These are trying times,” the document states at the outset. “There is a systematic attempt to defame what we are all proud of – OUR COUNTRY, BHARAT MAA.”

It continues: “The defamation starts with our beloved Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, then BJP, then RSS, then Hindutva, then INDIA. It’s time to do our bit to strengthen the hands of the PM by getting BJP to power in Karnataka.”

To achieve this, the document, which lists the names and phone numbers of three Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh representatives, outlines the plan for a “silent campaign” involving 500 volunteers in two constituencies on the coast – Mangaluru North and Mangaluru South.

The RSS has always claimed to be a cultural organisation, far removed from politics. It is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power at the Centre and is aiming to defeat the Congress in the upcoming Karnataka assembly election on May 12. The party is already in power in several states and hopes to form what would be its only government in South India.

The document that is circulating in Karnataka suggests that the RSS is campaigning for the BJP in the state – covertly.

Targetting fence sitters

The document explains that “Silent Campaign is to campaign without publicity and without claiming to be associated with BJP (but identifying with RSS)”. The main targets, it says, are fence sitters who have not made up their minds about which party to vote for. “The target for each volunteer is to identify 100 Heads of Families/ Deciding persons in the Families (minimum of 50 persons) who have not yet decided to vote, but could be made to vote for BJP, thereby to reach out to 50000 family heads (minimum of 25000 persons).”

Each of the volunteers would be connected to coordinators who in turn would be connected to the representatives of the RSS, the document says. The volunteers would be expected to persuade voters to cast their ballots in favour of the BJP by using a “10-point mantra” – a list of ten reasons why they should support the party.

On top of the list: “Targetted defamation of Hindu religion and the religious leaders by Congress and other parties.” This was followed by: “RSS is a nation building organisation which is being projected as a terrorist and rapist organisation. Only the needs and demands of the Muslims and Christians are heard. Hindus are considered as second-class citizens.”

While the document accessed by aims to enlist volunteers only for Mangaluru, Harikrishna Nayak, one of the RSS representatives listed on the document, said that a similar campaign was underway across the state. Nayak told that he is the RSS’s College Vidyarthi Pramukh in Mangaluru.

When a reporter called him, concealing his real identity, and asked how he could enroll as a volunteer, the RSS representative offered to put him in touch with a group that was campaigning door-to-door. When the reporter showed interest in joining the silent campaign instead, this is how Nayak described it: “See there are some people who don’t want to go outside. But they go to their friends personally. We told them select hundred families and contact them, say for the sake of the country we have to vote, and we have vote for the right party. Otherwise how our country has got dignity all over the world, only because of the present government. So the same thing has to be done in Karnataka.”

Nayak outlined the strategy: “Target 100-200 families in your friends’ circle or families, or any other people here in Mangalore, whichever area may be. If it is possible, you can do one thing. Collect their voter ID or door number or ID number and name, and you can give the feedback to us so that we can go to their home and tell to come for vote on the day of polling...If it is possible you can come to Mangalore on 12th. We are planning to poll maximum votes.”

The reporter asked if the RSS was coordinating these activities.

“Yes, yes, yes,” the RSS representative said. “We are doing a silent campaign. That’s all. There is the booth structure of BJP here in Mangalore. We are coordinating with them and all the work is being done silently.”

He added: “Some people targeted some flats and all. They have gone with their visiting cards in a professional way. They have convinced people to vote for the party…”

“Without giving a hint that we are from RSS or BJP?” the reporter asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nayak said. “They had gone with their professional visiting cards. There were some doctors, some advocates, they sat in homes…”

“That means people won’t understand that we are from a particular political party, right?” the reporter said.

“Yeah, yeah, right. Issue is simple. We are telling ‘nation first’. Modi has done everything. In the name of Modi ji, Karnataka has to go on that way also.”

Joining the campaign

Asked how many volunteers had joined the campaign in Mangaluru so far, Nayak said more than 220.

“Is it limited only to Mangalore, this campaign? Because I have lot of friends in Bangalore also,” the reporter asked.

“No, no, everywhere, everywhere.”

“Whom should I contact in Bangalore? My friends in Bangalore, I can convince them to vote for Modiji.”

“I will send you another contact of Bangalore also. You can speak with them.”

Nayak texted the contact number of Harshvardhan, who is the Sampark Pramukh or communication head of the RSS in Mangaluru.

The reporter called Harshvardhan, expressing his interest in joining the silent campaign. Harshvardhan did not deny such a campaign was underway but asked the reporter to come to Mangaluru to meet him.

Nayak also texted the reporter the number of Rajesh Padmar, RSS spokesperson and College Vidyarthi Pramukh in Bengaluru.

Padmar, however, flatly denied that the RSS was involved in the Karnataka election campaign. “There is no open or silent or any kind of campaign,” he said. “The RSS is not involved in any electoral campaign on behalf of anyone.”

He added: “RSS is a large organisation. We do not know if some karyakartas are doing something on their own.”

Asked why the Mangaluru RSS representative had shared his number, Padmar said: “Many people have my number. I am on television often.”

On April 24, The New Indian Express published a report quoting veteran RSS leader Prabhakar Bhat Kalladka saying the organisation had decided to campaign for the BJP in coastal Karnataka. “Injustice is being meted out to Hindus under the Siddaramaiah government and we will support [those] who are ideologically aligned with us,” Bhat said.

Padmar said Bhat might have been misquoted. “I think it is a wrong report. We will seek a correction.”

With inputs from other staffers.