While Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on J&K is nothing new, the timing has caused unease

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has not bared his fangs by talking about amending constitution to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the national mainstream nor did has he shot off the cuff while stressing on tuning welfare policies to the ground realties of the country.

Repealing Article 370 to end special status of Jammu and Kashmir and scrapping Article 35-A (that defines permanent residents of the state) has been as integral a part of RSS agenda as the promotion of swadeshi.

The RSS has been pursuing these goals with a zeal ever since the BJP came to power with overwhelming majority.

These efforts have resulted in Supreme Court agreeing to hear a petition challenging Article 35A after Diwali. Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion on assimilation of Jammu and Kashmir might have sparked strong reactions in Jammu and Kashmir, but the RSS has always felt that the current unrest is not a reflection of the situation in the entire state.

The RSS has long held that the trouble in Jammu and Kashmir is restricted only to five or six districts while the rest of 17 districts are peaceful. The RSS feels that special status of Jammu and Kashmir should end since articles like 35A was unconstitutional.

Though what Bhagwat said on amending these articles is nothing new, the timing of statement has caused unease. It has come weeks after union home minister Rajnath Singh’s assurance in Srinagar that the government will not take any step which will hurt the sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.  He had also clarified that the Centre had not initiated anything on Article 35A since it went to the Court. His assurance had led to demands of Centre filing an affidavit in SC clearing its position on the issue.

Rajnath Singh had visited the state after prime minister Narendra Modi talked about finding a solution to the Kashmir problem by embracing people and not through  gaali and goli (abuses and bullets). The RSS chief’s remarks are going to put the BJP-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) coalition under pressure at a time when the Centre has gone all out against separatists breaking their back through relentless operations by the security forces and the intelligence agencies.

After controlling the violence through tough measures, the Centre is looking to open doors for starting the political process of finding a permanent equitable solution, but the RSS chief’s assimilation talk is expected to be rejected by the parties in the valley.

RSS chief’s annual Vijaydashami address is often read as a navigational aid for the BJP government.  Mohan Bhagwat’s long sermon on Saturday comes at a time when the Modi government is facing perhaps the toughest time in office because of economic turmoil resulting in several predictions of doomsday scenario staring the country.

Bhagwat backed Modi government’s initiatives on tackling internal security situation and handling of external threats. He appreciated the welfare schemes but sounded caution on protection of small and marginal businesses that have taken the worst hit.

The RSS has its own line of economic thinking and Bhagwat did not mince words in expressing that the Centre’s policies need to be grounded. While rejecting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the real measure of nation’s wealth, Bhagwat stressed that interests of small, medium and handicraft industry, retail or small self-employed businesses, cooperative sector and agri and agri allied sectors should be preserved while cleaning the economic systems. It is these sections that have taken a major hit due to demonetisation and the implementation of GST.

The Modi government cannot afford to ignore inputs provided by the RSS as it seeks re-election in less than two years from now.