Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on Monday (February 12) lashed out at RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for reportedly claiming that the saffron outfit’s cadres could be mobilised at a much faster rate than the Indian Army at a time of war.
Speaking at a function in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur on Sunday, Bhagwat had reportedly said: “Ours is not a military organisation but we have discipline like the military. If the country needs it and the Constitution permits… it takes six or seven months to mobilise the army… but swayamsevaks, if asked, can do it in three days… this is what we are capable of.”
Bhagwat’s tall claim comes at a time when the Indian Army has been engaged in a massive counter-terror operation in Jammu and Kashmir to flush out terrorists who sneaked into a military camp and killed five soldiers and a civilian. Expectedly, the Congress and leaders of various other Opposition parties latched on to Bhagwat’s bizarre statement and called it out as an insult to the Indian security forces and the martyrs who had laid their lives in the line of duty.
In a scathing attack against the Sangh chief, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Monday morning: “The RSS chief’s speech is an insult to every Indian, because it disrespects those who have died for our nation. It is an insult to our flag because it insults every soldier who ever saluted it. Shame on you Mr Bhagwat for disrespecting our martyrs and our Army.”
Taking a cue from his party president, Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma hit out at Bhagwat and also dragged Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the controversy, wondering: “Does the PM approve of raising private militias to defend national frontiers? The PM must clarify because the RSS is the parent organisation of the ruling party.”
The RSS went into damage control mode, claiming that the comments by Bhagwat had been misinterpreted. Manmohan Vaidya, senior functionary of the BJP’s parent organisation said that the RSS chief had made no comparison between the force mobilisation capabilities of the Indian Army with the saffron outfit. “Bhagwat ji had said that if situation arises and the Constitution permits, Indian army would take six months to prepare the society whereas Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in three days, as Swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly… it was a comparison between general society and swayamsevaks. Both are to be trained by the Indian Army only,” Vaidya said.
The Congress rejected the RSS clarification on the issue with Sharma questioning the locus standi of the saffron outfit in bragging about its ability to defend the frontiers, a role the Constitution earmarks for the Army.
“The RSS calls itself a social and cultural organisation. They said so in writing to get rid of the ban India’s first home Minister Sardar Patel placed on them after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But we all know what the RSS stands for now that they are loaning leaders to the BJP to govern,” Sharma said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too lashed out at Bhagwat, stating that his comments were in “poor taste, against Constitutional propriety” and that he must apologise. Asserting that Bhagwat’s remark “confirms our worst fears about the Sangh that it has no respect for India’s institutions”, Vijayan said that the RSS’s hidden agenda of floating “parallel militias to wreak havoc, crush national unity,” stood exposed.