Why covering RSS top decision-making body’s annual meeting is a nightmare for journalists

Journalists gather every year in those places where the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the RSS’ highest decision-making body, meets for three days in March.

ARUN ANAND 13 March, 2020

RSS members in a gathering
An RSS gathering (representational image) | Facebook

New Delhi: For the last few years, especially since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power in 2014, the annual meet of the highest decision-making body of its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has become a major topic of speculation for journalists.

But most speculations get it wrong.

Journalists gather every year in those places where the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the RSS’ highest decision-making body, meets for three days in the month of March.

The reason behind such speculation is also because of the fact that not a single member of this body talks about the meeting.

Most commentators speculate, generally, about the role and stand of the BJP in the meets. But the fact of the matter is the BJP is treated at par with over three dozen other organisations, which are part of the ABPS.

So the question many often ask is what happens behind closed doors for three days every year when the ABPS meets.

One can also say that covering the ABPS meets is a nightmare for journalists if they are looking for some hard political news.

Let us take a look at some of the facts that can help one understand the content and direction of the deliberations at the ABPS meets.

Also read: RSS pushes for greater role of women in public life, rejects feminism of the West

ABPS meeting this year to be held in Karnataka

The ABPS has around 1,400 members. They comprise representatives of the state units of the RSS as well as of different organisations set up by the RSS swayamsevaks

Many observers call these organisations RSS-affiliated or members of the Sangh Parivar, though the RSS prefers to call them RSS-inspired outfits.

Some of the prominent organisations whose representatives are ABPS members include the BJP, Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Adhivakta Parishad, Pragya Pravah, Vidya Bharati, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Laghu Udyog Bharati, Sewa Bharati, Samskar Bharati, Sanskrit Bharati, Vigyan Bharati, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Seema Jagaran Manch and Kreeda Bharati.

The members of the ABPS also elect the sarkaryavah of the RSS after every three years.

Currently, the sarkaryavah is Suresh (Bhaiyyaji) Joshi. The next sarkaryavah election is in 2021.

In common parlance, one may equate the responsibility of the RSS sarkaryavah to the CEO of an organisation. 

The meeting of the ABPS takes place every third year in Nagpur, Maharashtra, where the RSS was started in 1925 and where the organisation has its headquarters. 

Other than Nagpur, the ABPS meet is also held in other states. The states are chosen to cover all the geographic regions — north, south, west, east.

In 2018, the ABPS meet was held in Nagpur. In 2019, it was held in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, a north Indian state, and this year, it will be held in Bengaluru in Karnataka, a south Indian state.

This will be the 7th ABPS meet in Karnataka.

This year, the meet will be held from 15 to 17 March. 

Focus of the deliberations is on four things

During the three-day meet, there are five to six sessions every day.

All the ABPS members stay on the same premises where the meeting is held. Some senior-most functionaries have separate rooms, otherwise most of them sleep in dormitories and eat in the same mess. 

All the delegates bear travel expenditure on their own.

Throughout the three days, the focus of the deliberations is on four things:

  1. The sarkaryavah presents an annual report about the functioning and organisational expansion of the RSS.
  2. The various RSS-inspired organisations and the state RSS units make presentations of the work done by them in the last six to 12 months.
  3. Any good or innovative practices adopted successfully by any organisation or state RSS units are shared so that they can be replicated.
  4. Some resolutions (there is no fixed number but generally there are two resolutions) are placed before the ABPS and the members discuss them threadbare before they are passed.

BJP given same amount of time for presentations

All the organisations and state RSS units get three to five minutes each for their presentations. 

And the BJP is no exception. It also gets the same amount of time. There are no political discussions on the sidelines.

All the deliberations take place in the presence of the RSS chief and the sarkaryavah

The proceedings are conducted by the sarkaryavah. The sarkaryavah also ensures that the time is strictly adhered to. No one is allowed to cross the time allotted to them.

The last meet of the ABPS was addressed by the sarsanghchalak (RSS chief) during which he broadly talked about the way forward.

Article 370, Ram Temple were ABPS resolutions

Covering the ABPS meets are a nightmare for journalists as discussions are purely based on organisational matters. No political discussions take place. The only deliberations are on the resolutions introduced.

An interesting aspect is that the resolutions are always passed unanimously. Even if a single member of the ABPS has an objection to it, the resolution isn’t passed unless he or she agrees to it completely. 

At times, even at the behest of a single member of the ABPS, changes have been introduced in a resolution. There is no restriction on the number of speakers, so quite often the discussions get extended until late night if members have a difference of opinion on any particular resolution.

The ABPS has passed several important resolutions over the years on contemporary challenges faced by the country as well as on ideological issues. 

Many of the resolutions have been implemented by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government such as scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The highest decision-making body of the RSS has also passed resolutions earlier favouring the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya as well as measures to check the population growth in India.

It has also passed resolutions opposing minority appeasement and religious conversions in the country.

There is hardly an area — ranging from foreign to economic policy — which the ABPS resolutions haven’t touched so far.

These resolutions are important as they not only give an indication about the future course of action of the RSS, but also indicate their impact on the policy-making apparatus.

The writer is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra, an RSS affiliate, and author of two books on the RSS.


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