26 Oct, 2015
by Ramachandran Guha
Some years ago, I edited an anthology of Indian political thought, profiling 19 individual thinkers. The usual suspects — Gokhale, Tilak, Phule, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Lohia, JP, Periyar — featured, but also some less conventional choices. One of these was Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh between 1940 and 1973.
My inclusion of Golwalkar in a book on Indian thinkers angered among some intellectuals on the Left. I had omitted to include an Indian Marxist. I had compounded my error by giving ‘intellectual legitimacy’ to Golwalkar’s hateful credo by placing him alongside the likes of Phule and Ambedkar.
My judgment was not ideological, but scholarly. To include Golwalkar was not to endorse his views, but to recognise that he had a profound influence on the course of Indian politics. Indeed, as the decades go by, we see that his influence may become as significant as that of Gandhi, Nehru, or Ambedkar. For it was Golwalkar who formulated the ideological credo of the RSS, touring the country tirelessly to build up its organisation, while all the time consolidating links with the political party close to it, the Jana Sangh (forerunner of the BJP).
Among Golwalkar’s disciples were Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. They venerated him, as did many Jana Sangh and BJP chief ministers he had trained. When Narendra Modi joined the RSS, the halo around Golwalkar still hung around the organisation. In 2007 Modi wrote a long, adulatory, profile of Golwalkar.