The Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in Gujarat does not appear to have enthused its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In its congratulatory message to the party, the RSS described the election result as “alpvyap vijay”, or marginal victory, marred by “people’s disapproval”.

Though the BJP secured a comfortable majority with 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly, it lost considerable support compared to the previous election in 2012, when it won 115 seats.

“Decency of language and behaviour and ideological firmness are our identity,” read the curt message sent to BJP president Amit Shah through Ram Lal, the party’s general secretary in charge of organisation, the day after the result. “Abrogation of decency is inappropriate and unacceptable, and as such it did not get people’s approval.”

The message underlined the need for self-analysis for “constant introspection is the pivot of a lively and vibrant organisation”.

Senior BJP officials said the one-page message was handed over to Ram Lal on December 19 when he went to meet RSS joint general secretaries Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal. In the BJP, as in other RSS affiliates, the post of general secretary in charge of organisation is held by a pracharak – full-time RSS leader – loaned by the parent body. Through him, the RSS influences the working of the affiliate and, when required, conveys its message.

Losing support

The BJP leaders claimed the reason for the RSS’s anguish was more than the lack of “decency of language and behaviour” during the campaign. In particular, it is upset about the erosion of support among the Patidars, traders and small businessmen, sections that have been crucial for the growth of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat, supplying not just money but cadres as well.

The RSS leadership apparently feels that while the Gujarat government mishandled the Patidar reservation agitation, driving a significant section of the community away from the Sangh Parivar, the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax alienated the trader community. It now wants the party to make amends.

“Along with the message congratulating the party for its win in Gujarat, the RSS also conveyed through Ram Lal ji its concerns regarding farmers, traders and businessmen,” a senior RSS leader privy to the December 19 meeting said. “Unless the government gives some tangible relief to these important sections, they will never come forward for the cause of Hindutva.”

Further, the leader said, the RSS top brass “expressed their unhappiness” to the BJP about the party’s failure to translate the Sangh Parivar’s “social work” among tribals, fishermen and marginal farmers in Gujarat into votes.