Hindu Nationalist Parties Remain Strong Despite Political Defeat

June 6, 2004

Source: The Washington Post


On June 6, 2004 The Washington Post reported, "But for all the patriotic fervor displayed by...participants in [a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh training] camp, which is held every year in this city where the RSS was founded in 1925 and still maintains its headquarters, these are troubled times for Hindu nationalists in India. In the recent parliamentary elections, an alliance led by the secular Congress party unexpectedly defeated the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a onetime swayamsevak whose Bharatiya Janata Party is an offshoot of the RSS...the elections have dealt a serious blow to the movement, depriving it of the primary instrument -- control of the central government and especially the Education Ministry -- by which its leaders planned to spread their message throughout this nation of more than 1 billion people...Vajpayee last week blamed the election outcome on overconfidence and complacency, rather than any broad rejection of the party's core values. L.K. Advani, Vajpayee's deputy in the defeated government and now the leader of the opposition in Parliament, vowed, 'We shall continue to wage an ideological battle against those who portray Hindutva' -- a reference to movements advocating Hindu nationalism -- 'as communal for their narrow political ends.' Spokesmen for the RSS voiced indifference to the election result, describing their movement as a social and cultural phenomenon of which politics is but one component. 'Our destiny is not dependent on any government,' said M.G. Vaidya, a spry, mustached 81-year-old who sits on the RSS executive board. 'We feel the best antidote against all invasions -- political, economic, religious or cultural -- is the spirit of nationalism, pride in your culture and history, and we are trying to ingrain that among the Hindu people.'"