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12 May 2015

Government Is Directionless: Govindacharya

But it has such educated advisers that it seems unlikely that its silence on critical issues is a result of ignorance; it must be part of its strategy, the right wing ideologue says

Govindacharya addressing the press conference
Seizing the opportunity to assess the NDA government’s performance over the past one year before other political observers do, founder of Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan (RSA) and former RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya covered a host of issues of governance, addressing a press conference today.

Govindacharya began by saying that the government at the Centre was Modi government. “It would be improper to call it a BJP or NDA government; the party and the alliance are just playing assisting roles,” he said. The Lok Sabha campaign of the BJP headed by Narendra Modi had raised a lot of hope among the people at large, but no change is visible at the ground level. “I still see poor children loitering around at railway platforms and people sleeping beneath flyovers,” Govindacharya said.

Perhaps remembering his association with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the late 1980s and early 90s, he chose to react to the recent statement by Home Minister Rajnath Singh that the government was unable to move further to ensure the building of a Ram temple at the (disputed) site of Ayodhya because it did not have adequate numbers in the Rajya Sabha, Govindacharya said that he would reserve his comment till the Vishwa Hindu Parishad reacted to it. However, he did criticise Singh’s lack of will to resolve the issue.

The RSA founder then moved to the issue of Jammu & Kashmir and wondered what circumstances might have led to the BJP-PDP coalition when the latter’s softness for separatist elements was established. Expressing concern over burning of the National Flag and hoisting of Pakistani Flag in the Valley, Govindacharya said he feared the issue of Kashmir could get internationalised.

Raising the foreign interference bogey, Govindacharya then referred to the Land Acquisition Bill and accused the government of accepting advices of the World Bank and some “so-called economists”. He said while the country was being advised to move 40 crore people out of the vocation of agriculture, there was no clarity as to where these people would be rehabilitated. “Should they be uprooted from villages and made to work as daily-wage labourers in cities?” he asked.

He wondered what the plan of ‘smart cities’ would look like. “But whatever I have learnt from media sources makes me feel they are trying to ‘Brazil-ise’ India. Remember, such plans have left 8 crore people in Brazil homeless; those in Africa have now reduced to ghost cities and the few cities in China that have been built on this model have no takers,” Govindacharya said.

“In India,” he continued, “it is ironical that there are about 1 crore built houses that are not getting buyers while more than 5 crores go around homeless.”

“But since the government has itself not said how it plans to build these cities, I will reserve commenting on it further,” he said, adding that this silence appeared less a result of ignorance and more a sinister plan to suddenly impose a fait accompli on the country. “This government has so many educated people working in it that I refuse to believe they do not know what they are doing. Silence must be a part of their strategy,” Govindacharya opined.

No result of ‘Make in India’ is visible on ground either, he said, explaining that he is not impressed by the foreign tours of the prime minister. “Well-publicised events hosting potential investors used to be organised by the UPA government, too, but there was little progress beyond MoUs,” he said, adding, “So far, I see nothing beyond MoUs in ‘Make in India’ either.”

Talking further on Modi’s foreign visits, Govindacharya asked if we were opening up our market to foreigners what we were getting in return. He took exception to parliamentary ratification of the 1974 bilateral treaty between India and Bangladesh where he feels we have got more people to take care of while Bangladesh has got more land in the deal*. Since Bangladeshis infiltrate into our territory, their country should have compensated us with more land, he quipped.
This assertion by Govindacharya is factually incorrect. The full agreement may be found in this Ministry of External Affairs document. A simplified version appears in this Indian Express report. India has got more land and given back less to Bangladesh as per the Land Border Agreement.
On the issue of recovery of black money from tax havens abroad, Govindacharya accused the government of “dragging its feet”. He said the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was a bad excuse to not reveal the names of black money hoarders. “The government must at least implement the recommendations of the task force it has formed for the purpose,” he demanded.

When the press conference was thrown open to questions, it seemed the videshi ghost does not bother Govindacharya in case of donations to NGOs. When I asked him to react to the government’s clampdown on Ford Foundation and Greenpeace, among an assortment of FCRA-violating civil society organisations, he dismissed the measure by saying several nationalist causes like Ekal Vidyalayas are funded by agencies like the Ford Foundation, too.

Readers may note that PV Rajagopal, head of Ekta Parishad and a comrade in arms with Govindacharya, is a Ford Foundation beneficiary. Govindacharya has also shared stage with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal on quite a few occasions before the latter became Delhi Chief Minister. Kejriwal had begun his career in activism with his NGOs Sampoorna Parivartan and Kabir (jointly officiated by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia) funded by Ford Foundation.

Govindacharya’s own organisation RSA was established in 2004 following the ouster of the first NDA government when speculations were rife that Congress president Sonia Gandhi could become the country’s prime minister. The outfit was floated in a jiffy but it led successful demonstrations in New Delhi and other parts of the country where activists questioned why India’s oldest party was unable to get a person of Indian origin to be its chief political executive.

Thereafter, however, the organisation went adrift, looking for issues that would strike a chord with the masses. I asked Govindacharya on this occasion why he was seen sometimes with Kejriwal and sometimes with Sitaram Yechury [now CPI(M) general secretary] and when his own outfit would find a firm footing. He avoided the first question and said about the second that it has been able to reach 80 districts of the country and it plans to reach another 115 in near future. The RSA is organising a meeting of like-minded activists in Varanasi in the period 15-17 May (ref: adjoining picture, click to enlarge).

Govindacharya finally said that he would have been welcomed back to the BJP or found some work in the RSS but “both have limitations”. After his ‘study leave’ was over — he was asked to leave the party following his alleged comment that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was his government’s mukhauta (mask) — he embarked upon a journey of intellectual activism, Govindacharya said. “It involves attacking the government if necessary, which I cannot do as a party member,” he explained and added that even the RSS’s discipline wouldn’t allow espousing the different causes he takes up from time to time.

Throughout the interaction with journalists, Govindacharya kept saying that the people of this nation were the biggest agents of development and change, and not any government or organisation. On being asked whether his activism has the Sangh’s support, he said, “Our society is bigger than everything else including the RSS.”

Asked about his opinion on Rahul Gandhi, Govindacharya quipped that the Congress scion was too much to be commented upon, as the journalists gathered at the Press Club burst into derisive laughter. In the end, Govindacharya said the opposition lacked credibility because when the Congress was in power, the situation was worse. "This is not good for democracy," he said.

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.