The Rashtriya Swamayamsevak Sangh has set up a consultative body to ensure that the Narendra Modi government moves ahead with the saffronisation of the country’s education system – a move that seems to mirror the establishment of the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council by the previous United Progressive Alliance regime.

The Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog, which has been constituted by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, is mandated to “suggest corrective steps” to “Indianise” the education system, according to a senior Sangh leader.

The RSS approved the formation of the Ayog about a month ago, at the meeting of the Sangh’s Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal in Madhya Pradesh, this leader said.

The BSNA is proposed to be a 21-member body, but not all the vacancies have been filled so far. Among the members who have already been identified are controversial teacher-turned-activist Dinanath Batra, former director of National Council of Educational Research and Training JS Rajput, Jawaharlal Nehru University’s former pro vice-chancellor Kapil Kapoor, former director of the Central Board of Secondary Education Badrinath Khandelwal and RSS representative Atul Kothari.

Batra is likely to be the head the BSNA. Kothari, a former leader of the Sangh’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, is likely to be its coordinator.

Though the panel may appear to be an advisory body, it is set to become quite powerful by virtue of having been constituted by the RSS, the supreme authority in the Sangh Parivar. In a way, the panel has all the attributes of the National Advisory Council that functioned under Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the previous UPA regime, a panel that had been criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party as a “pseudo-constitutional power centre”.

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy had described the NAC as being “dangerous for democracy as it would completely undermine the confidence and authority of the chief executive of the country who as per the constitution is the prime minister".

Though the NAC had a much wider scope than the BNSA, the two are similar in many respects. Both militate against the principle of electoral democracy in which the executive is supposed to be responsible to Parliament.

Besides, both are patronised by authorities other than those running the government. Just as the NAC was responsible to the Congress high command and not to Parliament, the BSNA will be responsible to the RSS.

Instead of attempting to circumvent the Constitution, the BSNA could well have been conceived as one of the many task forces set up by the prime minister or those that exist in Planning Commission, political observers say.