File photo: Sonia Gandhi. Photograph:( PTI )
The attempt of the Congress is to address the immediate problem of ideological and organisational crisis.
Congress has decided to build a network of Preraks which on the face looks close to the system of Pracharaks, but in practice is far from it. We will go into those details little later. Preraks are expected to create an ideological cohesiveness within Congress. The system is targeted to enlarge ideological bandwidth of the organisation workers and giving them clear direction in term of the standing of the party on major issues.
The Preraks are supposed to undergo a week’s training before they would be appointed to their divisions. Each division would comprise 4-6 districts. It is a welcome step because Congress has finally understood the need for cohesion around ideology. It is also welcome because the purpose of the Prerak is primarily not electoral but ideological. It was a big missing link in the Congress, but to say that it can replicate an RSS experience is far-fetched. Preraks are being confused with both 'Panna Prakmukhs and Pracharaks'.
The job of the Panna Pramukh is to connect with each person on a voting list of a particular booth. It has nothing to do with the core RSS ideology. It is an organisational innovation done within RSS-BJP Parivar to make small vote banks effective by ensuring that everyone comes out and vote for the party. It was first tested in Madhya Pradesh and not in Nagpur.
On the other hand, shakha is central to what we know of RSS, not Pracharak System itself. Pracharaks may play the most important roles in the organisation but shakha is the place where the spirit of the organisation lies. It is here that foundation of a Pracharak is laid. Shakhas aren’t ideological classes. Shakhas represent brotherhood. Shakhas have a ritual. A shakha can be organised anywhere. It requires an open place.
It invites people for sporting activity. The sporting activity is dual in nature. It lays the foundation for an individual within the organisation and also works as a character-building exercise. Sangh has a Guru which is Dhwaj and Shakha has a Mukhya Shishshak. The assembly of men also has a song and a prayer. It is from this system, people associated with RSS complete three years. The Pracharaks aren’t born out of a 10-day course.
They reflect a life-long commitment of men towards an ideology where family commitments are done away by forging a new brotherhood. Today there are barely 2500 odd full-time Pracharaks in RSS. The organisation draws its basic strength from Karyvahak. These are the people who after functioning as Pracharaks have gone back as Grihasthas.
They are bound to RSS by ideological commitment, daily interaction and strong outlook towards Indian society is cultural in approach.
RSS network is built on constant functioning organisational space which is focused on issues ranging from culture to family to environment. Pracharaks do not work for political end only. The idea is to engage with civil society to reach the desired end where RSS itself becomes part of it.
The attempt of the Congress is to address the immediate problem of ideological and organisational crisis whereas the idea of Shakha and Pracharak and the work associated with it very broad-based.
Preraks will come handy in terms of dissemination of basic ideas of Congress but it is not enough to create a challenge to RSS. Congress is trying to salvage a lost ground whereas RSS has been on an incorporation drive. It has been trying to reach out to those who do not share their world view.
RSS is a commitment towards refashioning of Hindu society. RSS has multiple organisations which work with civil society at the non-political level.
The best example of such a programme is Roti-Beti approach. It is a programme whereby RSS has worked to promote communal dining. In the case of inter-caste marriage, its public stand is to support it. I do not know what the Congress would do in this context but if it seriously wants to democratise the organisation and get fresh blood then it should have refrained from appointing Sharmistha Mukherjee and Anshul Meira Kumar on the same day as spokesperson of the Congress Party. Sharmistha is the daughter of President Pranab Mukherjee and Anshul is the son of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. More so, Congress needs to organise training camps all across India which should not be associated with any electoral calendar.
Lastly, Congress needs to rebuild the relationship with society on non-political issues if it wants to counter a behemoth like RSS. Congress will need to move beyond the electoral calendar. The present strength of BJP stems of ideological clarity and strong civil society connect which is harnessed by both Pracharaks and Karyavahas.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)