliates, is known to have a traditional antipathy to Foreign Direct Investment and liberalisation. The Sarsanghchalak's comments are the first indiction of a change in stance in the organisation that acts as the ideological fountainhead for the Bharatiya Janta Party.

The audience at the event comprised leading industrialists, retired bureaucrats, ex-armed forces personnel, former intelligence chiefs, authors, classical dancers and some journalists and was organised to discuss the Sarsanghchalak's Vijaydashmi address at Nagpur, in which he laid down the Sangh's views on politics, economics and foreign policy.       

However, Bhagwat was very clear that the quest for FDI cannot be at the expense of small domestic manufacturers. The 63 year old veterinary doctor said, 'If you can produce anything in India, there is no need to import it. If something is not made in India then getting it from abroad is okay. But the trade should be on your terms and conditions. Big MNC's should not be dictating terms to the government.'

Bhagwat indicating a tempering of the Sangh's position on foreign investment by multi-nationals when he was asked about a potential clash between the Sangh's traditional position opposing foreign investment and the liberal economic policy framework being promised by the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The Sarsanghchalak responded saying, 'We have a vision but there is a reality about the way global trade and commerce is being organized at this time. Our view also evolves over time. But there is a need for balance. While FDI in some sectors is okay, why kill small traders. What can be done by small industry, why do we need big industrialists for that?'        

While indicating a willingness to accept FDI in certain sectors, Bhagwat made it clear that foreign investment in education was a strict no go for the RSS. 'Education should not be commercialized. When foreign universities come in they start thinking of earning dollars. We cannot have content without culture. We must promote our own teaching practices without blindly chasing the West.'   

Bhagwat also advocated an extremely hardline view on India's relations with Pakistan, one that could send alarm bells ringing in the foreign establishment corridors both in New Delhi and Islamabad. 'Government of India's policy on Pakistan is extremely meek. India should not have let Pak become a nuclear powered country in the first place. China controls what happens in its neighbourhood. Does it not? Why can't India do the same in its own neighbourhood?' 

Bhagwat also stressed that Pakistan having nuclear weapons was no reason for India to continue to suffer attack after attack emanating from Pakistani soil. 'So what if they have nuclear weapons. Can they take on the joint opinion of the whole world? India should have deterrent power and a strategy to forcefully implement that power. Since the time Pakistan has been created they have been infiltrating terror and creating trouble for us. We should have had a strategy to ensure that they would not be able to trouble us.  They attack our camps and our government wants to meet their leaders. How can Pakistan even muster the courage to attack us? This government has failed miserably.'

Bhagwat summed up the evening by trying to underplay the role the Sangh would play in the Modi campaign and during a possible future prime ministership. 'We travel all across the country and interact directly with people on the ground. Our job is only to convey to Modi what people are saying. Our job is not to implement policy decisions. That we leave to those elected by the people.'

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